ATA Joins Rhode Island Truckers in Toll Fight

By Eric G Braun, Senior Writer, USRW

The Rhode Island Trucking Association joined the American Trucking Association in praising State Representative Patricia Morgan’s (R- District 26) bill to repeal the RhodeWorks toll law. Minority Leader Morgan introduced the legislation at the State House recently.

“We thank Minority Leader Morgan for her leadership in introducing this important piece of legislation,” said ATA President and CEO Chris Spear. “As our industry knows well, interstate tolls are not the solution when it comes to funding infrastructure improvements – something we care deeply about. The unintended consequences are harsh and counterproductive: interstate tolls punish the local economy, increase traffic and congestion and waste taxpayer money.”

“Moreover, the trucking industry will not sit idle while states attempt to turn our trucks into rolling ATMs. The onus is now on the Rhode Island legislature to correct this ill-conceived plan. ATA will take whatever steps are necessary to prevent these proposed tolls on overpasses, including litigation,” Spear said.

US wrote on this topic back in October of 2016. At the time Rhode Island Governor Raimondo (Democrat) had proposed a toll for truckers only to fund the states massive bridge repair effort. Raimondo signed the bill less than an hour after the bill was passed in the state senate. The bill is expected to raise over $500 million over the next five years.

"We have some of the worst roads and bridges in America, Rhode Islanders should know we are bringing people together to solve problems," said Raimondo after the bill-signing. Raimondo recognizes the threat of continued court battles by the trucking industry and stated, "We worked very hard to craft a bill that, we believe is constitutional, but with every creative idea there is always some risk but that’s not a reason not to act."

Back to the present, the fight that Raimondo had predicted, has come to fruition,

“We encourage Governor Raimondo and the legislature to follow the lead of states like California, Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Nebraska, Georgia or Wyoming, which in recent years demonstrated the political courage to take the tough vote and approve fuel tax increases with the understanding they remain the most effective and sustainable solution for highway infrastructure funding,” Spear said.

“Make no mistake about it: RhodeWorks won’t work for Rhode Island. It will increase the cost of doing business in our state, divert commerce away from it, and actually widen our budget shortfalls,” said Rhode Island Trucking Association President and CEO Christopher Maxwell. “This is nothing but a veiled tax for Rhode Island citizens and one that places an unnecessary premium on every item sold in the state, thus making Rhode Island less competitive economically.”

“We are all in agreement that additional revenues are needed to fund our roads and bridges. The trucking industry has always been willing to pay our fair share. It’s not a matter of if the industry pays, it is a matter of how the industry pays,” Maxwell said. “As other states are realizing immediate gains from fuel tax increases, Rhode Island is losing out as we take a reckless gamble on something other than a tried and true funding mechanism.”

“We strongly urge Speaker Mattiello to consider the damage this misguided policy will do to our state and economy, and support Representative Morgan’s bill,” Maxwell said.

The issue is sure to hit a traffic jam though as it navigates its way through the court system.

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