Pub­lic hear­ings on tolls set for July 27

Rhode Is­lan­ders can weigh in on DOT’s en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ments of tolls

Pawtucket Times - - BLACKSTONE VALLEY - By JONATHAN BIS­SON­NETTE jbis­son­nette@paw­tuck­et­times.com Fol­low Jonathan Bis­son­nette on Twit­ter @J_Bis­son­nette

The Rhode Is­land De­part­ment of Trans­porta­tion will hold three hear­ings on July 27 to al­low the pub­lic to voice their opin­ion on its En­vi­ron­men­tal As­sess­ment for a se­ries of toll lo­ca­tions across the state.

The hear­ings will be at Cen­tral Falls High School, 24 Sum­mer St. in Cen­tral Falls; Toll Gate High School, 575 Centerville Road in War­wick; and Mount Pleas­ant High School, 434 Mount Pleas­ant Ave. in Prov­i­dence. All three will be on Fri­day, July 27, at 6 p.m.

In ac­cor­dance with the Na­tional En­vi­ron­men­tal Pol­icy Act, RIDOT on Thurs­day posted for pub­lic com­ment its En­vi­ron­men­tal As­sess­ment for Toll Lo­ca­tions 3, 4 and 6 through 13 on In­ter­state 95, In­ter­state 195, In­ter­state 295, Route 6 and Route 146 in Cum­ber­land, East Prov­i­dence, Lin­coln, North Smith­field, Paw­tucket, Cranston, John­ston, Prov­i­dence and War­wick.

The 198-page as­sess­ment is avail­able on the RIDOT web­site (www.dot.ri.gov/tolling/in­dex.php). In its ex­ec­u­tive sum­mary, it states that RIDOT is propos­ing to build and op­er­ate toll sys­tems at 10 lo­ca­tions along five ma­jor high­way cor­ri­dors in the state.

The pro­posed toll lo­ca­tions would be used to col­lect toll rev­enue from a trac­tor or truck trac­tor trav­el­ing across se­lect bridges as­so­ci­ated with the toll lo­ca­tions. Each toll sys­tem would be com­prised of one or more gantries with com­mu­ni­ca­tion and elec­tri­cal con­nec­tions, a road­side cabi­net on a con­crete pad, and ad­di­tional safety guardrail.

RIDOT has not yet ap­proved spe­cific toll rates but are lim­ited to $20 to­tal for a bor­der-to-bor­der through trip on I-95 from Con­necti­cut to Mas­sachusetts and will not ex­ceed $40 per day.

Im­ple­men­ta­tion of tolling on an ex­ist­ing road can some­times re­sult in a shift of travel be­hav­ior in which some driv­ers travel on a dif­fer­ent route to avoid pay­ing a toll, the as­sess­ment states. The po­ten­tial shift of ve­hi­cles away from the tolled fa­cil­i­ties is re­ferred to as a “toll di­ver­sion,” and 15 such routes have been iden­ti­fied as po­ten­tial par­al­lel routes that trucks may use to avoid tolls at the lo­ca­tions.

In­di­rect im­pacts re­sult­ing from truck di­ver­sion traf­fic were con­sid­ered and the study states that “given the small in­crease in truck vol­umes on di­ver­sion routes, these im­pacts were de­ter­mined not to re­sult in sig­nif­i­cant im­pacts, with most im­pacts be­ing im­per­cep­ti­ble or mi­nor and com­pa­ra­ble to ex­ist­ing con­di­tions.” The as­sess­ment also states that due to the lim­ited ground dis­tur­bances as­so­ci­ated with the con­struc­tion of the toll lo­ca­tions, there are lim­ited di­rect im­pacts to the hu­man and nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment.

Com­ments will also be so­licited by Aug. 11. Fol­low­ing the pub­lic com­ment pe­riod and once the com­ments are in­cor­po­rated into the re­port, the Fed­eral High­way Ad­min­is­tra­tion will ex­am­ine it fur­ther to de­ter­mine if a full En­vi­ron­men­tal Im­pact State­ment is war­ranted or the re­port re­sults in a find­ing of no sig­nif­i­cant im­pact, RIDOT of­fi­cials said.

In ad­di­tion to be­ing posted on the RIDOT web­site, the En­vi­ron­men­tal As­sess­ment will be avail­able in pub­lic li­braries and town halls in Bur­ril­lville, Cen­tral Falls, Coven­try, Cranston, Cum­ber­land, East Green­wich, East Prov­i­dence, Ex­eter, Foster, Glo­ces­ter, Jamestown, John­ston, Lin­coln, Mid­dle­town, New­port, North Kingstown, North Prov­i­dence, North Smith­field, Paw­tucket, Portsmouth, Prov­i­dence, Sc­i­t­u­ate, Smith­field, War­wick, West Green­wich, West War­wick and Woonsocket. It will also be avail­able across the bor­der in At­tle­boro and Uxbridge.

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