National trucking industry group sues over new tolls

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A national trucking industry group is fighting Rhode Island over new tolls, arguing that large commercial tractors are being unfairly targeted.

The lawsuit was filed in Providence federal court Tuesday by Virginia-based American Trucking Associations and claims Rhode Island Department of Transportation tolls violate the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The co-plaintiffs, Cumberland Farms, New England Motor Freight and M&M Transport Services, are asking for an injunction to stop the tolls and repayment of legal fees.

The state's first two electronic truck tolls started June 11 as part of a $5 billion infrastructure plan to repair bridges and roads across the state and will eventually expand to 14 sites.

A spokeswoman for the state's transportation department, Lisbeth Pettengill, said that the lawsuit was anticipated and that the program will "benefit the users of Rhode Island's bridges."

Lawmakers authorized the system to help pay for crumbling roads and bridges. The entire system is expected to bring in $450 million over 10 years. Current law allows for tolling only trucks, not cars.

The plaintiffs say that it imposes discriminatory and disproportionate burdens on out-of-state operators and on truckers who are operating in interstate commerce, and that other vehicles damage roads.

Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo has said trucks were targeted because they cause the most damage.

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