Tuesday, October 11, 2016

RhodeWorks May be a Great Pun but not Funny to the US Freight Truck Community

American Road Hauliers Opposed to Tolling Plan
Shipping News Feature
US – Rhode Island has been given government approval to introduce a truck-only tolling programme in order to fund, in part, the replacement or reconstruction of the bridges throughout the state. The plans have not gone over well with local industry organisations with both the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and the Rhode Island Trucking Association (RITA) having been vocally opposed to the proposal since it was first introduced.

The tolling was authorised by the General Assembly by the passage of the Rhode Island Bridge Replacement, Reconstruction, and Maintenance Fund Act, better known as RhodeWorks, which was signed into law on February 11, 2016. RhodeWorks assesses the tolls on tractor trailers to account for the disproportionately large amount of damage they cause relative to cars and other trucks.

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report to Congress released in 1979 indicated that one tractor trailer, fully loaded to the federal weight limit of 80,000 pounds (36,000 kg), can do the equivalent damage of 9,600 cars. Rhode Island consistently ranks among the worst in terms of overall bridge condition with around 23% of its 1,162 bridges classified as structurally deficient. This means one or more of the key bridge elements, such as the deck, superstructure or substructure, is considered to be in ‘poor’ or worse condition.

The truck tolls, which will be in 13 areas around Rhode Island, will be used to reconstruct or replace 34 bridges throughout the state, including Interstate bridges. The toll revenues will be used to help pay a portion of the replacement or reconstruction costs for the bridges being tolled.

With the federal government execution of the Memoranda of Understanding, the Road Island Department of Transport (RIDOT) will proceed to solicit proposals from qualified firms to design, build, operate and maintain the tolling system. RIDOT expects to issue a request for proposals by late November. RIDOT's 10-year plan anticipates revenues from truck tolls beginning in 2018.

The ATA and RITA have opposed these plans from the very start, arguing that it relies too much on the road freight industry to make up for the funding shortfalls and, instead of finding a suitable solution, it shifts the burden elsewhere. The ATA has asked the state of Rhode Island to provide information to the trucking industry about any outreach the state has done to communities that are likely to be affected by an increase in truck traffic as a result of the state’s extortionate truck-only toll scheme. RITA President Chris Maxwell, pulled no punches in his opposition to the scheme saying:

“This plan is bad for our industry, but it is also bad for Rhode Islanders who will see costs and congestion rise as a result. The only beneficiaries of Gov. Raimondo’s plan are her cronies and politicians in Providence who get to once again kick the can down the road when it comes to a real, sustainable highway funding solution.”

According to the ATA, it obtained an ‘information packet’ in which it outlines how RIDOT intends to prevent diversion of tractor-semitrailers to potential alternative routes through signage limiting truck access to ‘local services,’ along with a variety of state and local enforcement methods. From the limited information available, the ATA stated that it has serious concerns as to how the contemplated restrictions can be reasonably enforced without imposing an unreasonable burden on motor carriers and their customers, truck drivers, other motorists and the citizens of Rhode Island. ATA President and CEO Chris Spear, commented:

“We have said from the beginning that the governor and politicians in Providence are attempting to extort revenue from our industry, using the trucks that deliver their state’s goods as a piggy bank to avoid making the tough choices that are necessary to maintain the state’s roads and bridges. We will continue to fight these discriminatory and unjust tolls and as other states have learned, we will not stop until this plan is abandoned.”

Photo: Well would you fancy running over this bridge in a 30+ tonne rig?