Rhode Island State House

After seven hours of debate, the Rhode Island House of Representatives voted 52 – 21 in favor of RhodeWorks (Truck Tolls) on Wednesday night at the Rhode Island State House.

Here’s how Aquidneck Island’s seven representatives voted tonight,

  • Voted For – Representative Raymond Gallison (District 69, Portsmouth and Bristol)
  • Voted For – Representative John Edwards (District 70, Portsmouth and Tiverton)
  • Voted Against – Representative Dennis Canario (District 71, Portsmouth, Little Compton and Tiverton)
  • Voted Against – Representative Daniel Reilly (District 72, Middletown and Portsmouth)
  • Voted For – Representative Marvin Abney (District 73, Newport and Middletown)
  • Voted For – Representative Deborah Ruggiero (District 74, Jamestown and Middletown)
  • Voted For – Representative Lauren Carson (District 75, Newport)

Here’s how the entire vote looked;

Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 10.58.23 PM

The Senate is scheduled to take up the bill during its session Thursday, Feb. 11, which is scheduled to begin earlier than usual at 2 p.m. in the Senate Chamber on the second floor of the State House.

The session will be televised live by Capitol Television, which can be seen on Cox and Full Channel on Channel 15, or in high definition on Channel 1013 for Cox subscribers, and on Channel 34 by Verizon viewers. It will also be live streamed at www.rilin.state.ri.us/CapTV.

The Senate Finance Committee voted 8 to 2  to approve the identical Senate bill (2016-S 2246 Sub. A), sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence).

After passage in its respective chamber, each bill must also be approved by the opposite chamber and be sent to the governor for signature before it can become law.

Press Release From The Rhode Island General Assembly

House approves RhodeWorks plan to repair roads and bridges
With a 52–to-21 vote, the House of Representatives today approved RhodeWorks, a sweeping plan to improve Rhode Island’s worst-in-the-nation roads and bridges while putting thousands of Rhode Islanders back to work.

The legislation (2016-H 7409A) will now be sent to the Senate, which is scheduled to vote on identical legislation (2016-S 2246A) tomorrow in a session that begins at 2 p.m. Each chamber is also expected to take action on the other chamber’s bill tomorrow, enabling the both bills to be forwarded to the governor for signature.

RhodeWorks funds will be used to fix more than 150 structurally deficient bridges and make repairs to another 500 bridges to prevent them from becoming deficient, bringing 90 percent of the state’s bridges into structural sufficiency by 2024.

Beyond improving the safety of Rhode Island’s transportation infrastructure, the plan would create 6,000 new construction jobs and pave the way for further job creation in the future by providing the infrastructure necessary for existing companies to expand and for attracting new companies to the state.

“This responsible legislation addresses our infrastructure, which is the most significant factor impacting the business community and the future of economic development in our state. We have the worst bridges, roads and overpasses in America and this plan will fix hundreds of them before an emergency occurs,” said House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston). “We have vastly improved the legislation since it was first introduced last spring, cutting the rate of borrowing in half and dramatically reducing the interest rate on the bonding, while inserting language to ensure that truck tolls will never be extended to other vehicles without voter approval. The passage of this bill is vital in ensuring a brighter future for our state.”

The bill underwent substantial overhaul since it was first introduced last year, in part to take advantage of hundreds of millions of federal highway funds garnered by the state’s congressional delegation. Those funds enabled the drastic reduction of borrowing from $600 million to $300 million, and reduced the state’s interest costs by 65 percent.

House leaders said the changes resulted in significant improvements, not only saving the state hundreds of millions of dollars but also vastly strengthening oversight provisions to protect against delays, overspending and poor maintenance.

Further amendments made to the legislation include more stringent project oversight, timelines and reporting requirements for the Department of Transportation, as well as consequences for failure to meet them and minority contracting requirements. The bill mandates continued maintenance, which will also be subject to oversight, to protect the state’s investment and ensure rebuilt infrastructure lasts as long as possible.

House leaders thanked Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed and their colleagues in the Senate as well as Gov. Gina M. Raimondo for working with them to address their concerns and strengthening the bill, paving the way for improved infrastructure and job creation and taking another step toward improving Rhode Island’s economy and business climate.

“We have made great strides in recent years in focusing on improving the economic climate in our state by lowering our tax rates and eliminating unnecessary business burdens.  But the business community has told us that the number one issue of concern is infrastructure quality and accessibility. This legislation continues the House’s focus on jobs and the economy. About 6,000 jobs will be created to fix our crumbling roads and bridges, getting people back to work in a trades industry that has been badly hurt in recent years, while at the same time lifting our ranking as the state with the worst roads and bridges in America,” said House Majority Leader John J. DeSimone (D-Dist. 5, Providence), the bill’s sponsor.

The plan includes the institution of tolls for large commercial trucks, although the scope and price of the tolls were reduced in the revamped legislation. The plan would place 14 gantries around the state with an average toll of $3 each, with a cap of $20 per day statewide for any truck crossing the state.

Large trucks cause the greatest share of vehicle-created damage to the state’s roads and bridges, and it is estimated that about 60 percent of trucks paying tolls will be from out of state, which means they are not otherwise supporting Rhode Island’s  infrastructure through taxes or fees.

Rhode Island is currently the only state on the East Coast that does not charge any tolls on highways, except Connecticut, which is currently considering tolls for both trucks and passenger vehicles.

RhodeWorks would not institute tolls for passenger vehicles, and in fact would create a new ban on any expansion of tolls beyond large commercial trucks unless voters approve it.