Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) Director, Peter Alviti Jr., announced on Monday that RIDOT will be delaying the imposition of truck tolls until at least February or March.
This delay is required in order to take extra time on environmental permitting and testing the back-end financial system, according to Providence Journal.
Originally, RIDOT planned to begin truck toll collection in the first 2 of 14 locations by the end of 2017.
“The governor wanted us to make sure that we proceeded cautiously — there are a number of moving parts here, in the technical rollout of the IT, business and financial accounting systems,” Alviti explained. “And we took a little more time and provided a little more scrutiny and detail to this environmental assessment.”
The environmental assessment is a federal requirement meant to assess the effects the first 2 tolls have on anything from local forests to traffic and air quality.
The environmental assessment is a federal requirement that the state consider the effects of the first two tolls… https://t.co/qd78lgriVy
— RIRepublicans.us (@RIRepublicans) November 8, 2017
Last week, the Federal Highway Administration approved RIDOT’s environmental submission and is welcoming any public comments regarding improving their environmental study. RIDOT will hold a public hearing on the environmental assessment on Tuesday, November 21, 2017, at Chariho Middle School in Richmond.
Truck driver privacy assessment
Another reason for the toll delay is to add new privacy protections to ensure private truck driver information is kept confidential.
In 2016, state lawmakers authorized truck tolls to collect truck information while passing through tolls using a network of optical highway scanners. This was done to prevent toll evaders from successfully passing through the truck toll. If the scan did not result in a toll then the truck and driver information was supposed to be discarded, but that has not always been the case. Since there have not been set policy governing the collection and use of this data drivers are at risk for major privacy invasion.
WPRI recently reported that Rhode Island could be targeting tractor-trailers by preventing them from using some roads that do not require tolls.
“A lawsuit from our industry is imminent, will further delay the process, and potentially will result in tolls being levied on all vehicles,” Rhode Island Trucking Association President Chris Maxwell wrote in an email.
— InLittleRhody'sphere (@LittleRhody9) November 7, 2017
Alviti replied to Maxwell’s comment saying that RIDOT has carefully prepared to fight lawsuits from the trucking industry and that there is no possibility that the state will toll passenger vehicles.
“There is no need in our 10-year plan from a revenue standpoint to toll any other vehicles than heavy commercial vehicles, and there is no provision in the law that would enable us to do that,” Alviti said.