The trucking industry experienced a setback in its challenge of Rhode Island’s new truck-only tolls, as a federal judge dismissed the American Trucking Associations’ lawsuit.
The judge found the court lacks jurisdiction and the case should be heard in the state legal system not the federal one.
The suit, filed last July, contends that the state’s RhodeWorks truck-only toll scheme is unconstitutional. ATA and three carriers – Cumberland Farms Inc., M&M Transport Services Inc. and New England Motor Freight – argued that the RhodeWorks plan violates the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause by discriminating against out-of-state trucking companies and by designing the tolls in a way that does not fairly approximate motorists’ use of the roads.
ATA Deputy General Counsel Rich Pianka told HDT in a statement: “ATA is disappointed by today’s decision, in which the U.S. district court ruled that it was without power to hear ATA’s constitutional challenge to the discriminatory RhodeWorks truck-only tolls, and that the challenge must instead be brought in state court. ATA is reviewing the decision and considering next steps, but looks forward to vindicating its underlying claims on the merits, whatever the venue.”
The suit alleged that the tolls impose “discriminatory and disproportionate burdens on out-of-state operators and on truckers who are operating in interstate commerce,” thus violating the Commerce Clause.
Meanwhile, the state is proceeding with building additional truck-toll gantries. In December, the Federal Highway Administration granted approval for the state to proceed with construction.
The first two truck-tolling gantries in Rhode Island went into operation last June over Interstate 95 near the state border with Connecticut. The next one is expected to be operational by May, and the remaining 10 will be activated every one or two months. All are expected to be complete by May 2020 and will collect tolls over major routes, including Interstates 95, 195, 295, U.S. Route 6 and State Route 14.
A map of the tolling locations is available at www.ridot.net/Tolling.
At the time of the announcement of the additional toll gantries in December, the state said the tolling program to date has functioned as expected, collecting $3.71 millions. “There has been no diversion from the routes as a result of tolling at locations 1 and 2,” the state said in a release. “The program has tolled 1.12 million verified vehicles.”