The Rhode Island Department of Transportation filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the American Trucking Associations, Cumberland Farms Inc., M&M Transport Services and New England Motor Freight challenging the states truck-only tolls, arguing that they are asking the court to do something that it lacks jurisdiction to do.
In a motion filed Aug. 24 in the U.S. District Court of Rhode Island, RIDOT cited the Tax Injunction Act, which restricts the power of the federal district courts to prevent the collection or enforcement of state taxes, as well as the 11th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
“This court lacks subject matter jurisdiction because the tolls at issue constitute a tax for purposes of the Tax Injunction Act and Rhode Island state courts furnish an adequate alternative to a federal court remedy,” the motion states.
The American Trucking Associations (ATA), along with Cumberland Farms Inc., M&M Transport Services Inc. and New England Motor Freight, in July asked a federal court to rule Rhode Island’s RhodeWorks truck-only toll scheme unconstitutional, arguing it discriminates against interstate trucking companies and impedes the flow of interstate commerce.
In the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island, ATA and the motor carriers argue that the RhodeWorks plan violates the Constitution’s Commerce Clause by discriminating against out-of-state trucking companies, and by designing the tolls in a way that does not fairly approximate motorists’ use of the roads.
Federal law generally prohibits new tolls on existing interstate highway lanes. In an unprecedented bureaucratic maneuver, RhodeWorks authorized the Rhode Island Department of Transportation to toll commercial vehicles across bridges within the state using an exemption that allows states to charge tolls for ailing bridges. Although revenue is supposed to go toward funding the repair and replacement of bridges throughout the state, there are no legal requirements that the money raised be used in this manner.
RIDOT opened the first two of 14 truck-only tolling gantries on Interstate 95 in June. The first two gantries are located between exits 2 and 5 and cost truck drivers a total of $6.75.
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