More than 500 turn out to toll meeting

By Abbey Niezgoda

Hundreds of people packed a Portsmouth auditorium Monday night for the first public meeting on the proposed Sakonnet River Bridge tolls. It is a proposal that is slated to take effect as soon as this summer, but that did not stop a crowd from turning out to try and fight it. 
“Aquidneck Island should not be the only one who has to deal with the tolls,” Jeanne Smith said. “I think we have a good chance at changing their minds.”
“I'll spend more on tolls in one year than I will on all of Christmas this season,” a Portsmouth resident said.
Michael Lewis of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation tried to make the case that the money to maintain the bridges has to come from somewhere. If it is not the Sakonnet, it could be a new toll on Mt. Hope or an even higher one on the Pell.

The proposal has already passed through the legislature. The Rhode Island Department of Transportation says it is the only way. Now all that is left is for the Federal Highway Administration to sign off on it. They require two public meetings.

No one from the Administration was present at the meeting, but what was said will be put in a report that will be taken into account when they make their decision.

There is a second public meeting Tuesday night in Tiverton.