December 28, 2012 – By Meg O’Neil
The community-interest group Alliance for a Livable Newport has announced that it will conduct monthly email and Facebook surveys to get feedback on what’s going on in the city, including several major projects that will affect residents of Aquidneck Island. Anyone, from any town, who accesses the group’s website or Facebook page online can respond to the surveys.
Approximately 90 people responded to the first survey, which contained three questions – about the proposed tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge, the Broadway improvement construction slated for 2013, and the wind turbine ordinance recently passed by the Newport City Council. Only the toll question requested a “Yes” or “No” response; the other two questions solicited comments only.
One of the biggest local issues of 2012 has been the prospect of Sakonnet River Bridge tolls. After the state Department of Transportation turned over responsibility for the Sakonnet River and Jamestown bridges to the state Turnpike & Bridge Authority, the Authority announced that in order to maintain Aquidneck Island’s four-bridge system (including the Pell and Mount Hope Bridges), it would have to either raise the toll on the Pell Bridge to $5 or add new tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge.
Public outcry from residents of Portsmouth, Tiverton, Bristol, and Little Compton led to a 20,000-signature petition against the tolls, and several public forums were held where many residents and business owners spoke out against the tolls.
According to the results of the Alliance survey, 39.5 percent of those who responded were in favor of the tolls, while 54.1 percent were opposed, and 6.2 percent had no response.
Another survey question pertained to plans for the reconstruction and redesign of lower Broadway. Recently presented at a Newport City Council workshop, the project would be done during the summer of 2013. The survey question read: “Will it be worth the turmoil in a major commercial district over the busy 2013 summer tourist season to keep within the project timetable? If the project is suspended over the summer months to permit greater access to businesses and ease traffic congestion, the project costs increase and therefore would not be completed until 2014.”