Rhode Island Trucking Association, NATSO fight RhodeWorks tolling plan

Oct. 25, 2016

Tolling existing bridges in Rhode Island threatens the livelihood of the businesses and commercial truck drivers operating within the state, and jeopardizes the economic health of the towns and communities that rely on them for tax revenues, representatives of several leading industry trade groups said recently.

Speaking at an informational rally at the TravelCenters of America in West Greenwich RI, Chris Maxwell, president of the Rhode Island Trucking Association, and Lisa Mullings, president and chief executive officer of NATSO, representing the nation’s truckstops and travel plazas, said the Rhode Island Department of Transportation’s RhodeWorks plan represents nothing more than a shakedown of businesses that provide jobs and support local towns and communities.

Maxwell and Mullings also applauded those members of the Rhode Island General Assembly who stood with the business community and courageously opposed tolling under the RhodeWorks plan.

“The trucking industry and related entities--including truckstops and travel centers--will suffer greatly from a discriminatory truck-only toll,” Maxwell said. “The implementation of these tolls, whether in Rhode Island or nationwide, will change the footprint of our supply chain and commerce and will negatively affect retail establishments when trucks divert around tolls. We commend Members of the General Assembly for their courage and foresight in opposing RhodeWorks.”

Mullings said: “Tolls have been shown time and again to create traffic diversion as drivers, who detest tolls, seek to find alternative routes. That loss of traffic will very quickly create a harsh reality for consumers, employees and local communities. Businesses will be forced to increase prices for goods sold, residents stand to lose jobs if businesses falter. Towns and communities will lose millions in tax revenues used to support schools, fire departments, and other public services. Furthermore, this deplorable economic disruption will replicate across the country as other states seek to follow in Rhode Island’s footsteps.”

Federal law generally prohibits new tolls on existing interstate highway lanes. In an unprecedented bureaucratic maneuver, RhodeWorks authorizes the Rhode Island Department of Transportation to toll commercial vehicles across bridges within the state using an exemption that allows states to charge tolls for ailing bridges.

Although revenue is supposed to go toward funding the repair and replacement of bridges throughout the state, there are no legal requirements that the money raised be used in this manner.  What’s more, tolls significantly increase the costs of shipped goods and divert trucks off of the interstate onto local roads. RhodeWorks will have serious negative effects for local businesses, which will have to pay more for the goods that they sell, as well as Rhode Island towns and communities that rely on these businesses’ tax revenue to grow and thrive.