PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The R.I. Department of Transportation plans to start collecting truck tolls at a third location in July, kicking off the rollout of a new gantry almost every month until a dozen are in operation by next spring, according to a draft schedule obtained by Target 12.
The schedule created by the contractor operating the new toll system, Kapsch TrafficCom, calls for the third location — at the Woonasquatucket River Bridge on Route 6 — to go live July 31. Installation of the gantry is slated to take place in mid-June.
Kapsch expects to launch the fourth toll location — at the Louisquisset Pike Bridge, which carries Route 146 over Route 116 — on Aug. 14. A fifth location located nearby, for two bridges on I-295 in Cumberland, is supposed to go live Sept. 25. Truckers would have to start paying tolls at seven more spots between Oct. 30 and April 13, at which point 12 of the original 14 proposed toll locations will be in operation.
Levying tolls on large commercial trucks is a key component of Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo’s RhodeWorks initiative, a 10-year plan to spend nearly $5 billion repairing and upgrading Rhode Island’s decaying infrastructure. The trucking industry has fought the program fiercely — including in the courts, where the legal battle remains unresolved — but has not been able to stop the rollout of the gantries.
The first two tolling locations went live on Interstate 95 in southern Rhode Island last June, months later than initially planned. The first toll is $3.25 to fund the Wood River Valley Bridge about a mile north of Exit 2 in Hopkinton and Richmond, while the second toll is $3.50 to fund the Tefft Hill Trail and Baker Pines bridges about three miles south of Exit 5 in Exeter.
RIDOT Director Peter Alviti has said the first two locations are beating expectations. Agency data shows they took in over $5.9 million in billable revenue from 1.8 million transactions during their first 10 months in operation, suggesting they are on track to hit the agency’s goal of about $7 million by the end of the fiscal year June 30.
The toll rates for the next 10 locations vary from $2 at the Woonasquatucket River Bridge to as high as $9.50 at the Washington Bridge that carries I-195 over the Seekonk River between Providence and East Providence. The latter gantry is slated to be the last one to go into operation as part of the next group, beginning collections April 13.
There is still no timeline for when the final two of the 14 planned toll locations will be put in place.
Governor Raimondo’s latest budget proposal, which is currently being reviewed by lawmakers, estimates tolls will bring in $25 million in the 2019-20 budget year that starts July 1. Even that amount is still well short of the program’s original goal of $45 million annually, which the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council has said could eventually make tolls a cash cow for RIDOT.
The trucking industry suffered a setback in its battle against the toll program in March, when a federal judge in Providence dismissed a lawsuit over the issue because he believed the matter should be litigated in state court. The industry has challenged that decision in the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has scheduled oral arguments on the case for September.
Rhode Island’s latest moves come as elected leaders next door in Connecticut are debating whether to expand tolling in that state to deal with large budget deficits and a backlog of infrastructure needs. Lawmakers and Gov. Ned Lamont have signaled they may not reach an agreement before the legislative session there ends June 5, but could continue the discussion into the summer.
An earlier version of this article incorrectly said the judge issued his ruling on the toll lawsuit last month; it was issued in March.