- The spring of 2018 is the earliest Rhode Island may be instigating its trucks-only tolls as regulators further examine the environmental permitting, engineering, technical and financial requirements, Transport Topics reported last week.
- The initial plan was for tolling locations on Interstate 95 in Richmond and Exeter in the southwestern part of the state to begin operation by year’s end. However, the Rhode Island Trucking Association, which opposes the plan, suggests the delay resulted from a request by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to study the plan's environmental impact.
- Because some trucks may choose alternate routes avoiding the tolls, the FHWA may wish to see further details regarding the effects of toll diversion, though it has already approved the state’s environmental submission for the first two toll locations. A comment period and meeting with the public is planned for November 21.
Toll roads are nothing new in the U.S., but truck-only toll roads are.
The Rhode Island truck-only toll was a controversial subject, as logistics companies protested the heavy burden it would place on them to repair the state's infrastructure. As fees placed upon trucking companies multiply, they argued, the cost of a toll would be spread across the supply chain and eventually hurt the state's economy. Meanwhile, proponents of the plan argued the tolls create a steady revenue stream to ensure safe infrastructure, collected from those who use public roads the most.
But are the trucking fees enough to cover repairs and rebuilds in the first place? While federal support of trucks-only tolls helps reduce the government's share of infrastructure repair, in reality, it's a drop in a leaking bucket. After all, the current estimate of infrastructure repair needs exceeds $1 trillion dollars.
Tolls are a popular strategy, but only a more extensive plan, such as increased gas taxes applicable to all drivers may make an effective dent. But, as vehicles move away from gas and improve mileage, even that may not be enough.