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Federal Judge Strikes Down Rhode Island Truck Tolling Plan as Unconstitutional

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation had a truck tolling plan struck down recently by a federal judge who deemed the plan unconstitutional. Transport Topics reported, “Because RhodeWorks fails to fairly apportion its tolls among bridge users based on a fair approximation of their use of the bridges, [it] was enacted with a discriminatory purpose and is discriminatory in effect, the statute’s tolling regime is unconstitutional under the dormant Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution,” wrote District Judge William Smith in a Sept. 21 ruling.

ATA President Chris Spear said in response to the ruling, “We told Rhode Island’s leaders from the start that their crazy scheme was not only discriminatory but illegal.” He added, “We’re pleased the court agreed. To any state looking to target our industry, you better bring your A-game … because we’re not rolling over.”

In his ruling Smith wrote that “tolling highways is [a] tricky and controversial business. The need to raise money to fund construction and repairs of bridges must be balanced against the political reality that many local residents and business owners use those same corridors daily to get around the state,” the judge wrote in his 91-page ruling. “The solution they contrived — dubbed ‘RhodeWorks,’ the first and only of its kind in the United States — was to toll only large commercial trucks (or tractor-trailers) at various bridge locations along these major corridors. This plan had the obvious appeal of raising tens of millions of needed dollars from tractor-trailers while leaving locals largely unaffected.”

The lawsuit, filed by ATA and two motor carriers in 2018, claimed that the Rhode Island Department of Transportation’s contentious tolling plan required out-of-state heavy trucks to pay nearly all of the tolls

while exempting state businesses, cars, and intrastate motor carriers. In his closing remarks, ATA attorney Reginald Goeke, of the law firm Mayer Brown, stated that the so-called “consumption method” of tolling trucks based on the belief that trucks cause excessive damage to roads violates the U.S. Constitution’s Dormant Commerce Clause. Click here for the full story.