Tolls: What Happened to Gina Raimondo’s Promise to Hold off on Gantries Until After Lawsuit?

As you may have noticed, Governor Gina Raimondo and RIDOT have been constructing toll gantries on the state’s highways – oh, excuse me, on or near “bridges” (*hearty chuckle*) – at top speed, including even night construction and presumably, the attendant overtime costs (hat tip Mike Collins for noticing that).

Meanwhile, the lawsuit against Raimondo’s truck-only tolls filed a year and a half ago filed by the American Trucking Associations has not yet gotten to any arguments of substance or merit but is still bogged down in the jurisdiction phase due to delays on the part of the defendant.  Gina Raimondo and RIDOT have been affirming their supreme confidence in the soundness of their defense and the legality of their targeted toll scheme by paradoxically fighting like mad to move the case from federal to state court; i.e., from a reasonably objective legal venue to a friendly one  – friendly to Gina and her awful policies and, more importantly, friendly to the state’s status quo.  Their latest delay maneuver was to ask the full First Circuit Appeals Court to review the ruling last month keeping the case in federal court. (The legal consensus seems to be that this is a hail mary play inasmuch as the full court does not usually hear such appeals, which means the decision by the three judges stands.)

So — yet another empty legal delay tactic while the gantries go up at a frantic pace. How far Gina’s actions have come from her statements on the Dan Yorke State of Mind of January 23, 2018 (and, apparently, elsewhere) when she promised to wait until the legality of truck-only tolls was threshed out in the then-imminent lawsuit before ordering the construction of the full gantry system (minute 06:00).

Dan Yorke:  You said, “If we lose the litigation, we don’t put the tolls up”.

Governor Raimondo:  Correct.  … We’re going to start with one in February [2018].  We assume there will be litigation which we will then have to defend and then we’ll see.  …  We gotta do one, we gotta see how it goes and then we’ll move to the next one.

This is a stark, egregious backtrack by Gina Raimondo.  With it, she knowingly, deliberately put the residents of the state, whose best interest she has an absolute obligation to put first, into heavy financial peril on two fronts.  Firstly, if the court, federal or state, rules against truck only tolls and the state wisely makes the decision to abandon tolls altogether, the taxpayers will have to pay tens of millions of dollars for the cost of a gantry system whose construction the governor recklessly ordered before it was clear that it could be used.  Secondly, if the state decides to comply with an adverse ruling in the case by irresponsibly and selfishly removing the discriminatory nature of the tolling scheme and spread the cancer to all vehicles, a lovely gantry system will already be in place to toll cars.

As public attention has naturally turned to legal developments in the toll case and the very visible erection of the gantries, it is important to pause and note how the governor explicitly and irresponsibly broke her word on a very significant matter and highlight the heavy consequences to which she has needlessly exposed Rhode Island residents with this completely unprincipled volte-face.

Monique has worked for the Rhode Island Trucking Association since September, 2017; for the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity since March, 2016; was spokesperson for; and has been a contributor to Anchor Rising/Ocean State Current for over ten years.

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