Thursday, September 11, 2008

Bridge Authority Thinks We're all Blooming Idiots

**UPDATE** I'm republishing some of my original report on the RITBA. I'm doing this because on Sept. 8 they finally got around to publishing their minutes online (previously they had filed only one set of minutes). This was a flagrant violation of State law. The Daily News also woke up to the fact that Newport's Mayor Waluk is on this committee. As I read the minutes, it was he, himself, who actually made the motions for the E-Z pass program. As I've mentioned before, this system costs $ and who is paying for it? Guess.

The RITBA can hold all the public meetings it wants knowing that this whole thing is a done deal with contracts signed. Any changes will again cost even more $. And who will pay for a system which is going to benefit us how? Guess who. Traffic tie-ups on the bridge are caused by almost constant work resulting in closed lanes & the Newport turn-off into one lane of very slow traffic. This system won't accomplish one darn thing except to surreptitiously (I believe) bring more $ from us into their coffers.***


And they're not the only ones, I think.

The NDN was "deluged with e-mails, phone calls and Web site comments criticizing details of the [R.I. Transit & Bridge Authority's E-ZPass] plan." So much so that they phoned Sen. Paiva-Weed to check-in with her. They are lucky they were able to reach her as she's likely on her way to the DNC now.

Otherwise, let's face it, it would have been a bloomin' waste of time to speak with the most experienced (quarter century +) local legislators- our own Sen. Gibbs or Rep. Long. Because ultimately, no matter what you personally may think of them, in a Democratically-controlled lege they are just window-dressing. But I digress.

"Weed said she, too, has gotten numerous complaints about various aspects of the announced plan. Given the sheer volume of questions, the plan should be delayed until the authority can sufficiently answer them, she said."

Now let's see, who else could they have asked? I know- how about Newport's own Mayor Waluk. He's on this board after all which I've mentioned before (& the NDN finally got around to noticing). But wait, it's possible that he never attended the recent meeting wherein a contract seems to have been signed & monies paid for this new system. It's really difficult to say as this board has only filed ONE set of minutes for monthly meetings for the entire year which would seem to flaunt state law. Funny, they approve minutes whenever they meet, they just don't POST them.

According to the recent Aug. 6 agenda :
4. Ratify: Telvent Caseta – Newport/Pell Bridge RITBA EZ Pass Implementation
Invoice 524978 $ 8,381.58

12. Discussion/Approval: EZ Pass Programming
13. Discussion/Approval: Suspend sale of bulk tokens after September 1, 2008

And from the July 9 agenda:

12. Ratify: Wilbur Smith Associates – EZ Pass Consultants Invoice 524111 $ 11,147.24 Invoice 523038 $21,877.72
$ 33,024.96 Total
15. Ratify: RDW Group, Inc./ Marketing and Advertisement
EZ Pass Implementation Contract No. 08-2
$ 17,843.50
23. Discussion/Approval: EZ Pass Back Office – Buddy Croft (also on May 23 agenda)

And lest we forget from the agenda of May 1:

12. Ratify: Wilbur Smith Associates – Newport/Pell Bridge EZ Pass Implementation
Invoice 518538 $ 14,474.39
Invoice 519397 15,601.20
Invoice 520265 18,233.46
Invoice 521395 29,949.32
Invoice 522144 24,827.71
Total $103,086.08

This also makes one wonder exactly how much this EZ pass system is costing up-front. So far I'm counting close to $170,000. Yes, indeedy. I thought they were having funding woes. Silly me. This whole system sounds like a done-deal to me despite Paiva-Weed's wanting public hearings. Guess it's time for an Authority Emergency meeting.

It's too bad veteran NDN reporter Joe Baker wasn't given more time to actually research his original article which reads like a press release from the Authority with Chair David A. Darlington being interviewed. Whenever Joe ask pressed him, Darlington's reponse was- no can do. Turns out you can. "He said-she said" reporting isn't really all that useful. But that's what we get from most news media outlets today. Actual truth seems to be a moveable feast, much like an old scavenger hunt.

And then there is this for you lead-foot doofuses out there you have messed things up for the rest of us with half a brain:

And while E-ZPass users will not have to stop at the toll plaza they will have to slow down to a near stop. Darlington said the E-ZPass lanes will have gates that rise once the transponder’s signal is recognized. The gates are necessary to slow traffic so toll takers can safely cross traffic lanes, Darlington said.

Well, that will certainly speed things up, won't it? You'll still have to come to a Hollywood stop. May as well drop in a token.

Less, you think this affects Newport/Jamestown only, remember that the Sakonnet Bridge is now closed to vehicles with more than two axles and that we all used that bridge, not just tourists.

What seems to have surprised the NDN and the Bridge Authority is that local residents actually know something about this system and use it (duh!). Although evidently no one on the actual board DOES.

Of course, we still don't know how much it will actually cost to CROSS the bridge since that is waiting for the early Nov. report of the guv's Blue Ribbon Commission on Transportation Funding. They have also posted agendas but no minutes. Oh, well. They actually are not required to. Now let's see who is on that board- oh, Keith Stokes. Gee, might wanna ask him.

Of course, the Authority does have a budget & it would be interesting to see what revenues they've posted for 2009. How would one do that? Oh, I know. Speaking with former Midd. Rep Christine Callahan who lost big-time to Rep. Rice. Things turned out well for Chrissy, though, as she is the CFO for the Authority.

Why is this upsetting me so much? Four family members- 4 vehicles. 4 transponders plus actual bridge crossing costs. A singled transponder for at least $25 & they thought that we wouldn't notice??? Nah, our taxes our not being raised & we're all too stupid to notice. Are they smoking those funny little medicinal ciggies at their meetings or what?
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