Residents, truckers voice opposition to tolls at RIDOT meeting

RICHMOND, R.I. (WPRI) – The Rhode Island Department of Transportation held a public form to discuss the environmental impact of proposed toll locations on I-95, which drew a crowd vocally opposed to the idea of implementing them at all.

It was a succession of opposition in the cafeteria of Chariho Middle School as everyone in attendance vehemently opposed truck tolling.

“Everything you wear, everything you got on, you go to the hospital the oxygen you breathe is brought to you by us,” truck driver Mike Collins said. “Why would you want to screw with your supply chain?”

Residents were concerned that trucks would simply divert off the highway onto local streets in order to avoid the gantries, increasing traffic, and still other speakers said that with truck tolling implemented, it is only a matter of time before cars are tolled, too.

But none of that was supposed to be the focus of the meeting.

“It was really to assess the environmental impacts of the construction of the gantries at these two locations,” David Fish of RIDOT said.

The first two gantries are planned to be erected just north of Exit 2 and between Exits 4 and 5. The passage of the RhodeWorks plan last year paved the way for them, and RIDOT plans to toll trucks using I-95 as a means of funding bridge repairs around the state.

Fish said that the environmental impact is very small, consisting of the gantries and some cable.

The comments made at the meeting will be forwarded to the Federal Highway Administration, which will factor them into whether or not the project proceeds. RIDOT officials said that if the plan moves ahead as scheduled, ground will be broken shortly after the new year.