Blogs | Ethan Shorey

Mayors not taking sides on tolls

Rhode Island mayors have been conspicuously quiet on Gov. Gina Raimondo’s "RhodeWorks" plan to rebuild Rhode Island’s infrastructure through borrowing and truck tolls. It could be a combination of being happy that state leaders aren’t coming after local taxpayer wallets directly, and seeing state roads and bridges in their communities (like the Route 146 bridge over Mineral Spring Avenue) continue to deteriorate.

North Providence Mayor Lombardi told me he’s one of those who’s not taking a stand on truck tolls. He said coming from business he understands the concerns on both sides, but the toll plan really won’t have a big impact on North Providence. He said no local business owners have approached him to say that the plan would hurt their operations.

Pawtucket Mayor Don Grebien said he understands that tolling trucks is a “deeply polarizing issue,” but is also not committed to either side. The state’s infrastructure routinely ranks at the bottom of national rankings for safety and travel, he said. In Pawtucket, his administration faced failures with infrastructure and leaders are now reinvesting in bringing it back.

“Coming from the private sector myself, I fully understand the concerns of the trucking industry and the need to begin building infrastructure costs into the operating budget,” he said. “However, just as Pawtucket had to take measures to begin the necessary improvements, so does our state."

Raimondo, House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello and Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed "are faced with the reality that we did not get to this point overnight and we will not be able to fix it overnight," said Grebien. "It is my hope that we Rhode Islanders learn from this experience, continue to collaborate and work together to move our state forward as the tolls are now law.”

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