- Associated Press - Friday, January 3, 2020

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Attorneys for the state are asking a federal court to let a challenge to the Rhode Island’s truck toll program be decided in state court.

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation requested on Thursday for the entire 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to hear arguments over where the legal challenge should take place.

The program is the focal part of Gov. Gina Raimondo’s RhodeWorks infrastructure plan that is being challenged by the trucking industry.

The plan is a 10-year effort to do nearly $5 billion of bridge and road work funded in part by new tolls on large commercial trucks.

Last month, a three-judge panel in the appeals court reversed a March decision by U.S. District Judge William Smith to dismiss the trucking industry’s suit.

The appeals court said the tolls the state started charging on its highways last year are not state taxes protected under federal law from federal court review.

The two sides have been going back and forth over whether the legal challenge against the toll program should be taking place in state court, as Raimondo’s administration has been vying for or in federal court, where the trucking industry brought their suit.

The central argument is whether the tolls fall under the definition of taxes and if it does, the case would be removed from the federal judiciary’s purview.

Transportation officials have insisted the program will bring in the entire $25 million projected in the state budge by June 30, despite the agency and its contractors falling behind schedule in installing additional gantries.

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