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C. Eugene Emery Jr.
By C. Eugene Emery Jr. February 23, 2016

Truck tolls to pay for transportation infrastructure improvements

One of Rhode Island's dubious distinctions is the degree of decrepitness of its bridges and roads. The state ranks last in the U.S. in the condition of its bridges, for example.

During her campaign for governor, Gina Raimondo promised to attack the problem.

In a page on her campaign website, which has since been removed, she pledged to "establish a road and bridge funding formula to pay for ongoing maintenance so that our local roads never become as deteriorated and dilapidated as they are now."

On Wednesday, May 27, she announced a "10-year action plan to rebuild our highways" that will raise $1.1 billion in additional highway funding by levying a tax — characterized as a "user fee" — on all commercial trucks with 18 wheels or more.

She said Rhode Island is one of only two states from Maine to Maryland that doesn't assess this type of fee, although a fact sheet released at the news conference notes that trucks are charged such a fee to cross the Newport Bridge, with that revenue used exclusively to maintain the Newport and Mount Hope bridges.

The rationale is that the big trucks cause more than 90 percent of the wear and tear to the state's bridges.

After her news conference, Raimondo said this is the type of funding formula she was talking about in the campaign.

"This is a sustainable revenue stream that's not taxes, and we don't have to go back to the General Assembly every year for an appropriation," she said.

The Assembly still needs to pass legislation to make this a reality, but both House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello and Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed were at the news conference expressing their support, virtually assuring passage.

"It will be very well received," said Mattiello.

With the governor standing under a crumbling bridge with the Speaker and the Senate president, this looks destined for a Promise Kept. But until the votes are cast and the legislation signed, we rate this In The Works.

In February of 2016, the governor's RhodeWorks was approved by the General Assembly and signed into law.

We rate this a Promise Kept.

Our Sources

Interview, Gina Raimondo, Rhode Island governor, May 27, 2015

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