When Tim White and I were working on the I-95 tolls story yesterday, one of the questions we didn’t have time to answer before the broadcast was whether state lawmakers from Southern Rhode Island had been consulted by the leaders of their respective chambers before Speaker Fox and Senate President Paiva Weed signed a letter supporting the proposal.
Now we have our answer. Rep. Brian Kennedy, a Hopkinton Democrat, sent a blistering two-page letter to R.I. Transportation Director Michael Lewis on Thursday that said it was “shocking” and “quite disappointing” that he learned about the proposed tolls in his hometown from our WPRI 12 report rather than RIDOT.
Kennedy also took issue with RIDOT’s decision to only propose tolls near the Connecticut border, which the department argued is “the most feasible action to prevent toll avoidance and to gain public acceptance.” The lawmaker said drivers should be tolled near the Massachusetts border, too, if they’re going to be at all.
“The Department of Transportation has not been known for moving quickly on road projects in our state,” Kennedy added, “thus I am amazed by the lightning speed and stealth approach that you’ve demonstrated in your impulsive action of singling out the Town of Hopkinton to be the host location for toll booths to raise revenues for road repairs.”
The proposed tolls could raise roughly $40 million a year if the Pell bridge rates are used and the volume of traffic stays the same, Lewis said Thursday on “The WPRO Morning News with Tara Granahan & Andrew Gobeil.” That would be enough to let the state stop borrowing its matching funds for federal highway money.