Richmond, VA – The Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates (ATFI)--a national alliance of individuals, businesses and organizations that advocates for solving America’s growing transportation needs without tolling existing interstates--blasted Rhode Island’s new tolls along I-95 as well as the RhodeWorks plan as the first tolls went into effect Monday.
“Tolls on existing interstates are an underhanded tax that will negatively impact Rhode Island’s economy,” said Stephanie Kane, spokesperson for ATFI. “Increased transportation costs will affect companies’ decisions to operate and expand in the state. RhodeWorks’ “toll taxes” will hurt area businesses and ultimately lead to job losses. These tolls, and those planned for the future, will eventually reroute prosperity around Rhode Island regardless of whether these toll taxes are only levied on trucks or all vehicles.”
RhodeWorks’ use of tolling is the wrong way to fund transportation infrastructure and an unprecedented use of the federal exemption that is meant to repair ailing bridges. Governor Raimondo is using that lone exemption to create an entire network of statewide tolls. This has never been done before. It’s not an innovative solution; it’s bad policy.
Travel plazas, restaurants, convenience stores, and gas stations operating near the interstate now face higher costs as manufacturers and shippers are forced to pay more to transport their goods by truck. This will only create higher prices for everyday consumers.
Furthermore, the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council found that RhodeWorks will cost far more than expected and will hurt taxpayers. The estimated tolling revenue projections are unlikely to be met, as ATFI has shown and as evidenced by the 76.7% of independent owner-operator truck drivers who said they would “always” drive around the tolls when surveyed (available upon request). The most affected businesses will be local Rhode Island companies who cannot physically get around the tolls to deliver their goods.
Every dollar spent building and maintaining a tolling gantry is a dollar that could be used for actual road and bridge maintenance. Even all-electronic tolling can waste 8 to 11 percent of revenues on administrative and bureaucratic costs, according to the Congressional Budget Office. “Infrastructure needs to be paid for, but relying on expensive, inefficient, inequitable tolling plans is not the answer. The winners in tolling are the tolling companies and their Wall Street investors. The losers in Rhode Island will be the truck drivers and trucking companies and the businesses that rely on them, along with the Rhode Island economy, which will get weighed down by the enormous burden tolling brings with it,” said Kane.
Other states have considered tolling existing interstates. North Carolina, Virginia and Missouri have spent taxpayer dollars on studies that ultimately found that the inefficiency of toll collection, the harmful consequences for businesses due to traffic diversion, and the diminished safety and increased maintenance costs on secondary roads far outweighed any perceived benefits to the state. With a possible lawsuit looming from the American Trucking Associations and the failings of tolls so apparent, Rhode Island would do well to back away from tolling existing interstates.