Trucking association sues R.I. over truck tolls
By John Krinjak
WEST GREENWICH, R.I. (WLNE) -- For truck driver Gerard Plante, tolls are a fact of life.
"I drive to New Jersey and back every night, so I hit tolls all the way back and forth," said Plante.
But he says the new truck-only tolls in Rhode Island are unfair to truckers.
"I don't think they should be singled out, no," said Plante.
The American Trucking Association agrees. That's why it's suing the state DOT and its director Peter Alviti over what it calls an "unconventional" truck tolling system.
"This is blatantly unlawful and violates the commerce clauses of the US constitution," said Christopher Maxwell of the Rhode Island Trucking Association.
Truck tolling began on June 11th at two gantries along 95 in southern Rhode Island.
"Rhode works was conceived with the intent of placing a weighted financial burden on out-of-state carriers," said Maxwell.
Two trucking companies have signed onto the suit, along with one of Rhode Island's biggest retailers.
"Cumberland farms, certainly being on every street corner within Rhode Island and New England, they're concerned about the uptick in retail costs."
House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan, who's opposed truck tolling all along, welcomes the suit.
"It's too bad that the American trucking association had to take this step, but i actually welcome it because it is a step in the direction of ridding our state of tolls," said Morgan.
Drivers like Plante say the state will ultimately lose out because trucks will just avoid Rhode Island altogether.
"Commercial drivers are definitely going to try to go around these tolls," said Plante. "It's no good."
Others, like Anita Fontaine, say they can see both sides.
"I mean it has its pros and cons. I know it'll help the state but it's like we're already short truckers, so it's just going to add another added expense," said Fontaine.
The DOT released a statement Tuesday in response to the lawsuit, saying in part:
"This is a lawsuit we expected. We are prepared to defend the tractor trailer truck only tolling program and have been prepared to do so for three years. We are confident that we will prevail."
Governor Raimondo, through a spokesperson, declined to comment on the lawsuit. That spokesperson referred us back to that statement from the DOT.
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