Late last week, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation announced that it executed 13 Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) with the Federal Highway Administration regarding the state’s plan to implement bridge tolls on large commercial trucks. Trucking groups, which have vocally opposed truck-only tolls from the governor’s initial proposal, are concerned about how the state plans to police trucks that end up using secondary roads to avoid tolls.
American Trucking Assns. has asked the state of Rhode Island to provide information to the trucking industry about outreach the state has done to communities that are likely to be affected by an increase in truck traffic as a result of the state’s truck-only toll plan.
“According to one such ‘information packet’ obtained by the American Trucking Associations, [the Rhode Island Department of Transportation] intends to prevent diversion of tractor-semitrailers to potential alternative routes through signage limiting truck access to ‘local services,’ along with a variety of state and local enforcement methods,” ATA said in a letter dated Sept. 29. “From the limited information available, ATA has serious concerns as to how the contemplated restrictions can be reasonably enforced without imposing an unreasonable burden on motor carriers and their customers, truck drivers, other motorists and the citizens of Rhode Island.”
ATA and its federation partner the Rhode Island Trucking Association (RITA) have been vocally opposed to Gov. Gina Raimondo’s toll plan since it was first proposed in 2015.
“We have concerns as to how they would determine how a truck is diverting, delivering or simply getting respite,” RITA President Chris Maxwell told Fleet Owner. “And only this past Thursday the director of RIDOT indicated they would check loads to indicate if a truck had authority to be where it is.”
Rhode Island’s truck-only toll plan – part of the proposed $700 million “RhodeWorks” to revitalize the Ocean state’s highway infrastructure – would apply to Class 6 and higher commercial trucks and largely out-of-state ones at that. According to the RhodeWorks proposal, it would cost roughly $20 in tolls for tractor-trailer to cross the state one-way using Interstate 95 and other interstate offshoots as those vehicles cross 14 proposed electronic toll markers, each costing about $3. The maximum any trucker would pay in one day is $40, according to the plan.
“We have said from the beginning that the governor and politicians in Providence are attempting to extort revenue from our industry – using the trucks that deliver their state’s goods as a piggy bank to avoid making the tough choices that are necessary to maintain the state’s roads and bridges,” said ATA President and CEO Chris Spear. “We will continue to fight these discriminatory and unjust tolls and as other states have learned, we will not stop until this plan is abandoned.”
“This plan is bad for our industry, but it is also bad for Rhode Islanders who will see costs and congestion rise as a result,” Maxwell said. “The only beneficiaries of Gov. Raimondo’s plan are her cronies and politicians in Providence who get to once again kick the can down the road when it comes to a real, sustainable highway funding solution.”
Here is a copy of ATA’s full letter.