The truck tolling system in Rhode Island took effect in 2018 to fund repairs to the state's crumbling bridges is unconstitutional and must be ended within 48 hours, a federal judge said in a decision released Wednesday.
The statute's tolling regime is unconstitutional under the dormant Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution, according to U.S. District Court Judge William E. Smith, because of the tolling system called RhodeWorks and aimed at tractor-trailers.
He wrote that the injunction would take effect 48 hours after the entry of the final judgment.
Former Gov. In 2016 the bill authorizing the tolls was signed by Gina Raimondo and the state began collecting money in 2018.
In 2018, the trucking industry challenged the tolling system in court, saying in part it discriminated against out-of-state economic interests in order to favor in-state interests. The state s legal position was that the federal court cannot restrain the collection of state taxes, such as tolls, and state matters, which should be adjudicated in state court.
Chris Spear, president and chief executive of the American Trucking Associations, told Rhode Island s leaders in the beginning that their crazy scheme was not only discriminatory but illegal. We are pleased that the court agreed. The other plaintiffs were Cumberland Farms Inc., M&M Transport Services Inc., and New England Motor Freight.
The decision sets a standard that protects other states from setting up similar tolling systems, said Chris Maxwell, Rhode Island Trucking Association President.
He said that had we not prevailed, these tolls would have spread across the country and this ruling sends a strong signal to other states that trucking is not to be targeted as a piggy bank.
According to a statement from the office of current Democratic Gov., the state is considering its options. The administration said it is not considering tolling passenger vehicles.
The statement said that the team is reviewing the decision and evaluating the next steps as this ruling has just come out.
The legislation was intended to create a funding stream for repairs to about 650 bridges in the state that were either structurally deficient or close to becoming structurally deficient.
Raimondo justified tolling trucks, saying big rigs caused the most damage to roads.
The tolls are collected electronically via about a dozen gantries spanning the state's major highways.
The suit was first dismissed by a federal district court, which said it lacked jurisdiction and the case should be heard in state court. In 2020, the Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the lower court ruling, sending it back to district court.