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Proposed toll system could cost $60 million to construct

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Transportation officials say it will cost anywhere between $34 million and $60 million to construct the electronic toll collection systems proposed as part of a dramatic new road and bridge funding formula unveiled Wednesday.

R.I. Department of Transportation Director Peter Alviti said Governor Raimondo’s proposal to toll large commercial trucks would require between 17 and 20 toll “gantries” sprinkled throughout the state’s major highways, costing between $2 million and $3 million each to construct.

The money would either be funded through RIDOT’s existing revenue stream or financed through a public-private partnership with an outside company, Alviti said. He hopes the tolls will be up and running by the middle of 2016.

“Everything is on the table right now,” Alviti said. “We’re going to erect those gantries in a manner that is the least expensive for the taxpayers for the state of Rhode Island.”

Rose Amoros, a spokesperson for RIDOT, said the locations of the tolls – which would apply only to trucks classified as Class 6 through Class 13 – have not been selected yet. Two likely locations would be on the Washington Bridge connecting East Providence and Providence on I-195 and the Providence Viaduct in the heart of the city on I-95, she said.

Routes 295, 146, 6 and 10 would also be outfitted with toll gantries if the plan – dubbed “RhodeWorks” – goes through. Top lawmakers expressed strong support for the plan on Wednesday.

Marie Aberger, a spokesperson for Governor Raimondo, said the money collected on the tolls would be used to fund repairs of the bridges where they’re located. The exact amount of the toll has not been decided, but it’s projected to generate $100 million annually – enough to pay off a $700-million revenue bond the governor wants to float to fund bridge repairs.

Like the short-lived toll collection system on the Sakonnet River Bridge, the money would be collected from commercial truckers using the multi-state E-ZPass system. Alviti said passenger cars with an E-ZPass transponder would not be charged because the technology can distinguish between a commercial truck and a car.

State leaders said they have no intention to eventually expand the toll system to cover passenger vehicles.

“I understand the fear,” House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello told reporters. “We created an infrastructure fund to avoid tolling [the Sakonnet] and we are not going to have broad-based tolling of our citizens.”

He added: “I can tell you that as long as I’m speaker that is not going to happen.” Tim White( twhite@wpri.com ) is the Target 12 investigative reporter for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow him on Twitter: @TimWhiteRI

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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