(TNS) -- PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Rhode Island is planning to launch its long-delayed Division of Motor Vehicles computer system the first week in July, regardless of whether it wins a court fight with the company who built the system, state officials have told lawmakers.
"It is actually working at a great pace," Robert Hull, director of the Department of Revenue, told members of the House Finance Committee Tuesday night. "I see no reason we can't have a clear path to a launch sometime mid-summer, say sometime around July 4th weekend."
The DMV computer project, which started in 2006, has missed repeated launch deadlines and in October the state sued contractor Hewlett Packard Enterprise for breach of contract. The two sides are currently preparing for trail under a Superior Court restraining order that keeps HP workers on the job at the DMV.
Hull was briefing lawmakers on the computer because Gov. Gina Raimondo's 2017-2018 state budget proposes extending a $1.50 DMV transaction surcharge, which is set to expire this summer, for at least another five years. The surcharge, meant to pay for DMV technology improvements, is expected to raise $2.1-$2.2 million annually or around $11 million over five years.
Even if the new computer system launches successfully this summer, Hull said the technology surcharge will be needed for ongoing maintenance and upgrades of the system.
Will it become permanent, House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan, R-West Warwick, asked Hull?
"It may be," he said. "I can't think in technology cycles longer than five years."
Rhode Island has paid HP $13 million for the DMV computer so far and another roughly $7 million on the project in its history, according to a report from House Fiscal Adviser Sharon Reynolds Ferland.
Hull said the price tag for a new system is somewhere between $40 million and $100 million, adding that Nevada recently paid $115 million for a new system.
Eventually, the new computer is expected to reduce DMV wait times, although Hull said improvements would be a gradual process as workers became more familiar with the new system and it allowed more transactions to be completed online.
The House Finance hearing came after a few days of longer-than normal wait times at the DMV and an hour-plus system outage on Tuesday.
Monday saw average DMV wait times of nearly two hours and a maximum wait of four hours and 38 minutes, according to DMV spokesman Paul Grimaldi. The average wait time in December was around 40 minutes, according to the state's transparency portal.
Hull and DMV Administrator Walter "Bud" Craddock Tuesday attributed the recent spike in wait times to heavy volume from school vacation, the start of tax refund season, increasing vehicles purchases and the usual spike at the start and end of the month.
Tuesday's system outage was due to a failed connection between the DMV and the system and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators system, Grimaldi said.
©2017 The Providence Journal (Providence, R.I.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.