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Tolling Points

Rhode Works Delivers A Big Day for Tolling

By: 
Bill Cramer

The smallest state in the U.S. delivered a big win for highway finance last week when Governor Gina Raimondo signed Rhode Works, an initiative to toll large commercial trucks crossing 14 bridges in Rhode Island.

IBTTA is happy to have played a small supporting role in the process working with our President, Buddy Croft.  We also know many of our members played larger roles. Congratulations to all and to the industry. Here is IBTTA’s press release on Rhode Works.

Other state governments, including nearby Connecticut, will be watching this courageous initiative, and we may some day look back on Rhode Works as an important milestone that led to more states looking at tolling as one valuable funding solution.

Meeting an Immediate Need

For Rhode Island, tolling large commercial trucks is a viable option to pay for badly-needed bridge repairs and maintenance across the state. "While the gas tax has been a solid tool to fund roads and bridges in the past, it isn’t enough today,” said IBTTA Executive Director and CEO Patrick Jones.

“Congress has not raised the federal gas tax since 1993, and it has lost much of its purchasing power since then,” Jones added. “In response to the need for additional dedicated funding, Rhode Island and many other states are looking at alternatives such as tolling.”

The progression of the debate in the Rhode Island state house showed the value of collecting data, marshalling your arguments, then patiently, persistently making your case. Local news coverage identified at least one state legislator who initially opposed the tolling measure, but eventually became one of its staunchest supporters. Remaining opponents wanted the state bill to receive further study, but it passed by a healthy margin.

An Unexpected Bargain

Trucking associations were predictably leery of the legislation, but this may be one of those moments when experience is the best teacher. Truckers, along with everyone else on the road, will see the benefit of driving a safer, less congested bridge network, thanks to a steady revenue stream from Rhode Works.

Time to Get On With It!

Rhode Island Governor Raimondo’s initiative last week stands as a shining example for any state that is short on revenue and worried about a looming infrastructure deficit.

Tolling isn’t the only tool in the highway funding toolbox. But with tolls generating $14 billion in annual revenue across nearly 6,000 miles of roadways in 35 states, Rhode Works is a great example of what’s possible when a state decides that it’s time to get on with it.

To learn more about tolling and transportation policy and finance, register today for

IBTTA’s 2016 Transportation Policy and Finance Summit, March 13-15, 2016 in Washington, D.C.

 

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