Truckers sound confident on stopping tolls statewide

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Citing statements by state leaders that the system of truck tolls now under construction is designed to disproportionately place the cost of bridge repairs on trucks passing through the state and not the locals, the Rhode Island Truckers Association is sounding confident it will win an injunction ending tolls of tractor trailers and a revenue stream to help fund the state’s RhodeWorks program.

Last week, after the state abandoned its effort to have the truckers’ case heard in the state courts on the basis that the tolls are a state tax, rather than a fee, the American Truckers Association representing the state organization filed for the injunction in U.S. District Court in Providence.

In the opinion of Chris Maxwell, president of the RI Truckers Association, the prolonged legal dance over whether the state or the federal courts had jurisdiction was designed to buy time so that the state could proceed with the erection of toll gantries and collect tolls. So far, according to the state Department of Transportation, six of the 12 gantries are up and the full system is to be completed by this June. Since July 2018 when the first gantry became operational through February of this year, the state has collected more than $14 million in tolls.

Even should the court find the tolls unconstitutional, as the truckers argue, Maxwell doesn’t see the outcome as a win. With the gantries in place and the loss a source of revenue to help sustain the $2 billion RhodeWorks program, he reasons the state will move to broaden tolling to all vehicles even though legislators attempted to make that impossible when they approved the truck tolls.

As spelled out in the lengthy writ, tenants to the truckers’ argument that the tolls violate the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause are:

l That Rhode Island expressly designed the tolls to discriminate against interstate commerce, structuring them so that they would fall disproportionately on out-of-state and interstate truckers, while sparing in-state users of the tolled facilities.

l That the tolls discriminate against interstate commerce in their practical operation, as state officials intended and as a study conducted by the state itself confirms.

l And that the tolls depart from the constitutional requirements that user fees fairly approximate use of the tolled facility and not be excessive in light of the benefits conferred.

Reached Friday morning at an event at Warwick Police headquarters promoting safe driving over St. Patrick’s Day, RIDOT Director Peter Alviti referred all questions concerning the trucker’s suit to the attorney general’s office. A spokeswoman for the attorney general said there was no comment at this time.

As for the current status of the $6.5 billion RhodeWorks program, Alviti said it is on schedule and under budget. In a follow-up email from his department, a spokesman for the DOT noted that Gov. Gina Raimondo, in her state of the state address, said, “We’ve completed more than 100 road and bridge projects and we’re working on 100 more.”

Maxwell argues state officials have made the case for the truckers with their admission that the tolls are designed to hit out-of-state trucks passing through the state while giving a break to in-state trucks.

“State officials chose to finance RhodeWorks through truck tolls with the express goal of shift[ing] a segment of the cost of the RhodeWorks project onto semi-tractor trailer trucks that pass through the state without stopping,” reads the complaint, quoting “The Economic Impact of Rhodeworks: An Accelerated Transportation Restoration Plan, Regional Economics Models, Inc.” from October 2015.

Quoting an article from the Providence Journal published on Oct. 29 2015, the complaint reads: “Governor Gina Raimondo therefore candidly stated that ‘[t]he reason I prefer the tolling proposal is because the majority of the burden is on out-of-state truckers and out-of-state companies who are using – and I would say abusing – our roads.’”

The complaint goes on to quote House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello from a Providence Business News article in which he is quoted as saying the RhodeWorks tolls were structured so that “a lot of the burden for the repair of our bridges, overpasses and infrastructure is passed on to out-of-state truckers.”

The truckers allege that state officials “designed the RhodeWorks toll caps specifically so as to impose a disproportionately heavy burden on out-of-state and interstate truckers. As a general matter, flat fees for the use of a state’s roads have the inevitable effect of imposing a lower effective per-mile charge on intrastate than on interstate users.”

The truckers concede there is little chance of being reimbursed should they win the case.

Comments

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RIDOT is dumb

So this clearly was a bad idea from the start. It is clearly unconstitutional. Once the state lost it's bid to keep the case in state courts, which most of the judge's have been appointed by Democrats, the case was lost.

