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Rhode Island to appeal after judge ruled truck-only tolls unconstitutional


Officials in Rhode Island are planning to appeal after a federal judge ordered the state to stop a controversial truck-only tolling program.

In a Tuesday night gubernatorial debate, Rhode Island Governor Dan McKee announced that the state will appeal Judge William Smith’s ruling against the tolling/infrastructure funding plan RhodeWorks.

“We’ll appeal. We met with the attorney general, the Senate president … along with the speaker, we’ll be appealing,” McKee said during the debate.

McKee did not provide details on how the state would argue in favor of the tolls.

On September 21, Judge Smith sided with the American Trucking Associations (ATA), Cumberland Farms Inc., M&M Transport Services Inc. and New England Motor Freight in a lawsuit filed in 2018 against the Rhode Island Department of Transportation and other agencies over truck-only toll collection through RhodeWorks.

Judge Smith ruled that the truck tolls are unconstitutional and in violation of the Dormant Commerce Clause, which forbids states from passing laws that place undue burdens on interstate commerce.

Judge Smith ordered that Rhode Island discontinue collecting the truck-only tolls within 48 hours of the ruling.

“We told Rhode Island’s leaders from the start that their crazy scheme was not only discriminatory, but illegal,” said ATA President and CEO Chris Spear in a September 21 statement.  “We’re pleased the court agreed. To any state looking to target our industry, you better bring your A-game… because we’re not rolling over.”

RhodeWorks was passed into law February of 2016 as a way to rebuild Rhode Island’s infrastructure by tolling trucks and not passenger vehicles under the assumption that heavy commercial vehicles are causing the most damage to roads and bridges. Rhode Island began collecting the truck-only tolls in June 2018.


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