Standard & Poor's revised its outlook on Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority revenue bonds to negative from stable while affirming its A-minus rating on the bonds.
The move comes amid political uncertainty over the tolling of the Sakonnet River and Newport Pell bridges. Acting RITBA chairman Stephen Waluk said the authority shelved plans for tolls on the bridges pending legislative action on tolling for all four Aquidneck Island bridges.
David Darlington resigned in late April as RITBA chairman.
S&P credit analyst Geoffrey Buswick, in a June 4 statement, cited continued state limits on RITBA's autonomous rate-setting ability and uncertainty surrounding toll rates and collection levels required to fully support the system, including additional capital needs.
S&P said the Newport bridge's business strength due to limited alternatives and convenience to commuters and out-of-state visitors to the area are credit strengths. Weaknesses include uncertainty and additional debt needs to fund "critical long-term maintenance requirements of a four-bridge system with no clear methods to meet these needs given the toll increase limitations."
Waluk said in a response: “We are, of course, concerned about any change in our outlook and how we are perceived in the financial markets. However, we are working closely with the General Assembly on infrastructure funding and are confident RITBA’s revenue issues will be resolved in the next few weeks.”
RITBA also operates the Mount Hope and Jamestown bridges.