R.I. singles out trucks for tolls

Rhode Island is embracing road tolls in an interesting way, with a plan to assess the fees only on big-rig trucks.

The idea, conceived by Gov. Gina Raimondo and backed by key Democratic lawmakers, is a way for Rhode Island to have its cake and eat it, too. Out-of-state truckers will pay most of the tolls and the money will be used to help finance repairs of the state’s crumbling bridges.

The law authorizing truck-only tolls passed in February and the Rhode Island Department of Transportation began looking for a contractor to build the tolling system this week. If all goes as planned, two tolling facilities on I-95, in Hopkinton and Exeter, will go up within six months, with 11 more to follow. When all the work is done, an 18-wheeler will pay $3 per toll or a maximum of $20 to travel from Connecticut to Massachusetts on I-95.

Raimondo plans to use the toll money along with federal and state dollars to finance a decade-long, multibillion-dollar effort to repair the state’s bridges. Rhode Island has 1,162 bridges, more than half of which are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, twice the national average.

Even though truck-only tolls seem like political catnip, Raimondo encountered fierce opposition to her proposal. Her initial legislation in 2015 was shelved amid outrage from trucking groups. But a second proposal that reduced the maximum I-95 toll from $30 to $20 picked up broader support. A provision was also inserted barring tolls on passenger vehicles unless voters approved those type of fees in a ballot referendum. The Rhode Island House approved the measure 52-21 and the Senate passed it 24-11.

Once the tolling gantries are up and running, Rhode Island will be the only state in the nation with truck-only tolls. Most other states toll all vehicles, but charge truckers more. In Massachusetts, for example, it costs $7.45 to travel the length of the Massachusetts Turnpike in a two-axle passenger vehicle and $47.80 in a nine-axle vehicle.

BRUCE MOHL


BEACON HILL

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Senate President Stan Rosenberg says elements of the marijuana legalization measure passed by voters last month may be delayed in order to “fine-tune” the law. (Boston Globe)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS 

Brockton Mayor Bill Carpenter apologized for using city money to buy flowers, burial suits for murder victims, and other unapproved items and will pay back more than $8,000 out of his campaign account after a review by the city auditor determined the expenditures were illegal. (The Enterprise)

Quincy homeowners are facing a 7 percent hike in their tax bills, a product of rising home values from a red-hot market, an increased city budget, and an unpaid snow removal debt. (Patriot Ledger)

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh is proposing new legal protections for tenants against evictions. (Boston Globe) A Boston Herald editorial calls the proposal an unwise overreach by the city.

Walsh is opposing a city councilor’s proposal for a 5-cent fee on disposable shopping bags at supermarkets and convenience stores. (Boston Herald)

Harwich selectmen are trying to craft a modified noise bylaw to address complaints by residents over loud music from bars and restaurants while at the same time trying to appease the businesses that want to attract customers. (Cape Cod Times)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Donald Trump’s plans to cajole companies to keep jobs here and impose huge taxes on the products of those that don’t is likely to result in a big mess, says a Globe editorial. Joan Vennochi wonders whether his hardline approach will include going after his daughter Ivanka’s company, which does its apparel and shoe production in China. (Boston Globe)

Jeet Heer says Democrats need a national leader fast, and it should be Elizabeth Warren. (The New Republic)

US Sen. Edward Markey comes out in support of the 21st Century Cures Act, which includes $1 billion to combat the opioid epidemic. (Boston Globe)

The Pentagon buried a study that showed $125 billion of waste in its operations. (Washington Post)

Jim Braude says now that women can serve in combat they should be required to register for selective service. He also calls for the reinstatement of the draft, which he says would make military service more equitable. (Greater Boston)

At least four people with New England connections are missing or confirmed dead following last weekend’s horrific warehouse fire in Oakland, California, that has claimed at least 36 lives. (Boston Globe)

ELECTIONS 

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, undone by his support for an extremely unpopular anti-LGBT rights bill he signed into law, conceded the race for reelection after weeks of challenging the results. (U.S. News & World Report)

Christopher Suprun, a Republican elector from Texas, explains why he won’t be voting for Donald Trump. (New York Times)

US Rep. Seth Moulton says the Democratic Party needs to rethink its message and its messengers. (Salem News)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY 

At least two members of the MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board angrily intimated they’d be in favor of pulling cleaning contracts from two private vendors after learning the firms reduced workers hours to make them ineligible for health care benefits. (CommonWealth)

EDUCATION 

Massachusetts students gained high marks in a set of tests given internationally that mostly compare performance by country, tying with Singapore for top score in reading and placing second in science; math scores showed decline, however, from four years ago. (Boston Globe)

Boston University’s Robert Brown is reportedly the highest-paid college president in Massachusetts. (WBUR) Yet Charles Monahan Jr., who heads the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences University, may even top him. (CommonWealth)

Two unions at Bristol Community College presented a vote of no confidence in school administrators to the board of trustees in the wake of a $2.5 million judgment in a sexual discrimination lawsuit against the college. (Herald News)

Officials at Masconomet Regional High School in Boxford say they checked the trunk of a student’s vehicle for alcohol and found booze and a gun. (Salem News)

A Salem State University fundraising campaign launched in 2011 hits its target of $25 million. (Salem News)

About 200 Boston Public Schools students walked out of classes yesterday to protest issues related to the election of Donald Trump. (Boston Herald)

The Pittsfield Public Schools launch an advertising campaign saying choice is good, and urging residents to choose the city’s schools. (Berkshire Eagle)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE 

Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg is committing more than $360 million from his charitable foundation to fight tobacco use in developing countries around the world. (Wall Street Journal) Meanwhile, a new study from the National Cancer Institute finds people who smoke even just one cigarette a day dramatically increase their risk of early death. (U.S. News & World Report)

A Senate committee wants to ban surgeons from simultaneously overseeing two operations, a questionable practice recently brought to light by a Globe Spotlight report. (Boston Globe)

TRANSPORTATION 

MBTA officials are considering an unsolicited proposal from the ride-hailing service Lyft to provide on-demand, late-night service for workers that would be paid by the rider and his employer with a subsidy from the T. (CommonWealth)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT 

Green activists expressed hope that Donald Trump is moderating his views on climate change after a lengthy meeting with former vice president and environmental canary in the coal mine Al Gore even as the president-elect continues to salt his incoming administration with climate change skeptics. (New York Times)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS 

The 15-year-old Lawrence teen charged with killing and decapitating his 16-year-old friend allegedly told a friend what he did. (Eagle-Tribune) Mathew Borges is described by classmates as smart but troubled, someone who “seethed with a quiet anger for years,” reports the Boston Herald. Kevin Cullen says the murder of a Lawrence teenager would, sadly, get little attention if not for the gruesome circumstances of the killing. (Boston Globe)

The Springfield City Council votes 10-2 to approve an ordinance reinstating a five-member commission to oversee the police department, including disciplinary matters. (Masslive)

A judge in South Carolina declared a mistrial after a jury was deadlocked with one lone holdout for acquittal in the murder trial of a white police officer accused of fatally shooting a black man as he ran away. (New York Times)

MEDIA 

US Sen. Ed Markey questions whether Comcast’s new Boston station will be accessible to viewers who take their signal over-the-air. (Boston Globe)

The New York Times sets its sights on 10 million digital subscribers; the paper has 1.6 million now. (Nieman Journalism Lab)