RIDOT director rebuffs Republicans’ truck toll claims

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — When asked about claims that Gov. Gina Raimondo’s plan to toll large commercial trucks wouldn’t generate anywhere near as much revenue as advertised, the head of the state’s Department of Transportation got out his red pen.

“All the red marks on this are all the errors,” RIDOT Director Peter Alviti said Wednesday. “That would be a failing grade.”

At a news conference Tuesday, Republican lawmakers and members of the Rhode Island Trucking Association once again expressed their displeasure with the RhodeWorks plan, which aims to use the revenue from the tolls to rebuild Rhode Island’s crumbling bridges and roads.

Rep. Patricia Morgan, who has submitted legislation to repeal RhodeWorks, called the tolls “highway robbery.” The House minority leader presented evidence which she claimed showed the tolls would only generate about $7.4 million annually once a variety of fees and expenses are subtracted, far less than the $45 million presented by the Raimondo administration.

“It’s laughable and it’s just a con job on our citizens,” said Morgan, who added that she believes the $7.4 million can be found elsewhere in the state budget.

Alviti reviewed Morgan’s math and said the true income from RhodeWorks will be $42.3 million per year.

“She counted things into the cost of levying the tolls that have no involvement with tolls,” he explained.

The Trucking Association also claimed that $5.7 million of work being done on the Oxford Street bridge in Providence is unnecessary and only being done so tolls can be installed on it.

Alviti pointed out some signs of wear on the bridge and said repairing it now will prevent a full rebuild in the future at twice the cost.

“People who are prudent do not wait for the weight to cave in over their head,” he added.

Alviti said the state is finalizing details with a contractor to run the toll gantries at a cost of $2.5 million per year. The tolls are expected to go into effect later this year.