The executive director of the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority reportedly has been fired for giving select trucking companies a break on tolls. The authority’s board voted last week to end Kenneth Bianchi’s contract, the Associated Press reported Thursday, April 13. Authority Chairman David Darlington told the AP that trucks belonging to five companies were paying just $5 for passes to cross the Claiborne Pell Bridge. Most trucks pay $25 or $50 per trip in tolls.
Darlington told the AP that four of the companies were getting price breaks before Bianchi started working at the authority six years ago, but instead of ending the price breaks, he later approved passes for a fifth company. The discounts cost the authority $315,000 over seven years, according to Darlington.
AP didn’t name the five trucking companies involved, but the Woonsocket Call reported that the fifth company was D&N Trucking of Newport. According to the Call, the five companies carried materials that included gravel, oil and fuel, construction equipment and, in D&N’s case, sludge and other items. Darlington told the Call that when D&N Trucking sought a reduced toll in 2003 to haul sludge to the Central Landfill, Newport Mayor Richard Sardella and former state senator David Kerins supported it.
Bianchi was under the impression there was precedent for D&N’s toll reduction, Darlington told the Call. “He probably thinks he was helping somebody,” Darlington told the Call. “I think he made an error.”