The Rhode Island Senate approved Gov. Gina Raimondo's RhodeWorks proposal by a 25-12 vote Feb. 11, authorizing toll collection on heavy-duty tractor-trailers to fund bridge repairs in the state. Shortly thereafter, Raimondo signed the bill into law.
The state's House of Representatives took about seven hours but voted 52-21 on the night of Feb. 10 to approve the proposal.
"We are here now … to get Rhode Island's roads and bridges repaired, rebuilt and maintained for the long haul, so we don't have to keep patching the problem,” Rep. Raymond Gallison said in introducing the bill.
Under Raimondo’s plan, Rhode Island would borrow $300 million against money coming to the state from the federal FAST Act, refinance previous loans for another $120 million and gain $45 million a year through 14 truck-only tolls.
Trucks bedecked with “No Tolls” signs continually circled the State House and honked their horns prior to the debate on the House floor.
"This day will live in Rhode Island infamy," Republican Antonio Giarrusso declared.
Nine Democrats voted against their governor’s plan along with all 11 Republicans and one independent. Opponents had tried to amend the bill to require voters to approve RhodeWorks, limit the number of tolling gantries and cap the annual toll maximum at $1,000. Under the plan, trucks would pay $3 per toll with a maximum of $20 per day. House Minority Leader Brian Newberry failed to gain approval for a package of incentives that would mitigate the costs to local trucking companies.