A study commissioned by the Rhode Island Trucking Association disputes the findings of the state economic study used to build support for Governor Gina Raimondo's truck toll plan.
The study by the international firm IHS asserts that Raimondo's RhodeWorks plan will generate only $24 million to $37.5 million a year in toll revenue, not the $60 million identified in REMI's state-commissioned study.
The Trucking Association said IHS found that trucking volumes used in the REMI study "appear questionable," and that the earlier study did not adequately account for trucks using different routes to avoid tolls.
IHS further found that more attention should have been given to financing alternatives and "that the REMI study is sorely lacking in transparency."
In a statement, Trucking Association president Christopher Maxwell said, “This study proves what we have been saying all along. The revenue projections built into the RhodeWorks plan are not accurate and will never be realized. If the governor continues to pursue her plan she will only be proven wrong when it is too late. Once the bonds are floated and the gantries are built we will all be on the hook -- including small truck operators.”
Raimondo spokeswoman Marie Aberger responded by saying, "The truckers have a vested interest in attacking RhodeWorks -- of course, they prefer to keep getting a free ride in Rhode Island, while causing most of the damage to our roads and bridges that are consistently ranked worst in the nation. They continue to argue for other “financing alternatives,” making it clear to us that their preference is increasing the gas tax on every Rhode Island driver.
"The governor believes we have to invest more in roads and bridges, but doesn’t think hardworking Rhode Island families should bear that burden," Aberger added. "Instead, she has a proposed smart, innovative, and fair solution that would have trucks pay user fees, as they do in nearly every other state from Maryland to Maine."
Aberger said state consultant CDM Smith used "performed an exact count" of class 8 and above trucks that travel on routes 95, 195, 295, 146 and 6/10. She said the methodology used to predict toll revenue is based on bridge crossings, rather than through trips, and therefore said said, more accurate. Aberger also defended earlier findings on the extent of possible diversionary routes by truckers.
Maxwell said the Trucking Association's study has been shared with the governor and legislative leaders.
"At this point, we are encouraging all members of the General Assembly to seriously question the information they have been presented to support RhodeWorks," he said. "This is a 30-year decision they are making. RhodeWorks will saddle Rhode Island taxpayers with $1.1 billion in debt. For the past seven months we have been correcting misinformation and errors because the industry affected most by this proposal was never properly built into the process."
House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello has expressed a desire to approve the truck toll plan in the early part of the current legislative session. He has also expressed a desire to eliminate or cut the amount of borrowing in the plan.
"I have met with the Trucking Association on several occasions and I will be certain to add the analysis that they commissioned to the debate as we move forward on the governor’s proposal to toll large commercial trucks,” Mattiello said in a statement.
This post has been updated.