Rhode Island DOT issues RFP for truck tolling plan
The Rhode Island Department of Transportation is asking for proposals from firms to design, build, operate and maintain electronic tolling facilities for the state's truck-only tolling program, which has been met with protests from industry organizations.
The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) has issued a request for proposals (RFP) from firms to design, build, operate and maintain all electronic tolling facilities for the state's truck-only tolling program, according to a statement from the department.
The truck tolling plan was authorized in February as part of the state’s Rhode Island Bridge Replacement, Reconstruction and Maintenance Fund Act, also known as RhodeWorks. Under the program, only large commercial trucks will be charged and all tolls will be assessed electronically, meaning there will be no toll booths required and truck drivers will not have to stop to pay them.
Monies collected through the tolling program will be used to fund the replacement and reconstruction of deficient bridges throughout the state. According to the plan, RhodeWorks' revenues will be used to fix more than 150 structurally deficient bridges and make repairs to another 500 bridges to prevent them from becoming deficient, enabling the state to bring 90 percent of its bridges up to federal standards by 2024.
“Rhode Island has the worst bridges in America. While tolling revenues will provide approximately 10 percent of RIDOT's overall funding, it is a vital component that allows us to fast track bringing the state's bridges into a state of good repair within 10 years,” RIDOT Director Peter Alviti, Jr. said in a statement.
The plan, however, has been met with strong opposition from trucking advocacy groups, which argue the program is unfair and could place an unreasonable burden on motor carriers.
When the plan was introduced last summer, Bill Graves, president of the American Trucking Associations (ATA) at the time and a former governor of Kansas, called the tolling scheme "highway robbery.”
The ATA and Rhode Island Trucking Association (RITA) in October sent a letter to the state of Rhode Island asking for information on outreach for communities likely to see increased truck traffic as a result of the "extortionary" truck tolling plan.
The ATA has a long-standing policy of opposition toward tolling existing interstate highways for efficiency and safety reasons. The group argues that toll facilities are a much higher administrative and operational expense than a fuel tax, and that truckers could potentially begin taking crowded secondary roads to avoid highway tolls.
RIDOT argues that because heavy-duty trucks do more damage to roads and bridges than smaller vehicles, they should pay a higher percentage to keep them in good condition. A GAO report to Congress indicated that one fully loaded tractor trailers can do the equivalent damage of 9,600 cars, according to the department.
Rhode Island is the second state to employ a tolling program for large commercial trucks only. The New York Thruway Authority operates a truck-only tolling location at its Spring Valley toll plaza.
RIDOT said it expects to award a contract for the building and operation of the tolling facilities in Spring 2017, with construction expected to be completed by the end of 2018.
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