PROVIDENCE – A tax on every mile that residents drive is one of several suggestions from the state panel charged with finding money to repair Rhode Island’s ailing transportation infrastructure.
The Blue Ribbon Panel on Transportation Funding – in a draft report the 12-member panel discussed at its meeting yesterday – also proposed levying a $3 toll on all cars and a $6 toll on all trucks entering the state; imposing tolls on all bridges between Aquidneck Island and the mainland; raising the passenger-vehicle registration fee, now $60 every two years, to at least twice that; and raising the state gasoline tax by as much as 15 cents per gallon.
The proposed “driving tax” alone – 0.5 cents per mile for every mile state residents drive, in Rhode Island or elsewhere – could raise $50 million per year, the panel said. It would be levied every two years, based on mileage residents would have to report when they renew their auto registration.
“The more you drive, the more you pay,” said panel co-chairman Michael P. Lewis, the director of the R.I. Department of Transportation, according to The Day. “All these items are painful,” added Jerome Williams, the panel’s other co-chairman and the director of the R.I. Department of Administration. “There’s nothing in there that’s an easy fix.”
Besides Lewis and Williams, the Blue Ribbon Panel includes Lloyd P. Albert, AAA Southern New England’s senior vice president of public and government affairs; Robert E. Cusack, chief investment officer at Providence-based Preferred Asset Management LLC; John C. Gregory, president and CEO of the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce; Peter W. Osborn, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)’s division administrator for Rhode Island; Gary S. Sasse, director of the R.I. Department of Revenue; William Sequino Jr., the town manager in East Greenwich; John C. Simmons, executive director of the nonprofit Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council (RIPEC); Keith W. Stokes, executive director of the Newport County Chamber of Commerce; Robert A. Weygand, the former congressman and current vice president of administration at the University of Rhode Island; and advisory member Maureen E. Gurghigian, a managing director of First Southwest Co.
Rhode Island currently spends about $354 million per year for transportation: $216 million from the federal government, $94 million from the state gasoline tax and $40 million from bonds issued by the state. But to cover expenses for the state bridge and highway projects that will be needed over the next decade, the state will have to spend at least $639 million a year, Lewis told a Sept. 15 hearing– one of three the panel held across the state in September. (READ MORE)
“The lack of state funding for transportation has resulted in the deferral of maintenance and highway and bridge improvement projects,” the panel wrote in its draft report. “We are now at the point that the condition of the highway infrastructure can no longer be ignored.”
Twenty-six percent of the 1,100 miles of major roads overseen by the state have pavement in failed (10 percent) or poor condition (16 percent), while 164 bridges statewide are classified as structurally deficient, the panel noted in its draft report.
Moreover, noted transportation research group TRIP, in a private report released Oct. 6, “the life cycle of Rhode Island’s roads is greatly affected by the state’s ability to perform timely maintenance and upgrades … reconstructing roads costs approximately four times more than resurfacing them,” so further delays will only increase the eventual cost. (READ MORE) “Further deterioration of the state’s roads, highways and transit system will diminish quality of life in Rhode Island and hinder economic development,” TRIP added at the time.
News and information from the R.I. Governor’s Office are available at www.governor.ri.gov. Additional information about the R.I. Department of Transportation and the governor’s Ribbon Panel on Transportation Funding – including the full draft report, “Rhode Island’s transportation future: Reinvesting in our transportation system” – is available at www.dot.state.ri.us/blueribbon.