Senate panel passes bill blocking Sakonnet toll

Sakonnet River Bridge

A bill to block tolls on the Sakonnet Bridge and establish a statewide transportation infrastructure fund to pay for projects has cleared a Senate hurdle.

The Finance Committee unanimously endorsed an amended version of legislation introduced this session.

Sen. Louis DiPalma says it would raise about $800 million over the next 10 years. It redirects state funds, but eliminates a proposed 5 percent surcharge on motor vehicle fees. It wouldn't impact the coming fiscal year.

Rhode Island's bridge authority has voted to hike the 10-cent Sakonnet toll May 16 if lawmakers take no action. The Newport Bridge toll would go up instead if the Sakonnet toll is nixed.

Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed calls transportation funding critical and says she's hopeful no increase will be needed if the legislation passes.