RIDOT Director Grossly Misrepresents Toll Law and How Toll Revenue Can be Spent
RITA calls upon Director for complete transparency regarding toll revenue expenditures
Pawtucket, RI (July 15, 2019): The Rhode Island Trucking Association (RITA) today stated that RIDOT Director Peter Alviti publicly misrepresented specific spending provisions regarding truck-only tolling revenue collected under the RhodeWorks program. During an interview on WPRO last Wednesday, Alviti stated that "under state law and under federal law, toll money collected under the RhodeWorks truck-only tolling program can only be spent on bridge reconstruction”. Speaking with radio talk show host Jim Hummel on WPRO's Matt Allen Show, Alviti continued, "Under state law and under federal law, we need to use that [toll] money only for the purpose of the bridge reconstruction."
Chris Maxwell, President of the Rhode Island Trucking Association points out, "This is completely erroneous and misleading. Expenditure of RhodeWorks toll revenue is controlled by Title 23 of federal law and the RhodeWorks legislation specifically addresses this fact in 42-13.1-9 on “limitations of use.” By including the clause “any other use permitted under 23 USC 129”, legislators have given RIDOT wide and dangerous latitude to spread money to non-essential pet projects – not just “critical bridge repairs”.
The RhodeWorks legislation was passed in 2016 largely on the basis of repeated assertions by Governor Gina Raimondo and other state officials that tolls were urgently needed to fix unsafe bridges around the state ["They're going to fall down if we don't do something" - Governor Gina Raimondo, Providence Journal, February 7, 2016]. Yet no such spending restriction was included in the law. In fact, RhodeWorks law, as written, brings us back to the “original sin” whereby funds are able to be diverted away from their intended purpose – in this case bridges.
Maxwell continues, "In saying that state and federal law restricts the spending of toll monies only on designated bridge repairs, the director of RIDOT is either uninformed or untruthful. Either is unacceptable for the person charged with spending almost $5 billion in hard-earned toll revenue. Director Alviti and Governor Raimondo have an obligation to be fully transparent to residents and businesses of the state, not to mention trucking companies, about how this money can be spent. If it is truly her intent to only spend toll money to repair unsafe bridges, Governor Raimondo needs to demonstrate this by getting the law changed as a matter of urgency during the next session of the General Assembly."
RhodeWorks truck-only tolls, currently the subject of a lawsuit in federal court, are being collected at two locations in southern Rhode Island. The state announced last week that gantries would start going up at other locations around the state at a rate of one per month until all thirteen are in place.
Maxwell concludes, “Toll revenue will soon rise sharply and therefore oversight and transparency of how the toll money is spent must be top priority for the administration and a paramount concern for the taxpayers of RI”.