Installing tolls on bridges in Rhode Island would be an economic blow to businesses and commercial truck drivers operating within the state, and would jeopardize the economic health of towns and communities that rely on them for tax revenues, industry trade groups said.
Speaking at an informational rally at the TravelCenters of America in West Greenwich, R.I., Chris Maxwell, president of the Rhode Island Trucking Association, and Lisa Mullings, president and CEO 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 applauded members of the Rhode Island General Assembly who 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 in a statement issued after the Oct. 18 rally. “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.”
“Tolls have been shown time and again to create traffic diversion as drivers, who detest tolls, seek to find alternative routes,” Mullings said. “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, the groups said. 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, they said, calling it “an unprecedented bureaucratic maneuver.”
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, the groups said. 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,” the groups said.
The Rhode Island Trucking Association, Inc. is a chartered, non-profit organization whose membership is made up of truck owners, fleet owners, private and for hire motor carriers, and allied industries including manufacturers, dealers, service stations and suppliers.
National Association of Truck Stop Operators (NATSO) is the professional association of America’s travel plaza and truckstop industry.