Confusion around costs of Rhode Island truck toll

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | 6/8/2017

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation is under scrutiny after new information reveals the department was not forthright about the total costs of truck-only tolls. However, RIDOT tells Land Line that previous reports were misleading and total costs are well below initial estimates, saving the Ocean State millions of dollars.

According to the Providence Journal,RIDOT Director Peter Alviti remarked approximately two weeks ago that a new contract for the truck-only toll was valued at $2.5 million each year. Over the period of the 10-year contract, the total costs would be about $25 million.

On May 24, RIDOT’s press release about “facts on tolling” included contractor information. In the press release, RIDOT said “the contract fixes the cost to operate and maintain the system at $2.5 million.”

On Wednesday, June 7, RIDOT officially announced the contract with Kapsch Traffic Com IVHS Inc. The total contract bid: $68.9 million. In addition to 10-year operation and maintenance costs ($27.1 million), construction will run about $30.6 million and systems development is estimated at $11.2 million.

RIDOT spokesperson Charles St. Martin told Land Line that the Providence Journal report revealing truck tolls will cost more than reported is confusing and misleading. St. Martin said the $2.5 million a year quote was announced before the rest of the contract was inked out and was only meant to highlight a part of the costs, not the whole.

“Misinterpreted equals misinformation,” Rhode Island Trucking Association CEO and President Chris Maxwell told Land Line in a statement. “It became this when they got caught trying to downplay their mounting costs and diminishing revenue.”

When accounting for initial estimates when legislation for the program was passed in February 2016, the contract is actually far less than taxpayers were told.

“The amounts are not far off from where we had been estimating this cost,” St. Martin told Land Line. “In fact, it’s actually less.”

In February 2016, estimates for the truck-only toll contract accounted for $38 million in construction/systems development costs and $4.4 million per year in operation/maintenance costs, a total of $82 million.

Although the one-time cost for construction and systems development is higher than expected, the recurring operation/maintenance cost is nearly half what was projected, saving the state approximately $13 million. Those savings will likely go towards other infrastructure projects, according to St. Martin.

Kapsch’s contract includes a two-year construction and installation phase as well as operating and maintaining the tolls for 10 years. The firm will have an option for two five-year extensions, according to a RIDOT press release.

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