Instead of waiting for the court case to be settled after the first gantry went up the Stupid DOT put gantyrs up all over the place. Who knows what technology is on them? What ar they doing with the license plate data it captures?

This entire project has been mismanaged and I will be happy to see these gantrys some down. But we all know that the lawmakers will just change the law and start tolling cars right? Because the state needs all of our money.

There is an election coming up soon. Vote out every incumbent you can. 80 years of Democrat rule has ruined our state.

Tuesday, March 17
John Stark

According to the Federal Highway Administration, the state of Rhode Island is responsible for the maintenance of 12,741 lane miles of highway. In order to do this, the state charges a tax of 34 cents per gallon of gasoline, which brought in about $152M in 2018. By contrast, New Hampshire maintains about 36,000 lane miles of highway, charges 23 cents per gallon of gasoline, and brought in only $124M. So, a lot less money to maintain nearly three times more highway for about 40% more people. Yet, miraculously, you could eat off most NH highways while you have trouble even driving on many of RI's highways. The Point: More revenue doe not, in any way, equate to better maintained highways or better government services in ANY form. Now, can we talk about revenue generated by RI's state income and sales taxes that most Ocean Staters forget they even pay?

Tuesday, March 17
justanidiot

ridotisdumb losing the court case was the plan from day one. once the case is lost because you cant cherry pick who pays tolls, cars will be added. especially now with revenue to the state starting to nosedive. be prepared for local roads to be highly congested and beat to shit, even more than they are already

Tuesday, March 17
davebarry

The state had a 200 million dollar budget gap before COVID18 hit. The state will continue to bleed red ink. When the truckers win, cars will have to be tolled because the state will not be able to survive without the income. You don't have to be Nostradamus to predict this.

Tuesday, March 17
Patient Man

John,

I agree with your overall sentiment, but we should mention NH gets a lot of revenue from tolls. Tolls I happily pay because the roads are so well maintained. Your points on no income or sales tax in NH is important. Also NH & RI property tax rates are very close.

Tuesday, March 17
"RI: The Emergency State"

Patient Man,

It's good to see someone realizes this was the game all along. Though the roads and bridges are being repaired NOW after years of deferred maintenance, RI taxpayers should be furious that the taxes collected for that purpose for years were obviously redirected , misspent and never replaced- the biggest problem in RI, besides taxpayer apathy, is lack of accountability with taxpayer funds.

It's also a farce that tractor-trailers should be targeted; it was done because they have deep pockets and have to pay it to conduct business, while the vehicles which actually do the most damage, CONSTRUCTION VEHICLES, get a pass because the contractors are in bed with the Governor and General Assembly. Construction vehicles have a much smaller "footprint" than tractor-trailers so their linear weight is far heavier, hence the damage done to roads & particularly bridges when a short, very heavy vehicle passes over them compared to a vehicle up to 70' long with a longer and lighter "footprint".

In the '60's and '70's, the mob-connected construction contractors lobbied and paid their friends in the General Assembly (and city and town councils) and had Representatives sell the idea of reducing costs of State and Municipal Public Works departments by replacing workers with private contractors to "save money" and not maintain fleets of vehicles. Fast-forward to today where contractors are the only option and project costs are high, budgets are always exceeded, workmanship is subpar and schedules are meaningless..."highway departments" can't even fill potholes.

Road and bridge repair projects are partially funded by Federal Highway funds and other subsidies, so the State funnels that money in addition to State taxpayer funds to the contractors for votes...of course the contractors are going to agree that tractor-trailers are causing the damage- it's in their best interest.

Putting up the gantries and collecting the taxes...er, um... I mean, tolls...was the quickest, most problem-free public works project I've witnessed in many, many years in RI.

Wednesday, March 18
Lou

I was very vocal in calling everyone at the statehouse opposing the tolls, and to my surprise (not surprised) they had been given a powerpoint presentation as to what to say to constitutes verbatim. Shortly afterwards the Providence Journal was bought out by Gateway Media and they closed the comment section which i was very active on toll oriented articles. I'm retired and will learn all new back roads to get to where I need to go. I won't be able to avoid them 100% but I'm going to do my best to avoid them, no matter the cost.

