PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The trucking industry in Rhode Island is praising a decision made by the federal appeals court to reverse a lawsuit aimed at putting a stop to the state’s truck toll program.
The First Appeals Court reversed the lower court ruling made last March — which dismissed the suit on the grounds that state taxes are protected under federal law from federal court review and recommended the case be brought in the state court system rather than the federal judiciary.
In its decision to reverse the ruling, the federal appeals court determined the tractor-trailer tolls collected on Rhode Island highways are not considered sophisticated state taxes.
“When we look at whether the word ‘tax’ was then understood to include tolls, we find something of a mixed bag, albeit one quite heavily loaded in favor of treating tolls as something other than taxes,” Judge William Kayata wrote in the decision.
Rhode Island Trucking Association President and CEO Christopher Maxwell lauded the reversal, saying the truck tolling program discriminates out-of-state truckers.
“We’re happy that after all of this wasted time, wasted money and continued tolling, that we’re finally able to move this forward and get a decision,” Maxwell said.
The ruling sends the case back to U.S. District Court.
The first truck tolling gantries in Rhode Island went live back in June 2018.
The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) reported that in its first year, the state made more than $7 million from the program.
In a statement, RIDOT said the program “will continue and is meeting our expectations.”
“We remain highly confident that the state will prevail,” the statement said.
Maxwell said no matter what the court decides, he predicts there will be negative consequences for Rhode Island — whether that be from the program continuing or a financial hit to local businesses.