After losing a bruising battle to put tolls on the Sakkonet River Bridge and failing to get the luxury tax passed on million dollar homes comes this shocking news out of the Rhode Island State House. Governor Gina Raimondo has announced her intentions to toll Newport’s Historic Ocean Drive and the southern portion of Bellevue Avenue starting at Ruggles Avenue. Word is that the state has contracted Kapsch TrafficCom to design, build, operate, and maintain the electronic tolling system. Work is expected to start immediately and tolls are expected to be in place mere days before the the opening of the Volvo Ocean Race Newport race village at Fort Adams.
“Here’s the way I look at it,” said Raimondo. “Some people look at the Ocean Drive and they see the undisturbed beauty of an idyllic and historic seaside vista, and I agree with them. But I see more, and I hearken back to the words of Newport’s favorite son, President John F. Kennedy, who once famously said ‘You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not?’,” Raimondo continued. “I’m just like Jack Kennedy! I see opportunity here. I see the opportunity to provide free college for everyone. I see the opportunity to finance a new ballpark for the multi-millionaire owners of the Paw Sox. I see the opportunity to provide lifetime health care and full retirement benefits for school bus monitors and crossing guards.”
State Representative Lauren Carson has thrown her full support behind the tolls after Governor Raimondo assured her that there would be no more “talking busses” in Newport to disturb the residents of The Point neighborhood. In fact anyone who would like to tour these two historic landmarks can do so for free on the non-talking busses with the caveat that these will be quiet busses and passengers will be prohibited from talking or making any noise at all.
While initially 100% opposed to the toll plan, Newport’s Mayor Harry Winthrop provided his support after Governor Raimondo personally assured him that 37.5% of all revenues collected will go directly to the city to help fill the multi-million dollar annual loss the city must deal with now that Newport Grand is moving to Tiverton. As of press time Mayor Winthrop was still waiting for anyone from the Concerned Citizens Against Casino Gambling to present him with a plan to replace the 225 jobs that were voted out because of their campaign. Although most no longer live in Newport.
The tolling structure will closely mirror that of the Newport Pell Bridge. $4.00 each way or .87¢ with an EZ Pass transponder. Commercial vehicles will pay $10.00 and local residents will be given the option to purchase an unlimited annual pass for $1,500. After a meeting with both Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and Mayor Harry Winthrop who both live on the edge of the toll zone and must pass through the toll to attend Bailey’s Beach and Gooseberry Beach, Governor Raimondo has declared that all government employees and their personal vehicles, in recognition of all their important hard work, will be permanently exempted from the tolls.
“My grandfather didn’t help found Gooseberry Beach so I could pay four bucks every time I feel like throwing on a neon green swim shirt and playing with my seven grandchildren,” said Mayor Winthrop. “I wholeheartedly agree with the government exemption and I commend Governor Raimondo on her wisdom.”