Truck group unveils alternative to RI trucks-only tolls

The Rhode Island Trucking Association (RITA) Wednesday, Oct. 28, proposed a plan to fund repairs to the state’s roads and bridges without relying using tolls on trucks as proposed by the governor. At the same time, the organization’s leader suggested if a trucks-only plan proceeds, so might legal action.

RITA’s plan comes in response to one proposed in the spring by Gov. Gina Raimondo called RhodeWorks, which was based on making only trucks with three axels or more pay tolls electronically.

The trucking association’s proposal was announced as the governor and a group of Republican and an Independent lawmaker discussed a highway plan with no tolls on trucks.

“We have always stated we want to be part of the solution, but tolls are not the answer,” said Christopher Maxwell, president of RITA in a statement. “Our plan creates a revenue stream over the next four years totaling just over $220 million dollars, which happens to be the exact number being floated in RhodeWorks to repair 453 bridges outside of the 6/10 connector.

“After year four the plan will produce a yearly revenue stream of $25.9 million. This revenue stream could be bonded by the RIDOT to address the 6/10 connector or the entire package could be bonded to address all of the projects that RhodeWorks envisions. And our plan starts immediately without expending $43 million on gantries (for toll electronic collection) that will not begin to be constructed until 2018.”

RITA’s plan includes:

  • Increasing the diesel tax by 18 cents, which RITA said produces $10.8 million annually. Rhode Island’s diesel tax is 34 cents currently, compared to Connecticut’s gas tax of 55 cents.
  • Increasing truck registration fees by $500 per year, will RITA said will produce $1.6 million annually. RITA said Rhode Island now has the lowest truck registration fee in New England.
  • Asking the state to rescind tax credits currently being proposed. This returns the funds back to their original purpose of bridge and road maintenance, according to RITA, and creates $13.5 million annually
  • Refinancing GARVEE bonds, which RITA said will produce $121 million in the first four years. This is also proposed in RhodeWorks.

“Our plan brings a predictable revenue stream to address Rhode Island’s deteriorating roads and bridges without the uncertainty and risk contained in the RhodeWorks proposal,” said Maxwell. “There are certain traffic assumptions contained in the RhodeWorks proposal that we believe are not accurate and will greatly affect projected revenue streams.

“The governor has already admitted that if revenue projections do not pan out her only recourse would be to increase the tolls on the trucking industry.”

RITA questioned truck traffic projections used by the governor in her tolling plan, and said they could mean a shortfall of some $30 million.

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In releasing the plan, Maxwell called on the governor to make known specific tolling locations and  amounts raised at each location. These details were not included in her plan.

Maxwell also said that if the state proceeds with its plan to assess tolls only on trucks, it will likely face lawsuits under the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause.

“This is certainly a road that we do not want to pursue, but lawmakers should understand the risks involved in pursuing RhodeWorks,” said Maxwell.