PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Construction has begun on Rhode Island's new tractor trailer tolling system.
The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) crews began installing the first two of 14 planned gantry locations by Exits 2 and 5 on Interstate 95.
Lane closures are in effect through next week, then the contractor will test the new system for about a month. These gantries are expected to begin charging trucks by mid-March, once everything is working properly.
The ongoing construction is not halting the plans of the Rhode Island Trucking Association (RITA) to sue the state. "It's discriminatory," said RITA President Chris Maxwell. You can't single out one type of vehicle and one sector to shoulder the burden for shared use of an infrastructure."
Maxwell has been actively fighting the concept of truck tolls since the idea was first tossed around three years ago. "They put it on trucks knowing that inevitably a lawsuit would put it back down to cars," Maxwell said. "If you're going to toll, toll everybody...Our win [could be] a major loss for the citizens of Rhode Island."
Governor Gina Raimondo is undeterred. "We had to take action," she told ABC6 News. "We had some of the worst roads in America and now we're fixing them."
"[RITA] will sue," she continued. "We're going to fight the lawsuit and I think we'll prevail."
RIDOT has argued tolling trucks is the fair way to go, saying one large tractor trailer causes the same amount of damage as 9,600 passenger vehicles. "Common sense: everybody knows that large trucks are going to create more damage to the road than somebody's passenger vehicle," said RIDOT Director Peter Alviti, Jr.
RIDOT officials estimate, once all gantry locations are in place, that the tolls will bring in around $45-million in revenue; $5-million of which will go toward gantry operation and maintenance, with the rest toward repairing bridges and roads.
The tolls will fund about ten-percent of the RhodeWorks 10-year plan, according to Alviti.