At about 1am Saturday, equipment connected with the Sakonnet River Bridge was “intentionally damaged by fire,” according to an official statement sent to media by the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority. In the release, RITBA Chair David Darlington said that the fire was quickly extinguished, and that there was no damage to the bridge structure itself.
Interviewed at the scene this afternoon, Darlington offered no estimate of damage and no comment beyond saying that “the State Police were investigating.”
In the RITBA release, Darlington said that backup systems were in place, and expected minimal interruption. “Thanks to diligent work by repair crews, the main systems have either been restored or will be within the next several hours,” said Darlington. “We expect tolling on the bridge will continue as planned on Monday.”
On scene, Darlington did point out to a reporter the location of the fire, inside a utility tunnel located across the bike path from the small building housing the toll equipment. There did not appear to be any damage to the building itself visible from the bike path.
In the release, Darlington said, “The destruction of state property is a crime we take very seriously; the matter has been turned over to the Rhode Island State Police and will be investigated and prosecuted. We support the right of civil protest. We have no tolerance for vandalism and arson, which puts lives in peril. This act of attempted sabotage is not a victimless form of protest. It poses a potential danger to motorists and first responders, and the financial costs of the crime are borne by toll payers.”
Officers from the RI State Police were on scene, and were searching the area around the bike path. At one point, they retrieved something from the brush to the left of the path, but when a reporter approached to try to get a picture, they were told to “move from the scene.”