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      Lawmaker proposes alternative to Sakonnet tolls

      A bill introduced in both houses of the Rhode Island General Assembly proposes an alternative to the tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge.

      It calls for fixing the current tolls, and putting the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority in charge of 23 bridges across the state.

      State Rep. John Edwards, a Tiverton Democrat who helped draft the legislation, said the plan would keep tourism intact in Newport County and help all Rhode Islanders.

      The bill proposes creating a fund for the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority. The money would pay for the maintenance of the more than 20 new bridges it would oversee.

      To pay for it, the bill calls for an increase in vehicle inspection fees, raising the rate from $39 to $65 every two years.

      Edwards said the plan would benefit the entire state.

      "Those bridges are all spread out throughout the whole state. So, this is not just a Newport County issue. This is a state of Rhode Island issue. Our infrastructure in the state is in poor condition. We need to maintain it. This is a way that's predictable for the state to have money every year that they need. They can figure out what they're going to do and actually budget money," Edwards said.

      Officials at the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority said they are reviewing the bill.

      The authority is going forward with its plan to start charging a toll on the Sakonnet River Bridge early next month.