Eleanor Lamb | Staff Reporter
Rhode Island’s truck tolls have been postponed once again, a delay that is expected to cost $20 million in lost revenue.
Rhode Island Department of Transportation officials confirmed that the agency still is in the process of testing the tolls. The truck-tolling system likely will not begin until at least late May.
“The toll gantries have been constructed and the tolling hardware and software systems are being tested,” RIDOT spokesman Charles St. Martin said in a statement. “RIDOT is devoting extra time to refining and calibrating both the software and the hardware systems and to integrate all the information from those systems into our organization.”
Rhode Island’s truck tolls have been delayed before. The tolling gantries were supposed to be running in December. In November, RIDOT officials pushed the start date back to February or March.
Gov. Gina Raimondo called for truck tolling in her RhodeWorks program, which is projected to generate $4.7 billion to finance infrastructure projects such as bridge replacements and road improvements. According to RIDOT, about 22% of the 1,162 bridges in Rhode Island are structurally deficient.
On Feb. 15, RIDOT installed the first of the gantries above Interstate 95 south in Exeter, which is in the southern portion of the state. Ultimately, the tolls will be collected along six major highway corridors at 12 locations in the state.
RIDOT plans to repair or replace 35 bridges with the truck-only toll revenue.
“As we have said repeatedly, we are making sure we are at the highest attainable state of readiness before we go live. We want to reiterate that commitment. This project is highly important to RIDOT, and we want the process to be seamless when we commence using it,” St. Martin said. “In accordance with an adage, ‘Measure three times and cut once,’ we are double-checking everything to make sure we get this right from the start.”
The Rhode Island Trucking Association has been a staunch opponent of the plan since it was conceived. In the past, RITA has called the truck tolls unconstitutional and said it will exhaust every legal avenue to stop them.
“RIDOT and the governor have squandered tens of millions of dollars in tried and true infrastructure funds from fuel taxes. Instead, they continue to toil in the RhodeWorks truck-only program, which is mired in revenue downgrades, delays and deception,” RITA President Chris Maxwell said. “Add the legal costs of defending this highly vulnerable scheme once a suit is filed, we are forced to question the motives and logic of our state’s leadership.”