WEST GREENWICH, R.I. – Truckers trekking the Ocean State now have to pay tolls to help foot the bill for Rhode Island's crumbling bridges and roads.
Two toll gantries located between Hopkinton and Exeter went live at midnight. Just a second later, the first tractor trailer was tolled, according to Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) Director Peter Alviti. “It’s a matter of fairness that the vehicles that are causing the most damage to our roads and bridges are paying their fair share."
The Rhode Island Trucking Association (RITA) has spent the past three years fighting this reasoning, arguing the trucking industry has been turned into a scapegoat. RITA is pursuing legal action with the backing of the American Trucking Associations.
“Trucks do not do all of the damage,” RITA President Chris Maxwell said in a press conference Monday, standing next to toll opponent and Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Patricia Morgan. “Decades of neglect, malfeasance, mismanagement and cronyism deal a decisive blow to infrastructure."
Morgan said if she’s elected governor, she will eliminate truck tolls.
RIDOT hopes to set up a dozen more gantries across the state by 2020 to collect an estimated $45-million a year. Environmental assessments will need to be conducted for each location – which RITA plans to challenge.
Maxwell expects truckers will avoid the gantries once the bills start rolling in.
"They'll divert onto secondary roads,” he said. “It's a dangerous problem – secondary road degradation."
Alviti is not concerned, saying roughly 3,700 toll-eligible trucks went through the gantries in the first 12 hours – calling that on target.
"It is still less expensive and faster for them to get to where they're going by staying on our roadways," he explained.