Nov. 07–PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The trucking industry received at least a two-month reprieve from the onset of Rhode Island tolls Monday as state transportation officials said they have pushed the launch date for the first truck-toll collections into next year.
The state Department of Transportation had expected to start tolling big rigs at the first two locations of the proposed 14-toll network — both on Route 95 in Washington County — by the end of 2017.
But DOT Director Peter Alviti Jr. on Monday said the agency has taken some extra time on environmental permitting and testing the back-end collection system, making it likely that collections will begin in late February or early March.
“The governor wanted us to make sure that we proceeded cautiously — there are a number of moving parts here, in the technical rollout of the IT, business and financial accounting systems,” Alviti said Monday. “And we took a little more time and provided a little more scrutiny and detail to this environmental assessment.”
The environmental assessment is a federal requirement that the state consider the effects of the first two tolls on everything from local forests to traffic and air quality.
The Federal Highway Administration last week approved the state’s environmental submission, but will be monitoring a public-comment period to see if additional study is needed.
As part of the public comment period, the DOT will hold a public hearing on the environmental assessment Tuesday, Nov. 21, at Chariho Middle School in Richmond.
Separately, the DOT is also adding new privacy protections to its rules and regulations on truck tolls to address concerns from the American Civil Liberties Union.
DOT officials didn’t have any estimates Monday of how much money the first two tolls would collect in the initial months of operation, but Alviti said it would have a negligible effect on any planned bridge projects or the agency’s larger budget.
The first two Route 95 toll locations are at Mechanic Street in Richmond and the Tefft Hill Trail Bridge in Exeter.
The Tefft Hill Trail Bridge was recently reconstructed and one of the two toll gantries planned to go up there was previously used to collect tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge.
The news of the delayed toll launch pleased Rhode Island Trucking Association President Chris Maxwell, who said his organization’s opposition has kept collections from starting already and made the DOT more transparent.
“A lawsuit from our industry is imminent, will further delay the process, and potentially will result in tolls being levied on all vehicles,” Maxwell wrote in an email.
Alviti said DOT has carefully prepared to fight off any lawsuits and said there was no possibility the state would toll passenger vehicles.
“There is no need in our 10-year plan from a revenue standpoint to toll any other vehicles than heavy commercial vehicles, and there is no provision in the law that would enable us to do that,” Alviti said.
On Twitter: @PatrickAnderso_
(c)2017 The Providence Journal (Providence, R.I.)
Visit The Providence Journal (Providence, R.I.) at www.projo.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.