Rhode Island DOT says it seeks comments as it expands trucks-only tolls

July 16, 2018

Chuck Robinson

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The Rhode Island DOT seeks feedback on the next 10 trucks-only toll gantries in the state.

Here is where you can comment, if you would like to let off some steam. However, I am not sure anyone is listening.

This notice was published a month since the first two gantries were put into service.

Rhode Island DOT trucks-only toll gantries
Rhode Island DOT has trucks-only toll gantries planned at all of these locations. Two are already up and running.

It was a matter of days since a lawsuit was filed against the Rhode Island DOT challenging the trucks-only toll. The tolls are being challenged as a violation of the Commerce Clause, which forbids states to impose charges with the intent to discriminate in favor of domestic, and against out-of-state or interstate, entities.

The Rhode Island DOT’s response after the lawsuit was filed was, “Yeah, we knew that was going to happen. We did it anyway.”

Well, not exactly, but close.

Then we have this report about seeking comment. Yeah, sure.

This is how a colleague rewrote the headline: “Rhode Island grudgingly goes through standard procedures just to do what they already know it’s going to do.”

We decided that is too long although it is on point.

Here is where the toll gantries are planned.

They are seeking comment on the environmental assessment. I am sure they have to ask because of a regulation that seemed worthwhile when it was passed.

The department’s environmental assessment report acknowledges that trucks may seek alternative routes to the tolled highways. It even maps out toll-diversion routes, starting on page 119 of this PDF. That might be useful.

FYI: Tolls are limited to once per toll facility per day in each direction. Tolls are limited to $20 total for a border-to-border through trip on I-95 from Connecticut to Massachusetts, and tolls will not exceed $40 per day.

According to RIDOT’s website, “The rationale behind the RhodeWorks tolling program was to toll the vehicles that caused the damage that needs to be repaired.”

You have to wonder how many vehicles travel these routes, yet it is the tractor-trailers causing the damage. You might wonder whether tolling passenger vehicles would just upset too many people for RIDOT’s get-rich scheme to work. I do.

Obviously, the people in those passenger vehicles don’t give a thought to how groceries get delivered to their supermarket or jeans and tennis shoes to their local department store. I would so like to see about a thousand billboards along Rhode Island highways reminding them that this trucks-only toll was going to cost them. “Thank RIDOT for prices going up,” they might say.

I vented a little by rating RIDOT on Facebook. Again, not that anyone at the Rhode Island DOT notices, but I did it anyway. I would like to see the agency lose a star in its Facebook rating.

This is what I posted: “I think your trucks-only tolls are a disservice to the residents of Rhode Island. Truckers need to charge more for coming to the state.”

I am glad that the lawsuit against the Rhode Island DOT has been filed, just like I remain proud of OOIDA’s lawsuit fighting tolls in Pennsylvania.

Such battles can take a long time. It seems even longer when agencies like the Rhode Island DOT smile and seek input all the while knowing they have no intention of heeding it.

Chuck Robinson

Chuck Robinson formerly was senior copy editor for a weekly trade publication serving the fresh produce industry. He has served trade publications, horticultural journals and community newspapers for 25 years.