Rhode Island lawmakers offer alternative to truck-only tolling plan

Updated Jan 14, 2016

tollRhode Island legislators have countered Gov. Gina Raimondo’s plan to implement truck-only tolls to finance infrastructure repairs with a proposal to increase budget funding to fix the problem.

On June 16, House Republicans announced their amendment to the 2016 budget, scheduled for debate the next day. The proposal would dedicate $60 million to bridge restoration from the state budget through a 2 percent decrease to personnel and benefits and by cutting the Clean Water Finance Agency and other programs.

Democrat legislative leaders and Raimondo introduced RhodeWorks May 27, which would toll trucks on about two dozen bridges to pay for a $700 million revenue bond that would be obtained to fund repairs. Class 8 trucks and higher would be charged under the 10-year plan, projected to generate an annual $100 million.

The following week, however, House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello indicated he needed more information about RhodeWorks and it would be considered later this summer or fall.

Amendment backers said RhodeWorks borrowing plan would cost more in interest and fees than what would be spent in infrastructure repairs. Rep. Anthony Giarrusso said the transportation department receives nearly $500 million dollars annually, but current debt already takes away too much from repairs.

Rep. Patricia Morgan says the amendment would allow repair work to begin immediately “Of course, the Legislature will need to commit to continued funding at this or higher levels for the next ten to twelve years, but the deficient state of our infrastructure demands that sustained commitment,” Morgan said.