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Critics predict truck toll plan will hurt RI businesses, ignite lawsuit

Critics say the truck toll legislation was rushed and not vetted. They believe that type of action has gotten Rhode Island into trouble before. (WJAR)

Gov. Gina Raimondo on Thursday evening signed the controversial RhodeWorks plan, which is also known as the truck toll bill, less than an hour after it cleared both chambers.

But critics say the legislation was rushed and not vetted. They believe that type of action has gotten Rhode Island into trouble before.

"We've been at this for almost a year," Raimondo said. "It's been fully vetted, amended, changed. And at some point you just have to act. We have a problem. We've studied it an awful lot. It's time for action."

Raimondo first pitched the Rhode Works proposal last year.

The House passed it Wednesday, with the Senate approving it just before 5 p.m. Thursday. They then both quickly approved each other's versions before Raimondo put her signature on it.

The governor's office estimates the tolls on tractor trailers will haul in $45 million a year once they're up and running in 2018.

A single truck would be capped at paying $40 a day.

"It's insignificant when you take into account they're paying these tolls across the country," said House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello. "But we will look at the industry."

Bob Lafleur from the Rhode Island Independent Contractors and other trucking reps said they are disappointed, claiming the tolls will hurt businesses.

"These mom and pop companies run on a shoe-string," Lafleur said. "We were hoping that they would realize that the impact that this toll program would have is significant."

Toll opponents, especially House Republicans, argue the plan could open up the state to a discrimination lawsuit.

While trucking reps told NBC 10 News they'd be considering their options, Senators agree that the state's roads and bridges need fixing, but debated on issues of cost, safety and the rush to move the legislation forward so quickly.

"With every creative idea there's always some risk, but we've got a great case, and that's not a reason not to act," Raimondo said.


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