Rhode Island Appeals Truck Toll Case
You may remember a month ago that we wrote about the case regarding RhodeWorks, a system of tolls that targeted truckers to raise revenue for infrastructure. One thing we mentioned that is worth repeating is that the $100 million that the RhodeWorks tolls accumulated over the duration of the litigation is theirs to keep. As such, the state has an interest in keeping court proceedings going as long as possible. Rhode Island has appealed the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals, First Circuit.
A Brief History Lesson
It is no surprise to anyone that America’s infrastructure needs money to be repaired, but charging only truckers to use roads and bridges was deemed unconstitutional, violating the Commerce Clause. The courts said that RhodeWorks could implement tolls, but must apply them to all types of motor vehicles.
The lawsuit to end the tolls started almost as soon as the toll booths were put into action, and took over three years to end. Once the court ruled to have the toll booths closed, they closed within hours, but truckers will not be seeing a refund of the $100 million in revenue that RhodeWorks generated.
Not an Appealing Appeal
On October 19th, Rhode Island DOT filed a notice of appeal, and the appellate court says they are willing to hear RIDOT out on December 12th.
RIDOT believes that because Congress did not explicitly say all motor vehicles must be tolled equally or at equal rates, that the targeted tolls are allowable, while trucking industry advocates such as the ATA say it violates the Commerce Clause by putting an undue burden on truckers traveling interstate. The battle is not over.
As of now it is hard to determine whether the tolls will remain open for the duration of the appeal. Provided they do, however, it will give Rhode Island more time to collect revenue to repair its bridges.
The quickest solution would be to charge everyone a toll, either flat or per wheel, but that would likely not go over well with the local populace. As such, RIDOT is targeting truckers to pay a disproportionate amount of money to use the roads. We will have to see what the First Circuit thinks of all of this after they hear arguments in mid-December.
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