Trucking interests are suing the state of Rhode Island saying its recently enacted truck-only toll system is unconstitutional.
The American Trucking Associations, along with carriers Cumberland Farms Inc., M&M Transport Services Inc., and New England Motor Freight filed the suit in federal court Tuesday claiming the RhodeWorks tolls discriminate against interstate trucking companies and impedes the flow of interstate commerce.
The four parties argue the plan violates the Constitution’s Commerce Clause by discriminating against out-of-state trucking companies, and by designing the tolls in a way that does not fairly approximate motorists’ use of the roads.
The complaint says:
“This toll regime was designed to, and does, in fact, impose discriminatory and disproportionate burdens on out-of-state operators and on truckers who are operating in interstate commerce. By design, the tolls fall exclusively on the types of trucks that are most likely to be engaged in the interstate transport of cargo, while exempting automobiles and the smaller vehicles that are relatively more likely to be engaged in intrastate travel. The toll program also limits the tolls collected from trucks that make multiple trips within Rhode Island in a single day, a feature that was expressly intended to, and does, in fact, provide disproportionate benefits to Rhode Island operators and those engaged in intrastate commerce.”
The RhodeWorks plan was proposed in 2015 and was opposed by most of the trucking industry. The first two toll gantries opened along I-95 and I-295 about a month ago. A total of 14 toll booths are planned, with each charging between $3.25 and $3.50 one-way. It would cost a total of $20 to travel through Rhode Island along I-95 once all the booths are completed, with a $40-a-day maximum charge.
The plan was approved by the Federal Highway Administration, a branch of the U.S. DOT, in October 2016.
“From the outset of this debate, Rhode Island’s trucking industry and business community stepped forward as viable partners for long-overdue infrastructure investment in our state,” said Chris Maxwell, president of the Rhode Island Trucking Association. “Instead of considering our perspective, Rhode Island’s legislators, led by Governor (Gina) Raimondo and Speaker (Nicholas) Mattiello, marginalized us, dismissed us and chose the unfortunate path of designing, building and executing an unlawful and inequitable scheme of truck-only tolling. The result is this lawsuit.”