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May 24, 2017 8:50 AM, EDT

GOP Launches Another Assault on Rhode Island's Truck-Toll Plan

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. — In their latest assault on Rhode Island's impending truck toll network, Republican state lawmakers and the trucking industry released an analysis on May 23 claiming the plan will generate far less revenue than expected and lead to unnecessary construction projects.

The analysis, unveiled at a State House news conference, said hidden costs connected with the toll plan will cancel out most of the estimated $45 million annual state revenue from the tolls, leaving net proceeds of just $7.4 million.

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"... We have discovered a flaw in the toll law that should make every Rhode Islander even more disgusted at the concealed ramifications of this harmful law," said House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan (R-West Warwick).

Some of the $37.6 million in hidden costs identified by the Republican lawmakers have been reported before or aren't necessarily tied to tolls. For example, the state's decision to borrow against federal highway aid, resulting in $25 million in annual payments, easily could have been made regardless of the toll plan. That $25 million makes up more than two-thirds of the identified "hidden costs."

An additional $1.1 million in lost revenue from a local trucking industry relief package was discovered earlier this month by Christopher Maxwell, CEO of the Rhode Island Trucking Association. Maxwell said May 23 that one of the bridges slated for both truck toll gantries and reconstruction doesn't need to be rebuilt.

Separately, the trucking industry estimates that trucks will avoid Rhode Island highways after the 14 tolls are in place, and the state will collect only a fraction of the $45 million in expected revenue even without accounting for the hidden costs.

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