Rhode Island lawmaker offers bill to repeal truck tolls

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 4/14/2017

An effort underway at the Rhode Island statehouse would repeal plans to charge commercial drivers to access highways in the state.

Dubbed “Rhode Works,” the one-year-old law permits the state to move forward with plans to collect tolls on large trucks. Tolls are estimated to be $3 at each gantry, or a maximum of $20 per day.

Toll revenues are supposed to be used for bridge replacement and reconstruction around the state.

House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan, R-Coventry/Warwick/West Warwick, announced this week she is pursuing a plan to sideline the collection of tolls primarily along Interstate 95, and on state and U.S. highways.

“The Rhode Works bill is irresponsible and should have never been passed last year,” Morgan said in prepared remarks. “It’s an albatross around the necks of Rhode Island consumers.”

She added that truck-only tolls are likely unconstitutional.

OOIDA and the Rhode Island Trucking Association have condemned the plan since it was unveiled nearly two years ago.

“We are all in agreement that additional revenues are needed to fund our roads and bridges,” stated RITA President Chris Maxwell. “The trucking industry has always been willing to pay our fair share.”

Instead of pursuing a “reckless gamble” on collecting truck-only tolls, Maxwell said the state would be better served to pursue a fuel tax increase. He referred to fuel tax collection as a “tried and true funding mechanism.”

Morgan adds that she has doubts about Gov. Gina Raimondo’s claim that the state was too broke to come up with the $45 million needed to avoid tolls to address the nation’s worst bridges.

“Yet this year she has proposed eliminating car taxes, starting a new entitlement program to pay college tuition, and now buy a (baseball) stadium,” Morgan stated. “Clearly, she was not being forthright with us. There never was a need to toll our highways.”

Morgan said it is not too late to put a stop to toll plans. Instead, she said there is bridge repair money available in the state’s current budget.

Her bill, H6109, is in the House Finance Committee.

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