Rhode Island has just received approval from the Federal Highway Administration on their plan which would make them the only state in the country to have a toll that applies only to truckers.
According to Governor Gina Raimondo, trucks cause 90% of the damage to roads and bridges in Rhode Island. Because of this, Gov. Raimondo proposed RhodeWorks. RhodeWorks plans to raise the money it needs to rebuild or replace 34 bridges by putting up 14 tolling gantries throughout the state. Tolls would amount to $3 per gantry, with a maximum charge of $20 per truck, per day. It has been estimated that the tolls would cost truckers around $45 million per year.
A statement from the Rhode Island Trucking Association (RITA) claims that the plan is trying to “wipe away decades of corruption and malfeasance by scapegoating the trucking industry and imposing a veiled tax on the citizens of Rhode Island.”
The trucking industry isn’t planning on giving up without a fight.
“The trucking industry remains unified and resolute in its fight against this policy,” said Chris Maxwell, president of RITA. “We will use every resource and tactic available to us to win in the political, legal and commerce areas.”
Critics of the truck-only tolls point out that the program could drive business away from the state, drive up prices for goods, and increase traffic on non-tolled roadways.
To try and prevent drivers from bypassing toll roads, RIDOT is proposing that truckers trying to bypass gantries receive an $85 ticket. Truckers who are making local deliveries would not be ticketed, but critics say that the distinction can be tough to make.
Not so, says RIDOT Director Peter Alviti.
“Whether or not a truck is making a delivery to a local area is easy: ‘Just show me the package,'” said Alviti.
As Maxwell points out however, that’s not as easy as it sounds.
“Essentially, you’re going to have is commercial enforcement units jumping up on the side of every truck, asking truck drivers, ‘What is your business here?’ That’s kind of an eerie scenario,” said Maxwell.
Alviti has said that signs will be installed on roads that RIDOT believes will be likely diversion routes warning truckers about the tickets. Each ticket will be split with $46 going to the town where the ticket is written, and $39 going to the state.