Money Watchers: Eliminating Sakonnet tolls could cost state $2 million

A contract between the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority and a contractor named Law Enforcement Systems LLC, which collects tolls on the Sakonnet and Pell bridges, stipulates a $1 million termination fee.

If the toll on the Sakonnet River Bridge is eliminated in the budget vote Thursday night, that $1 million termination clause will most likely not be enforced because the Newport Pell Bridge still in operation.

But a high-ranking source within the Rhode Island Bridge and Turnpike Authority said the state will be on the hook for at least $2 million to pay back LES for the gantry and other equipment on the Sakonnet River Bridge that is used to collect the tolls.

"The Turnpike and Bridge Authority is an example of how things can get out of our reach. We don't have really good oversight on some of these quasi (-governmental agencies) out there because we don't have people on the boards," said state Rep. John Edwards, who represents Tiverton and Portsmouth.

"I was shocked to hear there was a new contract. Pleasantly surprised because there's not a $3 million termination clause in the new contract, but still shocked that they had made a contract and we had no idea it was out there," he said.

Drivers may be able to return their E-ZPass transponders for a refund, but there will be no refund on tolls paid.