ARLINGTON, Va. — The American Trucking Associations Thursday hailed a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit that held the trucking group’s lawsuit over Rhode Island’s predatory truck-only tolls could proceed in federal court.
“We have long believed that Rhode Island’s RhodeWorks truck-only toll scheme was a violation of the Constitution and an attempt to use our industry as a piggy bank,” said ATA President and CEO Chris Spear. “Today’s decision by the First Circuit paves the way for us to make that argument in federal court and we look forward to the chance to vindicate our case on the merits.”
ATA, along with Cumberland Farms Inc., M&M Transport Services Inc. and New England Motor Freight, sued Rhode Island, arguing that the RhodeWorks plan violates the Constitution’s Commerce Clause by discriminating against out-of-state economic interests in order to favor in-state interests, and by designing the tolls in a way that does not fairly approximate motorists’ use of the roads.
The First Circuit ruled that despite the state’s assertion, ATA’s lawsuit was not barred by the federal Tax Injunction Act, which generally prohibits federal courts from hearing challenges to state taxes. Today, the First Circuit held that the RhodeWorks tolls are not a “tax,” and thus not immune from challenge in federal court.
“Today’s ruling is just another step in getting these extortionary tolls torn down and we would urge the governor and her allies to do the right thing and put an end to this unfair and unconstitutional toll scheme so we can get serious about working together on how to equitably and effectively rebuild our infrastructure,” said Rhode Island Trucking Association President Chris Maxwell. “With this ruling in hand, we are confident we will prevail in this suit once it is decided on the merits.”
Rhode Island’s RhodeWorks program took effect last year; it aims to generate revenue for road and bridge improvements throughout the state by charging tolls for freight trucks travelling along Interstate 95.
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