RI lawmakers OK 10-cent Sakonnet bridge toll

The Rhode Island General Assembly voted late Tuesday night to implement the tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge.

Starting Aug. 19, it will cost 10 cents to cross the bridge with or without an E-ZPass.

It's an issue that's divided the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority, which needs a plan to pay for the bridge, and East Bay residents, who say tolls will devastate businesses.

"It does worry me that people will choose not to come over here as often because of the tolls," Christine McCormack said.

McCormack works at the Montaup Country Club just over the bridge in Portsmouth.

"So many people come from the Massachusetts, Swansea area, and I hear talk about it all day long," McCormack said.

The House and Senate approved the 10-cent toll just after 11 p.m. Tuesday. Lawmakers said federal regulations require that a toll be put in place before construction is finished if they ever want to toll the bridge.

The action simply leaves that door open.

"Once a bridge is completed without a toll being imposed you therefore foreclosed the possibility of putting one on the bridge later," House Majority Leader Nicholas Mattiello said.

The state still owes $1 million in operating costs.

It's easy to get golfers talking about the tolls going into effect nearby. Many said they won't be golfing as often, and others are hoping for an alternative solution from the legislature.

Country club member Bill Ferrieri said he's outraged.

"Let's say you were a chiropractor a dentist or something like that, you can move your business. We can't move a golf course," Ferrieri said.

"It doesn't instill any confidence in the people running the state, quite frankly," Ron Armillotto said.

Residents of Portsmouth said the debate will continue at this year's Fourth of July parade, which is known to put a spotlight on politics. Organizers said signs in opposition to the tolls will be visible throughout Thursday's celebration.