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By CB Online Staff
The island Legislature has approved a measure calling for a referendum among Vieques residents regarding the potential construction of a bridge between mainland Puerto Rico and the offshore island town.
The Senate passed the House bill in a voice vote on Monday. It authorizes the State Elections Commission to plan and hold the vote.
Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz acknowledged that voters could reject the bridge plan, but argued that their opinions on the matter should be heard.
Advocates say building a toll bridge between Ceiba and Vieques would cut travel time to and from the small island town that is now served by daily ferry runs.
A study estimated that a toll bridge that costs vehicles $5 each way could generate some $15 million annually. Ferry service run by the Maritime Transport Authority currently costs $2 each way.
House Government Committee Chairman Johnny Méndez has said such a toll bridge project would be a good candidate for a public-private partnership. He said the toll bridge could cut travel costs for Vieques residents by cutting out the need for them to use taxis and other forms of private transport. A bridge would reduce travel time as the ferry takes more than one hour each way.
The study contemplates the environmental impact of the proposed bridge and notes the concerns criticism from some Vieques residents about the potential surge of traffic and other issues.
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