The state of Rhode Island today became the first in the union to implement truck-only tolls on the interstate highway that cuts through the state, and the nation's big carrier lobby wasted no time vowing it would lay waste to the plan.
The first two electronic truck-only tolls are located on Interstate 95 in Exeter and Hopkinton. Another dozen toll booths are expected to go online over the next 18 months. The tolls will cost $3 each and are expected to raise $450 million to fund the state's 10-year initiative to repair damaged roads and structurally deficient bridges.
The plan, two years in the making, makes Rhode Island the first state to levy tolls just on trucks. State law prohibits tolls on cars. Other states have tolls on cars and trucks, and in some states the truck tolls are higher.
The American Trucking Associations (ATA) and the Rhode Island Trucking Association, which is part of the ATA 50-state confederation, said today they would fight the "unjust tolls by any means available." ATA and RITA called the state's action unconstitutional and discriminatory, and said the costs will just get passed on to the state's businesses. Trucks account for only 2 percent of the traffic that will be tolled, the groups said.
The tolls will force many trucks off I-95 and on to local arteries, which will create major congestion on local roads, the groups said. In some cases, drivers will simply avoid Rhode Island altogether on their East Coast travels, the groups said.
ATA President Chris Spear said his association warned the administration of Gov. Gina Raimondo to avoid the tolling plan, adding "it is unfortunate that she has chosen to attack our industry in this way." Spear said that ATA and RITA will "explore all avenues," including the courts, to reverse the program.