GOP-led think tank backs privatizing, not tolling, R.I.’s bridges

Related: Katherine Gregg, Providence Journal, October 16, 2015

The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity suggests the state partner — as other states, including Pennsylvania have done — with a private company willing to finance, design and manage the replacement of worn-out bridges for a set contract amount. … The debate over Rhode Island’s crumbling bridges has centered, so far, on the new tolls Governor Raimondo is seeking to levy on large trucks, at multiple highway locations. Her plan: to raise an additional $500 million for bridge repairs with a $600 million toll-financed revenue bond that would cost taxpayers — without a public referendum — a projected $1.1 billion over 30 years. … To reduce taxpayer costs, the center suggests the General Assembly provide a “case-specific exemption from project labor agreements (PLAs), minimum apprenticeship requirements, and ‘prevailing wage’ laws.” “With these exemptions, the contractor could hire subcontractors at market rates, avoiding existing closed-shop and artificially inflated wage requirements,” the center suggests. Using the same interest-rate assumptions Raimondo’s team used, the center believes its public-private partnership proposal could knock the total project cost — including interest — down from $1.1 billion to $570 million.