Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, architect of the controversial RhodeWorks program that includes trucks-only tolls, clinched a second term.
The Democrat was re-elected to gubernatorial office with 52% of the vote on Nov. 6.
Opponent Allan Fung, the Republican mayor of Cranston, captured 37%.
“I will work my heart out for you for the next four years,” Raimondo said in her victory speech thanking volunteers, campaign and family members. “We did it. The stakes were very, very high in this election. The people of Rhode Island had a choice and they were crystal clear about the choice that they wanted.”
Raimondo pledged to continue her goals of repairing infrastructure and reducing unemployment.
The RhodeWorks program relies heavily on trucks-only tolls to fund infrastructure projects. It is expected to generate $4.7 billion to fund bridge replacements, road improvements and other projects. About 22% of the state’s 1,162 bridges are structurally deficient, according to Rhode Island Department of Transportation.
The state made two (of an eventual 13) truck-tolling gantries operational on June 11 in Hopkinton and Exeter, which toe the Connecticut border. The Hopkinton toll is $3.25, and the Exeter toll is $3.50. The tolls are limited to one charge per facility, per day in each direction and do not exceed $40 per day.
Truck tolling in Rhode Island. (HummelReport via YouTube)
Rhode Island Trucking Association and American Trucking Associations oppose the truck-tolling plan. A lawsuit was filed July 10 by ATA, Cumberland Farms Inc., M&M Transport Services Inc. and New England Motor Freight contesting the constitutionality of the trucks-only tolls on grounds the levy discriminates against interstate commerce. If a state charges a user fee for access to channels of interstate commerce, that fee has to be a fair approximation of use and cannot discriminate between in-state and out-of-state interests, according to the suit.
RIDOT Director Peter Alviti filed a motion Aug. 24 in the U.S. District Court of Rhode Island to dismiss the lawsuit. The plaintiffs are asking the court “to do something that is not only extraordinary but something that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction to do.”
Raimondo, in her speech, praised the road work going on in the state, recalling the days when travelers would say a “Hail Mary” when crossing a bridge.
“When we started, we had roads and bridges falling apart [and] folks out of work and we said, ‘We can do better.’ And we did,” Raimondo said. “Tonight, by a resounding victory, the people said, ‘We want to keep going.’ As proud as I am of all the work that we’ve done together, the work that lies ahead is our most important work.”