Rhode Island anti-toll rally highlights problems with truck-only toll

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | 10/20/2016

Approximately 100 people, including trucking stakeholders and lawmakers, gathered at the TravelCenters of America in Greenwich, R.I., on Tuesday, Oct. 18, to express their opposition toward the state’s truck-only tolls. Just a few weeks before the election, the rally called for ousting lawmakers who voted for the tolls.

The rally was hosted by the Rhode Island Trucking Association and Natso, the national association representing travel plazas and truck stops. Members of the General Assembly from both the Senate and House who voted against tolls were present, according to the Rhode Island
Trucking Association President and CEO Chris Maxwell. Candidates, who are opposed to the tolls, also attended.

In February, Gov. Gina Raimondo signed into law a bill that would toll only commercial vehicles to fund road and bridge repairs. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, Rhode Island Trucking Association and other industry groups have been outspoken about their disapproval of the bill since it was introduced in the summer of 2015.

In an attempt to rally support against the truck-only tolls, several talking points were discussed outside of the TravelCenters. Among the speakers were Rep. Justin Price, District 39; and Rep. Sherry Roberts, District 29.

“We’re very concerned about it, because it’s the first of its kind in the nation,” Natso CEO Lisa Mullings told Land Line, “We definitely don’t want this to become a trend. We hope that professional drivers will let their representatives and senators know this is not something that they want to happen.”

Although the toll has been approved by the Federal Highway Administration, the fight is not over, Mullings said. Speakers urged Rhode Island voters to oust politicians who approved the tolls and instate those who have been openly against the measure. A negative effect on the cost of goods and services within the state was also discussed. Rally members proposed a 19-cent diesel increase as an alternative funding mechanism.

Meanwhile, the proponents of the truck-only tolls have remained relatively silent.

Maxwell told Land Line the Rhode Island Trucking Association requested to debate the governor, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, and others involved with the tolls on a local Sunday morning program. They declined.

“As has been the case from day one, the governor, (Rhode Island Department of Transportation) and Speaker (Nicholas) Mattiello have no response as they are at a loss to justify their program,” Maxwell said.

Maxwell said the Rhode Island Trucking Association will conduct a news conference closer to the election.

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