Even as the conversation around repairing Rhode Island’s infrastructure shifts from fixing 152 bridges (and overpasses) around the state to re-imagining the 6/10 connector, it appears that the first toll gantry may be in the process of erection… down in the southern part of the state. As previously noted, the Rhode Island Dept. of Transportation is in the process of moving the gantries that formerly cast their ominous shadow over the Sakonnet River Bridge to some stretch of RhodeWorks-tolled highway.
The most likely spot, according to a source, is the bridge near exit 4 on Rt. 95, which goes over the enticingly named Nooseneck Hill Road (Rt. 3) down in the Exeter-Richmond area. That location was among those listed as probable targets during the legislative debate, with a projected toll of $3. That would also help explain, for another thing, the appearance of this electrical box down there:
We can speculate as to why the state would want to rush forward with a single toll gantry before a more-final tolling-and-borrowing plan has been solidified. The most compelling suggestion I’ve heard has been that the Raimondo administration is already preparing plans for additional borrowing through a revenue bond, which would be premised on the toll revenue and would not, therefore, require voter approval. The sooner any potential lawsuits can be provoked and resolved, the sooner the state can issue (arguably unconstitutional) debt without paying a premium to cover the risk associated with possible litigation.
Whatever the case, though, Rhode Islanders shouldn’t miss the opportunity for a lesson, here. RhodeWorks came into being as a statewide solution. It looks like the great majority of the money is earmarked for a very specific location with very limited, regional impact in the Providence area. Meanwhile, the first revenue-grab will be in a more-rural area in the southern part of the state.
Isn’t that just the way it goes? Click on the House and Senate tabs of the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s Freedom Index, and you’ll see maps of the districts. South of the prospective toll location, one has large districts and a total of around six to ten elected representatives and senators. Meanwhile, the Providence area is a dense cluster of small districts with a great deal of representation.
Not only is RhodeWorks an exercise in redistributing money from taxpayers and drivers to labor unions and Wall Street investors, but the program also redistributes from the less-well-represented suburbs to the heavily-represented urbans.