Rhode Island truckers: Regardless of court outcome, 'we lose with gantries'

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Whether the courts agree with the state that it has the right to independently toll trucks or not, Christopher Maxwell of the Rhode Island Truckers Association says Rhode Island will come out the loser.

Should the courts agree that trucks should pay for use of the roads and not automobiles, as lawmakers have sought to protect legislatively, Maxwell questions if the daily cap of $40 regardless of the miles driven will stand up.

“Even if we lose and truck-only stands, be rest-assured that caps will be eliminated and the protections and certainty of $40 max per day will go away. Business owners and consumers beware! Like legislation prohibiting tolls on cars, the caps were promised to placate local business owners from egregious daily charges, but can and will go away with a legal decision or recision of a law,” Maxwell writes in an email.

Maxwell and the state departments of Transportation and Revenue were contacted last week for an update on the erection of gantries and revenues collected since the first gantry became operational in July 2018.

Gantries are in the process of being installed on Interstate 95 in Warwick near the Centerville Road overpass and the Centerville northbound on-ramp.

“The department has been closely monitoring traffic at new gantries for diversion and there has been none. We expect the same will occur at this gantry. Also, the Department is seeing higher than expected revenues at the five gantries that have gone live to date,” RIDOT spokesman Charles St. Martin wrote in an email.

Toll revenue is projected to pay about 10 percent of the $5 billion RhodeWorks program, which is designed to have Rhode Island meet the National Bridge Standard of 10 percent of bridges as deficient by 2025. When the state program started three years ago, the deficiency rate was 25 percent. That has been reduced to 22 percent, St. Martin said.

Under the program, the state has identified 150 bridges needing to be rebuilt and another 500 requiring rehabilitation to ensure they don’t become deficient.

Maxwell sees the state “rushing” to get up the gantries up before the truckers’ association appeals work their way through the courts. The latest development came Dec. 5 when the First Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the American Truckers Association and remanded jurisdiction back to federal court.
As Maxwell explains, RIDOT sought to protect truck tolls under the Tax Injunction Act, which would have prevented federal intervention under interstate commerce and would have placed the case in the state courts.

“The First Circuit unanimously felt differently – spoiling RI’s legal Hail Mary,” Maxwell wrote Friday. The state was granted until Jan. 2 to decide whether it would like to have the case reheard by the First Circuit.

Regardless, Maxwell sees the court play as a means of buying time to erect at least half of the planned 12 state gantries before winter weather sets in and closes further construction.

“For a state so confident in the legality and constitutionality of truck-only tolls, they seem pretty hell-bent on avoiding the federal courts,” Maxwell said.

A spokeswoman for the Attorney General offered no comment on the court action, saying the matter is in litigation.

In response to an inquiry, RIDOT released the following statement: “This latest ruling determines only the venue – that federal court is the appropriate venue for the trial. We remain highly confident that the state will prevail in the lawsuit brought by the American Trucking Association.

With completion of the Interstate 295/Scott Road gantry and that at Interstate 95 and Route 117 in Warwick, Maxwell said half of the gantry system would be completed.

As of the end of October, the gantries had collected a total of $10 million in tolls since the first one became operational in July 2018.

Kapsch Traffic Com IVHS won the contract to design, install, operate and service the system for 10 years for $68.9 million.
Should the truckers association win in the courts, Maxwell notes the state will have spent millions on the gantries. At question is whether the state would be to refund tolls already collected.

“It’s a dangerous game our state is playing,” Maxwell said.

Comments

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justanidiot

two, three years at a maximum, cars are going to be added into this tax. too much money spent on infrastructure to just depend on trucks.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019
igor1113

Gina's name & the Democrats name should be plastered all over them.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019
Warwick_Resident1998

Democrats are always looking for more of the people’s money. It’s only a matter of time until they amend the current statute and toll cars.

In the meantime what is the state doing with all the data these gantries are collecting. They are reading the license plates of every car and truck going under them. Does the information get shared with law enforcement?

Big brother is watching......

Tuesday, December 31, 2019
igor1113

The Interstate Highway program was signed into law by President Dwight Eisenhower on June 29, 1956 and tolling of the system was to be prohibited with the exclusion of those roads that were either under construction or existing, where it was allowable, i.e. Mass & Penn Turnpikes. 64 years later, the lawyers and the criminal Democrat Party have wiggled their way into constructing gantries all over RI and we know that it is just a matter of time before they start collecting from the automobile motorists. The courts must declare these gantries illegal according to law passed in 1956 and if they don't, then they too are corrupt and should be put out of business.

Wednesday, January 1
bill123

I question the ability of the state to follow the laws as written, even as it argues the law in court. We can assume tolls will be siphoned off for other uses, like 911 fees are now. Also, the AG is an elected official, he should not be refusing public comment. Certainly can’t find any comments here, except PC fluff: https://twitter.com/AGNeronha

Wednesday, January 1
Tom hobson

I agrree.truck only tolls will not hold up in court.the politicians know this.its a trojan horse that opens the door to car tolls.then they can point to the court decision and say our hands are tied its the courts fault.by the way where were these clowns when they squandered taxpayers money while they allowed the bridges and roads to get so bad.we deserve better.what a joke.

Wednesday, January 1
pallyboy

Keep voting for DEMOCRATZ....they will have a gantry over your bathroom door if they have their way!! DEMS are a bunch of sick, hypocritical parasites...Give them ALL the Heave HO!!

Thursday, January 2
pallyboy

Keep voting for DEMOCRATZ....they will have a gantry over your bathroom door if they have their way!! DEMS are a bunch of sick, hypocritical parasites...Give them ALL the Heave HO!!

Thursday, January 2
RI Schadenfreude

Almost as farcical as the belief that Giner hasn't intended to toll cars ever since she was informed that tolling only trucks is illegal and unconstitutional is the way the construction companies have jumped on the "Trucks=Bad" bandwagon.

Anyone with a little knowledge of physics knows that construction vehicles such as dump trucks, cement mixers, etc. put more of a strain on infrastructure because of their heavy loads and short wheelbases- heavy load, small footprint. a tractor-trailer's load is spread out over 50+ feet, therefore spreading the weight over a longer linear footprint.

Of course the State, unions and Asphalt Mafia / Mafia have been in collusion for so long that you will never hear this from an elected official or the "Paper of Record".

As long as I can remember, a new major tax initiative (let's call the tolls what they are) was going to fix everything, as well as be "temporary"; I'm sure there are many out there who remember hearing the same story about the forming of the RI Lottery in 1974. If the tolls stay in force, expect the funds to be diverted to the Black Hole...er,um,...I mean, General Fund...in a few short years.

Thursday, January 2
Tom hobson

50 percent of rhode islands roads need to be fixed.23 percent of the bridges need work too.dead last in the country.so its unfair to blame all the issues on trucks.thats why this truck only tolls will not stand.other states have tolls but i am unaware of any that toll just trucks.if you put the burden on the local trucking companies they can move then we lose more transportation jobs.we have already driven manufacturing out of this state.can we really afford to lose the transportation economy too?

Sunday, January 5