Commerce Clause Challenge to E-ZPass on the Pell Bridge

According to the Providence Journal, a Connecticut woman has filed a class action lawsuit against the the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority, accusing it of illegally favoring Rhode Islanders in the tolls it charges to cross the Pell Bridge.

The Rhode Island suit is similar to one filed March 20 against the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority and the Massachusetts Port Authority challenging their toll policies favoring residents using the Tobin Bridge and the Sumner and Ted Williams tunnels.

Like the case in Massachusetts, the Rhode Island suit says the authority is violating the U.S. Constitution’s provisions on interstate commerce and equal protection.

The Rhode Island authority charges out-of-state drivers more than twice as much as state residents to cross the Pell Bridge. Using E-ZPass transponders, Rhode Island residents pay 83 cents per trip and out-of-state drivers pay $1.75. Out-of-state drivers can buy Rhode Island transponders, the devices that identify vehicles passing through the toll plaza so money can be deducted from the owner’s account. But unless they prove their Rhode Island residency, with a tax bill, a copy of a lease or some similar document, drivers must still pay the higher toll.

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