Rhode Island puts brakes on truck-only toll plan

Updated Jan 13, 2016

tollRhode Island lawmakers are postponing a proposal to fund repairs to the state’s infrastructure with a truck-only toll on about two dozen bridges.

The legislature is expected to address Gov. Gina Raimondo’s RhodeWorks proposal later this summer or in the fall, said Christopher Maxwell, president of the Rhode Island Trucking Association. On May 27, the Democrat governor and legislature leaders introduced the plan and had expected to vote on it this week as part of the state budget.

Last week, House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello indicated he needed more information about RhodeWorks and that it was not ready for inclusion in the state budget, Maxwell said.

When the proposal was announced, Class 6 trucks and higher would be charged under the 10-year plan, projected to generate an annual $100 million. On June 2, Raimondo announced Classes 6 and 7 trucks had been dropped from the proposal. RhodeWorks also had been amended so trucks would be tolled only once per location per day in each direction.

Lawmakers refer to the toll as a user fee, which would be used to fix more than 150 structurally deficient bridges and make repairs to another 500. Electronic tolling would be implemented on bridges on Interstates 95, 195, 295 and 146, and Routes 6 and 10.

Maxwell said plan proponents had contradicted themselves in removing the two truck classes.

The plan’s premise is large trucks create nearly all road damage, so it is illogical to remove these two classes, he said. The state weight limit for a 3-axle truck is 76,000, which often makes repetitive trips around the island. Rhode Island’s weight limit for a five-axle truck is 80,000 pounds.

Also, RhodeWorks had been based on inclusion of the Class 6 and 7 trucks. If these classes were necessary to include to generate sufficient repair funds, why would they remove these tolls from the equation a week later, Maxwell asked.

Lawmakers have not formally announced the amount truckers would pay or where the toll gantries would be. It has been widely reportedly that truckers would pay $6 at each tolling location, totaling $40 to $50 to cross the island in one direction.

Trucking and non-industry groups have loudly protested RhodeWorks, noting that when other I-95 northeast corridor states toll, all vehicles are charged, not just truckers.

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