After a hard-fought battle with the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, Rhode Island Trucking Association and other industry stakeholders, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation began installing the first two truck-only toll gantries on Monday.
It has been almost exactly two years since. Gov. Gina Raimondo signed her infrastructure plan called RhodeWorks into law on Feb. 11, 2016. Perhaps coincidentally, RhodeWorks celebrated its second anniversary of its signing date on Monday by installing one of the most controversial provisions in the plan: truck-only tolls.
The first two toll gantries are being built in Hopkinton and Exeter along Interstate 95. Collection of tolls will not begin right away. RIDOT will test the gantries for one month before tolling truckers. After that month is up, truckers should expect to pay $3.25 at the Hopkinton gantry and $3.50 at the Exeter gantry. Toll rates will be limited to once per toll facility, per day in each direction, according to Charles St. Martin, a RIDOT spokesman. RIDOT is estimating tolling will begin in mid-March.
According to a RIDOT news release, some road closures are scheduled for the installation. On Wednesday, Feb. 14, one lane will be closed on I-95 South near the Exeter/Richmond line from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. A temporary full closure will also go into effect. Route 3 may be used as a detour. The same process will be used on Thursday along I-95 North near Exit 2.
On Tuesday, Feb. 20, single-lane closures will affect I-95 in Hopkinton from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. as well. Exits 3, 4 and 5 on-ramps will be temporarily closed. Again, Route 3 can be used as a detour.
The remaining 12 toll gantries are scheduled to be installed within the next 18 months along I-95, I-195, I-295, U.S. Route 6, RI Route 146 and RI Route 1. Although the first two gantries are located near the southern end of the state, the other 12 gantries will concentrated on the northeastern portion.
The other tolls must still go through an environmental assessment. Per the National Environmental Policy Act, agencies are required to submit an environmental assessment before moving forward with certain plans. If an environmental assessment concludes with a finding of no significant impact, plans may move ahead. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, if the environmental assessment determines that the environmental impact of a proposed plan will be significant, an environmental impact statement is prepared.
RIDOT has estimated that toll revenues will amount to approximately $45 million each year. Toll revenue will go towards the replacement and rehabilitation of bridges throughout the state. According to RIDOT, the state ranked dead last in overall bridge condition with about 22 percent of bridges deemed structurally deficient.
Last year, House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan, R-Coventry/Warwick/West Warwick, tried to repeal the truck-only tolls and called Raimondo’s plan a “con job.” Morgan claimed that the actual toll revenue will be closer to $7.4 million once overhead costs are considered.
Copyright © OOIDA