Rhode Island highway truck tolls get federal approval

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP/WPRI) — Rhode Island’s plan to charge big-rig trucks that travel along its highways has won approval from the federal government.

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation said Wednesday it has executed agreements with the Federal Highway Administration for 13 tolling locations around the state.

Beginning as early as 2018, the tolls on 18-wheelers will raise money to rebuild or replace 34 bridges. Rhode Island will become the first state with truck-only tolls, though many states with tolls charge large commercial trucks at a higher rate than cars.

State lawmakers passed the truck tolls legislation earlier this year amid strong opposition from truckers. Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo signed it into law in February.

It allows trucks to be charged up to $20 to cross the state along Interstate 95.

In an email, Rhode Island Trucking Association President Chris Maxwell said the federal decision “changes nothing.”

“The trucking industry remains unified and resolute in its fight against this policy,” Maxwell said. “We will use every resource and tactic available to us to win in the political, legal and commerce areas.” He also urged voters to support anti-toll candidates in next month’s elections.

RIDOT said that trucks do the most damage on roads.

Peter Alviti, the RIDOT Director said, “We are asking them to step up to the plate and provide, as they do everywhere else, their share of the funding for the destruction that they’re doing to our roadways.”

Governor Raimondo also said that the truckers will “benefit from having safer roads and bridges. It’s not good for them to have the worst bridges in America, so this is in everybody’s interest and I’m please to see the federal government give us the go-ahead.”

The RhodeWorks plan should fix most of the bridges involved over the next ten years.