PORTSMOUTH, Rhode Island — Lawyers for the town of Portsmouth and the state met with a federal judge Friday about the town's attempt to stop construction of a toll system on the new Sakonnet River Bridge, Portsmouth Town Solicitor Kevin Gavin said.
U.S. District Judge William Smith met with the sides to discuss the town's request, made Thursday, for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction. Gavin said Smith did not make any rulings, but that the state assured the town and the judge it would not try to start collecting tolls until at least July 1. Gavin said they expect to discuss the issue further during a hearing next week.
Portsmouth sued last month to stop the state Department of Transportation from transferring the new span to the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority, and to prevent them from instituting any tolls. Locals have argued that tolls are an unfair burden on them, while state officials have said the tolls are needed to help pay to maintain the bridge.
The Turnpike and Bridge Authority has been installing the new electronic toll system on the bridge. Authority Chairman David Darlington told the Newport Daily News this week that it would likely be in place by the weekend but would take about six weeks to wire and test.
Gavin said state officials were continuing the work "at their own risk" in light of the lawsuit.
The authority has approved a 75 cent toll for Rhode Islanders with an E-ZPass transponder. Non-residents with an E-ZPass will pay $3.75 per crossing. Those without transponders will have to pay $5.25.