OOIDA questions Rhode Island's authority to toll trucks on interstates

By David Tanner, Land Line senior editor | 6/1/2015

Truckers continue to fight back against a recently unveiled proposal in Rhode Island to toll only truckers to pay for the state’s transportation needs. OOIDA and the Rhode Island Trucking Association, in a letter to the Federal Highway Administration, question whether the so-called “user fee” on commercial trucks violates federal tolling laws.

“While we strongly oppose this misguided proposal, we do have a few questions regarding the state’s ability to implement such a plan while staying in compliance with federal law. We hope that your office will be able to assist us,” OOIDA and the Rhode Island Trucking Association wrote to Acting Administrator Gregory Nadeau of the Federal Highway Administration.

The proposal called RhodeWorks, unveiled by Gov. Gina Raimondo, House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello and Senate President Teresa Paiva on Wednesday, May 27, says trucks should bear the burden of paying off $1.1 billion in bonds to fix up federal, state and local roadways and bridges.

Under the plan, which has yet to come up for vote in the state Legislature, the proposed user fee would be collected electronically on trucks only on several bridges on Interstate 95, I-195 and I-295 as well as some non-interstate roads.

“Would FHWA consider such a fee to be a toll facility as defined in 23 U.S.C. 129 or any other section of the United States Code?” OOIDA and RITA leadership ask in their joint letter.

“If the RhodeWorks ‘user fee’ is a toll, how would the state’s plan to toll bridges on current toll-free Interstate System facilities be in compliance with the existing federal prohibition on Interstate System tolls found in 23 U.S.C. 301?”

OOIDA and RITA also question whether Rhode Island would have to pay any federal money back to the government or whether the state risks losing federal funds due to collection of tolls on federal highways.

“Please explain,” OOIDA and RITA stated to Nadeau. “If federal funds were used to construct any potential toll facility, would the state be required to repay those funds?”

The associations sent their letter on Monday, June 1, and are awaiting a response.

See related story:
Truckers blast ‘anti-business’ toll plan in Rhode Island

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