Truck-only toll collection in Rhode Island begins June 11; legal challenge ‘imminent’

June 6, 2018

Tyson Fisher

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After much delay, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation has announced the launch date of truck-only toll collection at the first two gantries along Interstate 95. The Rhode Island Trucking Association said a legal challenge is “imminent.”

The first two locations will start collecting tolls on June 11. Gantries are between Hopkinton and Exeter. Toll Location 1 is approximately 1 mile north of Exit 2 (Hopkinton/Hope Valley) for the Wood River Valley Bridge on the Richmond/Hopkinton line. Toll Location 2 is approximately 3 miles south of Exit 5 (Route 102) for the Tefft Hill Trail Bridge and Baker Pines Bridge near the Exeter/Richmond line.

Toll prices vary slightly between the two gantries. The toll for the Wood River Valley Bridge will cost truckers $3.25. The toll for the Tefft Hill Trail Bridge will cost $3.50. Truckers with E-ZPass transponders will be charged only once per day each direction. Truckers without transponders will be tracked with video detection systems and will receive an invoice.

The remaining 12 toll gantries are scheduled to go live within the next 18 months along I-95, I-195, I-295, U.S. Route 6, state Route 146 and state Route 1. Although the first two gantries are near the southern end of the state, the other 12 gantries will be concentrated on the northeastern portion.

Chris Maxwell, Rhode Island Trucking Association’s president and CEO, told Land Line Now’s Mary McKenna that a legal challenge to the truck-only tolls is “imminent.”

“It’s unconstitutional,” Maxwell said. “It’s an undermining of free commerce. It’s taking a shared road-use burden and attaching it to one class of vehicles.”

Long, bumpy road to collection of tolls
In 2016, RIDOT projected toll collection to commence in December 2017. However, in November the department announced that it needed more time on the required environmental study, pushing the collection date to February or March.

On April 12, RIDOT Director Peter Alviti provided testimony to the state House finance committee regarding the governor’s fiscal year 2019 budget for the department. One of the first questions lawmakers had was about the truck-only tolls.

Alviti estimated that toll collection will begin by the end of May at the earliest.

“As we have said repeatedly, we are making sure we are at the highest attainable state of readiness before we go live,” RIDOT spokesman Charles St. Martin said in a statement. “We want to reiterate that commitment. This project is highly important to RIDOT and we want the process to be seamless when we commence using it. In accordance with an adage, ‘measure three times and cut once,’ we are double checking everything to make sure we get this right from the start.”

The delays are coming at a cost. RIDOT estimated that the tolls will generate $41 million in revenue for FY 2019. However, Alviti told lawmakers that the delays would result in that revenue being “a little less.” How much is “a little less?” The new toll revenue projection for 2019 is now $25 million, a nearly 40 percent reduction.

Toll revenue will go towards the replacement and rehabilitation of bridges throughout the state. According to RIDOT, the state ranked dead last in overall bridge condition with about 22 percent of bridges deemed structurally deficient.

Land Line Now’s Mary McKenna contributed to this report.

Tyson Fisher

Tyson Fisher joined Land Line Magazine in March 2014. An award-winning journalist and tireless researcher, his news reports, features and blogs bring depth to our editorial content, backed with solid detail. Tyson is a lifelong Kansas Citian.