Rental Car Companies Gouging Users Of Sakonnet Bridge

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Of all the unthinking, boneheaded moves made by the 2013 General Assembly the worst has got to be the 10¢ toll on the Sakonnet River Bridge. Commercial interests on Aquidneck Island have complained loudly about the effect of any toll on tourism and business, and that battle will resume in the next session of the General Assembly (ProJo 1.4.14). However, the idiotic system currently in place may soon take care of the Newport tourism industry altogether.

The system is this: There is a 10¢ toll but absolutely no way of paying it. There are no manned tollbooths.  Instead, a system of cameras and electronic transponders records the passing of the vehicle and sends the bill to the car owner, say a rental car company like Dollar Rent A Car.

Out-of-towners in rental cars travel across the bridge — often twice in one day —  many having no idea that there is a required toll at all.  They return the car to the rental car company, for instance Dollar Rent A Car, and head home, often far away. Providence Journal staff writer Paul Edward Parker wrote last month of one such couple, “Visitors from England surprised, months later, by hefty fee for crossing Sakonnet River Bridge.”

The first that [Julie] Naismith learned of the toll was two months later. “We just had a letter from Alamo this week,” she said. It notified them that the rental company had charged their credit card for the 10-cent toll, plus an $18 administrative fee, which amounted to an 18,000-percent service charge.

The head of the R.I. Turnpike and Bridge Authority is quoted as saying there is nothing his agency could do.  Maybe the Consumer Affairs Department of the Attorney General’s Office could get interested?

My own, very hard-working, niece fell into this trap over the Thanksgiving weekend. She and a guest headed down to Newport to take in some sights and clamcakes, crossing the bridge three times. And they had a great time until last week when she got the bill from Dollar Rent A Car (after the jump).

Total toll charges — 30¢

Total administrative fees — $45.00

That’s a hell of a lot of administratin’!

Here’s what can happen immediately: All the rental car companies can waive these fees and reimburse their customers if for no other reason than out of enlightened self-interest. Can Dollar Rent A Car possibly think we won’t be warning all family, friends, and visitors about their underhanded, predatory practices?

The General Assembly needs to fix this pronto.

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1 thought on “Rental Car Companies Gouging Users Of Sakonnet Bridge”

  1. That policy is to protect dollar/budget from tolls like the thruways or bridges and tunnels of NYC which are all over $10. It’s a national policy to curb people from whizzing through easy pass lanes when they don’t have their own car. The problem here is the bridge, and not having a clear way for people to pay cash/coin. I did this once in a rental driving in metro Toronto and there is a toll road with no booths. I certainly didn’t blame the rental company, but the highway planners that think everyone has a transponder…

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