Rhode Island truck group proposes toll alternatives

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line associate editor | Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Rhode Island Trucking Association is suggesting state lawmakers consider raising the tax on diesel and increasing truck registration fees instead of moving forward with Gov. Gina Raimondo’s plan for a trucks-only toll.

In May, Gov. Raimondo proposed that the state toll only truckers to pay off the $1.1 billion dollars in bonds to fix the roads and bridges.

The organization announced their plans in an article in The Providence Journal on Wednesday.
According to the proposal, the trucking association’s plan would:

Increase the current 34-cent diesel tax by 18 cents to produce an estimated $10.8 million annually.
Increase truck registration fee by $500 per year to produce a projected $1.6 million annually.
Drop the proposed tax credits and other sweeteners the governor proposed last June to reduce the new cost of the new truck tolls on Rhode Island registered businesses, and redirect the $13.5 million to bridge and road maintenance.

In addition, the truckers’ plan calls on refinancing certain bonds that financed earlier road repairs, to produce $121 million in potential savings within the first four years. Those savings are also part of Gov. Raimondo’s plan.

According to the report, the RITA disputes the revenue projections of the governor’s plan, as well as the amount of daily truck traffic on two of the state’s main interstates.

OOIDA State Legislative Affairs Director Mike Matousek said the Association will continue to push for an alternative proposal to meet the state’s highway funding needs.

“Governor Raimondo's truck-only tolls are the worst possible solution to address the state's transportation needs,” he said. “We look forward to reviewing other proposals and coming up with a more reasonable and realistic solution."

Earlier this month, The Hassenfeld Institute for Public Leadership released a poll that suggested voters in the Ocean State would reject a gas tax increase but more than half of those polled showed support for tolls on large trucks to pay for infrastructure maintenance.

When presented an alternative source of funding in the form of an increased gas tax, nearly 70 percent were opposed.

Regardless of how repairs and maintenance are paid, Rhode Island residents agree that not enough money is being spent on the issue. More than three-quarters of those surveyed believed that the state and local governments are spending too little on road and bridge maintenance.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and Rhode Island Trucking Association sent a letter to the Federal Highway Administration strongly opposing the proposal. The two associations questioned whether or not the measure violated federal tolling laws.

More than 15 percent felt that taxes are the most important problem in the state, only second behind job opportunities with more than 30 percent. A little more than 40 percent believe that Rhode Island is headed in the wrong direction.

Staff Writer Tyson Fisher contributed to this report.

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