ATA calls R.I. truck toll proposal ‘highway robbery’

Today, the American Trucking Assns. urged the rejection of Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo’s truck-only toll proposal, referring to it as “highway robbery.”

The proposal, called RhodeWorks, is a $1.1-billion bridge construction and publicly financed jobs plan that relies on new highway tolls for big commercial trucks, the Providence Journal reported earlier this week. According to the Journal, the goal of the plan is to generate a 30% increase in funds for more than 150 bridges that have been deemed structurally deficient.

 “At the heart of the 10-year financing plan is a $700-million state revenue bond that the Raimondo administration proposes to repay with the proceeds from a new, and as yet undefined, ‘user fee on commercial trucks,’” the Journal wrote.

The tolls, officials told The Day, would apply to large trucks, the smallest having three axles.

According to The Day, Raimondo said: “The fact of the matter is, those are the trucks that cause 90-plus percent of the damage to our highways and bridges. They also benefit the most from well-maintained bridges and roads.”

This afternoon, ATA expressed its dismay with the governor’s proposal.

“ATA is very disappointed with Governor Raimondo’s proposal to address Rhode Island’s infrastructure investment deficit solely on the back of the trucking industry,” president and CEO Bill Graves said. “Trucking did not create the state’s current infrastructure crisis – that was the result of years of mismanagement and massive diversion of fuel tax and other highway user fee revenue to fund general government expenses – and it is completely unfair that the industry be targeted to fix it.”

 ATA said it has long opposed tolling of existing interstates as inefficient and unsafe as it is well-known to lead to trucks diverting off larger interstates onto smaller, more congested local highways.

“As a former governor, I understand the importance of not only properly funding infrastructure, but maintaining the state’s fiscal house,” Graves said. “However, this plan to toll only trucks is quite literally highway robbery – stealing from our industry to paper over Rhode Island’s budget issues.

“If Rhode Island’s leaders are serious about fixing their infrastructure funding woes, they should first and foremost, stop diverting much of their highway-related revenues to non-transportation projects,” he said. “Like nearly half the states have done previously, the state should enact a law that protects highway related revenues from being used for non-highway or transportation projects. Then they will have an accurate sense of what, if any, funding shortfall really exists before embarking on some enormously expensive, inefficient, easy to evade and discriminatory form of tax scheme.”

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