Rhode Island governor goes horse and buggy over truck tolls

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line associate editor | 1/8/2016

In response to open records requests from her constituents in the state legislature and from the state trucking association, Gov. Gina Raimondo’s office sent a map of the state capitol of Providence – circa 1882 – but few other details in her controversial proposal to add toll lanes to the Ocean State’s highways.

The map was sent to State Rep. Patricia Morgan, who had criticized Raimondo’s administration for being less than forthcoming about a $1.1 billion infrastructure investment plan.

“We put in a request for public documents,” Morgan said in a phone interview with “Land Line Now.” “Instead of giving us the information we need to make good decisions, they gave us a road map from 1882. … There weren’t even cars in 1882.”

In May, Gov. Raimondo proposed that the state toll only truckers to pay off the $1.1 billion dollars in bonds to fix roads and bridges. In addition to Morgan, the Rhode Island Trucking Association filed a formal public-records request with the state transportation department in December, seeking more details about the plan. At that point, neither the toll rates nor the proposed locations of gantries had been made public record.

Morgan said the response from the governor’s office angered her.

“The governor wants to impose tolls on all of our major highways,” she said. “I think that will be bad for consumers, be bad for small business, and of course it will be bad for the trucking industry too.

“An 1882 map has nothing to do with her proposal, absolutely nothing. It’s pathetic,” she said. “And (the governor’s office) defended it. They said it was a serious response to our request.” 

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation released the preliminary locations of 14 proposed toll gantries on Jan. 5. Six of the gantries are on Interstate 95, three are on I-295, with one on I-195 and two each on Route 146 and U.S. Route 6. The release does not include information about the proposed toll amounts at each gantry.

Raimondo has previously stated that her administration would not release specific locations and amounts for the truck tolls until after state lawmakers vote on her toll-financed bridge repair plan, according to The Providence Journal.

In October, the state trucking association released a proposed alternative to Raimondo’s toll plan that would increase the current 34-cent diesel tax by 18 cents to produce an estimated $10.8 million annually. It also proposes increasing the truck registration fee by $500 per year to produce a projected $1.6 million annually; dropping proposed tax credits and other sweeteners the governor proposed last June to reduce the new cost of truck tolls on Rhode Island-registered businesses; and redirecting the $13.5 million to bridge and road maintenance.

OOIDA State Legislative Affairs Director Mike Matousek has previously said the governor’s tolling plan is “the worst possible solution to address the state’s transportation needs.”

“Land Line Now” News Anchor Reed Black contributed to this report.

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