BTW, ALL poorly run Blue states in the US have infrastructure monies syphoned off to other pork spending. We as a country are in crisis with poor infrastructure and unsustainable pensions period. #2 - we WAY OVERPAY the DOT! It's another bloated department filled with high paid lifer-donothings.

One more thing... we WILL NOT run out of toilet paper!! We manufacture it here!

Wednesday, March 18
perky

gina should close the tolls right now give them a break

Thursday, March 19
wwkvoter

"Twin River " casino, the state of RI *third largest* source of tax revenue, just went off line, indefinitely. I cannot see how this ends well fiscally for our state, gantry revenue or not.

Thursday, March 19
Happy

Well, here are the facts:

First, Gina is a very well educated person, smarter than most RI folks.

Second, Gina is 100% for RI being a "Sanctuary State". She will not allow discrimination at any level!

Third, all RI'ers knew this going into the election yet overwhelmingly chose her even though they knew she was discriminating against the truckers, yes, singling them out specifically.

In summary here, there should not be any person in RI who thinks that she won't be pulling the plug so every vehicle pays a toll, that was her plan, she knew it and now she is executing it to the "t". Extremely smart woman!

Notice that there are still toll gantries going up all around the state even as we discuss this. You really don't think for one minute that they are going to be taken down do you?

You really don't think the truckers are going to loose this case do you?

Friday, March 20
John Simoneau

Just like when, as Treasurer, she screwed 59,000 retirees in the State system, to help enrich her Wall Street and Yale friends. I still can't believe that not even one of them had the balls to do the right thing. Even those terminally ill. LOL

It's still early yet. Maybe the tolls will be the final straw. She even thought it was a possibility, so she became the first Governor in RI history to give herself 24 hour a day State Police protection. Not that it will help.... lmfao

Time will tell, as history usually does.

Friday, March 20
Billy T

Here's a joke for you-Johnny Bad Breath urging people to "do the right thing". Maybe you should lead by example Johnny Bad Breath, and give back a portion of your $100,000 per year TAX FREE phony disability pension to the city of Providence-now that would be doing the right thing.

Saturday, March 21
John Simoneau

Billy T .. COWARD

I've told you before, when you grow a set and come see me face to face, I'll answer your questions, and consider giving back some...lol. Twice already you proved you're are just a COWARD and didn't show up. Now just go away COWARD!

Monday, March 23
Spyder rico

Vote Johnny Bad Breath for mayor-make Corona virus great again!

Monday, March 23
John Simoneau

COWARD

and

IDIOT

Monday, March 23
John Stark

Patient Man - your point on tolls is reasonable and NH collects a significant amount. However, when combining Tolls + Gas Tax New Hampshire spends about $6800 per lane mile. In contrast, RI (including tolls from the Newport Bridge) spends $13,578 per lane mile, or twice as much! Total tax burden aside (NH very low, RI very high) what, exactly, does RI do with all it's tax money...and why are citizens not storming the statehouse with pikes and torches?! The point, again, is that higher taxes and more revenues do NOT, in ANY WAY, result in improved government services.

Tuesday, March 24
Fashion Question

Now that many individuals are working from home due to the Corona virus, does this mean wearing soiled sweat pants over an adult diaper is acceptable attire? Asking for a friend from Oakland Beach.

Tuesday, March 24
John Simoneau

You have no friends, COWARD. Probably never owned a pair of sweatpants either you FAT PIECE OF SHIT COWARD.... lol

Tuesday, March 24
Billy T

Right on schedule, as soon as someone makes a fool of Johnny Sweat Pants, he resorts to profanity. Children at Oakland Beach Elementary School have more maturity than he does. Way to keep it classy Sweat Pants.

Wednesday, March 25
John Simoneau

Only FOOL here is you. ...COWARDS

Get a life!

Wednesday, March 25
Patient Man

John Stark, 100% agree

5 days ago