- Associated Press - Friday, February 12, 2016

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo on Thursday signed into law a contentious plan to toll certain large commercial trucks at several locations around the state.

Each toll would be about $3. The total for an 18-wheeler crossing the entire state along Interstate 95 would be about $20. The maximum for a truck for a single day would be capped at $40.

The tolls, along with federal highway money and bonds, will help finance a 10-year project to repair deteriorating bridges and roads across the state. Here’s what’s next for the plan:

TOLLS

The state on Friday announced the bidding process for several consultants for work such as constructing and operating toll gantries and a toll facility, said Peter Alviti, who heads the Rhode Island Department of Transportation. Officials also are looking for an “investment-grade” study of traffic patterns to determine the best location to place tolls, how much truck traffic passes certain locations, how much they can expect to collect in tolls and what kind of diversions to expect.

Diversions are people who are leaving the highway to avoid tolls, a major concern for some opponents of the law.

Alviti said he expects tolls to be in place in 18 months to two years.

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ROAD WORK

Work on bridges and some roads is expected to begin much sooner. Alviti said some of the work could begin in early spring on bridges, roads and some drainage areas.

“By April, May, June, you’ll begin to see the projects go out the door,” he said.

Rhode Island has the highest percentage of structurally deficient bridges in the nation.

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CHALLENGES AHEAD

Christopher Maxwell, president of the Rhode Island Trucking Association, which strongly opposed the plan, predicts the plan eventually will fall apart.

“There’s a lot of unanswered questions that they will be called on the carpet for,” he said. “They’re tolling trucks only, and they’re calling 20-yard overpasses bridges. It’s a new idea. It’s a revolutionary idea. Like many newfangled ideas, oftentimes when they come under further scrutiny they don’t stack up.”

He anticipates legal action down the road.

Alviti said officials crafted the law to withstand lawsuits.

“We are highly confident that we have the ability to defend against any challenge that’s brought,” he said.

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