Toll Verdict – RI Highway Spending Sixth Highest BEFORE Truck Tolls

“Permanently enjoined” – in a methodical, 90+ page ruling, federal district court Judge William Smith has turned thumbs down on Rhode Island’s truck-only tolls, noting that they are discriminatory, that they do not “fairly approximate use of the facilities” and that they violate the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution.

Click here for an excellent description by Coalition Radio’s Pat Ford of the legal arguments of the case when it finally hit the courtroom in May.

It’s important also for us to to remember the travel of the “arguments” for the necessity of tolls themselves: they’ve gone from from DANGER! DANGER! BRIDGES ARE GOING TO FALL DOWN IF WE DON’T TOLL TRUCKS! when they were proposed seven years ago to “I like surpluses” earlier this year [Governor Dan McKee responding to Pat Ford’s spot on question about whether truck tolls should end in view of all of the infrastructure money that Rhode Island is sloshing in] with a stop to do unnecessary major repairs on at least one high traffic/high toll volume bridge along the way. Umm, really? If the condition of Rhode Island’s bridges in 2016 was such a hazard to the motoring public, why haven’t we been repairing bridges from worst to first? Why are we undertaking MAJOR REPAIR JOBS on BRIDGES THAT DON’T NEED IT?

Now Rhode Island is “permanently enjoined” from tolling only trucks. There has already been some hand-wringing about “how will we replace that revenue??”, leading to speculation that tolls could be expanded to all vehicles.

Couple of things. First of all, RIDOT Director Peter Alviti has repeatedly downplayed the significance of truck toll revenue, noting either that it is only 10% of RIDOT’s budget and/or only 10% of the Rhodeworks program. Excellent. So it won’t be a hardship for RIDOT to do its job without it.

Secondly and far more importantly, Rhode Island’s per lane mile spending on state-owned roads was sixth highest (page 34) BEFORE the revenue from truck tolls or the tsunami of fed infrastructure money.

Sixth highest per mile spending and Rhode Island had – say it with me now – “some of the worst roads and bridges in the country”.

Fast forward three years and many tens of million dollars in truck toll revenue and the situation has actually worsened: as of January of this year, Rhode Island has the second worst highways in America and, as of February of this year, Rhode Island had the third worst bridges.

It’s like there’s an inverse relationship between how much money Rhode Island spends on its infrastructure and the quality of it. The more we pay for infrastructure, the worse it gets.

The numbers don’t lie. Rhode Island’s bad infrastructure is not due to a lack of revenue. So it decidedly will not be solved by the addition, resumption or [edited] expansion of any revenue source.

[Featured image by DEX Studios.]


Monique has been a contributor to Anchor Rising for over ten years, was volunteer spokesperson for the citizens advocacy anti-toll group for three+ years and began working for the Rhode Island Trucking Association as a staff member in September of 2017.

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1 year ago

Wake up RI!!

4 months ago

[…] especially one whose one whose public mission is as lavishly funded as RIDOT’s; here and here. We start to wonder if, perhaps, some of that funding would be put to better use elsewhere; either […]

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