RIDOT: First toll to be up by December, truckers may get bills in January

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The head of Rhode Island’s transportation department says the agency is on track to break ground on the first gantry to collect truck tolls in December, with money collection to potentially start a month later.

R.I. Department of Transportation Director Peter Alviti said when he testified in support of the RhodeWorks bill – which calls for tolling large commercial trucks to pay for repairs of crumbling infrastructure – he told lawmakers the target date was to get the first toll up by the end of 2017.

“We are proceeding through the Federal Highway [Administration] environmental permitting process now and all of our consultants and all of our contractors are working for that date,” Alviti said. “We are on time and on budget to make that date.”

But Chris Maxwell, the president of the Rhode Island Trucking Association, said that timeline may be wishful thinking.

“I wouldn’t bank on gantries going up this year,” Maxwell said in an email. “Much like the governor’s name on the signs, RIDOT has taken many liberties with RhodeWorks due to the local FHWA office essentially being asleep at the switch.”

He added, “The Washington Feds seem to be dictating that RIDOT dial back on some of its messaging and some key provisions of the program.”

Alviti said consultants hired by the state to navigate RIDOT through the process have expressed confidence the review process will go smoothly, but said “we can never speak with certainty about government reviews because that is entirely up to the government.”

The first toll is set to be erected on the Hopkinton/Richmond line for the Wood River Valley Bridge, carrying I-95 over Mechanic Street. The second spot will be further north up I-95 on the Exeter/Richmond line at the Tefft Hill Trail Bridge. Of the 12 remaining toll gantries, the state has identified 10 locations, which can be seen here.

In June, the state selected Austria-based Kapsch TrafficCom IVHS Inc to build, operate and maintain the tolls, awarding the company a 10-year contract worth about $69 million. State officials have said they expect the tolls to bring in about $45 million a year once fully implemented.

Tim White ( twhite@wpri.com ) is the Target 12 investigative reporter and host of Newsmakers for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook

This article has been changed from the original to correct Kapsch is an Austrian company, not Australian.