The first two truck-only toll locations have just received a green light from the federal government and are expected to be collecting tolls in less than 60 days.
Part of Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo’s RhodeWorks infrastructure project, the controversial truck-only tolls are deeply unpopular with the trucking industry. Since they were first proposed in 2015, both state and national trucking groups have rallied against them. Opponents claim that the tolls are unconstitutional, will hurt local businesses, increase traffic, decrease safety, damage local roads, drive up prices for consumers, and more.
Recently, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation published a mandatory report on the environmental impact the two new tolling locations would have. The American Trucking Association claimed that the report was flawed, and asked the Federal Highway Administration to reject the report and order a more detailed analysis.
Last week however, the FHWA published its own “Finding of No Significant Impact,” giving the first two tolling locations the last green light they need to start installation.
Construction is set to begin in January and be completed by early February. After testing, the Rhode Island DOT claims that the gantries will start collecting tolls by the end of February.
Only the first two toll locations along I-95 at Mechanic Street in Richmond and the Tefft Hill Trail Bridge in Exeter are starting construction.
By the time all fourteen planned locations are collecting tolls, truckers will pay an estimated annual total of $45 million in tolls to Rhode Island.
But for the trucking industry, the battle isn’t over. Once tolls start being collected, opponents say a lawsuit will soon follow.
“Despite the DOT Director’s statement that ‘FHA has cleared the way’ for truck tolling, he failed to state the reality,” said Rhode Island Trucking Association President Christopher Maxell in a press release. “Which is the [state] is facing a lengthy and very expensive legal battle that will be funded by taxpayer dollars.”