June 10, 2015 1:00 PM, EDT

Truck Toll Excluded from Rhode Island's Budget, For Now

The Rhode Island General Assembly might postpone consideration of the governor’s controversial "RhodeWorks" road and bridge plan, which includes truck tolls on bridges, until later this year, the press secretary for state Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed said June 10.

The General Assembly must pass a budget before the regular legislative session adjourns at the end of June, but so far RhodeWorks is not part of the bills under deliberation, said Greg Paré, the press secretary. A 2015 special session to look at infrastructure is possible, though, Paré added.

Gov. Gina Raimondo’s RhodeWorks would spend about $1 billion over 10 years to improve crumbling infrastructure. A major funding component would be bridge tolls for tractor-trailer combination vehicles, but not cars, buses, straight trucks or motorcycles.

The plan generated ire from trucking, especially the Rhode Island Trucking Association and even American Trucking Associations.

Paré said the House Finance Committee sent a budget to the House floor that does not include RhodeWorks. Budgets must originate in the state House of Representatives and then proceed to the Senate, he said.

House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello said RhodeWorks is not close to immediate implementation.

"I support instituting a program to repair Rhode Island’s crumbling infrastructure . . . but the [House committee] hearing left many unanswered questions."

"I am deeply concerned with the impact the tolls would have on Rhode Island-based trucking companies and in-state businesses that utilize trucking services. I am looking for more information and options to help offset the toll fees that these companies will incur. I have heard from many businesses that claim the impact will be severe and threaten their survival,” the speaker said.

While waiting for the House to act, Paré said the Senate Finance Committee has conducted hearings on the subject. Paré said support for RhodeWorks is far from settled now.

“The Senate President [Weed] indicated that support remains for the idea, in concept, but there are also concerns yet to be addressed, which is why it was not included in the budget approved by the House Finance Committee yesterday,” Paré said.