Virginia Receives Conditional Approval to Toll I-95


 UPDATED:
9/19/2011 5:00:00 PM
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Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) said Monday the Federal Highway Administration has granted the state preliminary approval to toll Interstate 95 under a pilot program.

But the plan must still receive final approval by FHWA, which asked the state in a letter for details on where tolls would be collected, how it planned to maintain tolling areas and other issues.

McDonnell last year asked U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood for permission to toll I-95 at the North Carolina state line, estimating it could generate $30 million to $60 million annually with a toll of $1 to $2 per axle.

If ultimately granted approval, Virginia would be the first state south of Maryland to toll I-95, which carries traffic from the Canadian border in Maine to the southern tip of Florida.

As part of the plan, VDOT will scrap plans to toll Interstate I-81 in the western part of the state, the governor’s office said in a statement.

I-95 is the major north-south East Coast corridor for cars and trucks, while I-81 is a major truck route further to the west that also runs north-south.

McDonnell said the plan would give the state the ability to leverage a $4 billion in its transportation network over the next three years, “by funding transportation improvements in this vital corridor.�

The Virginia Department of Transportation estimated the plan could generate $250 million over the first five years of the toll program and over $50 million annually thereafter.

But American Trucking Associations President Bill Graves said the pending tolls would harm the state and the nation’s economy, more than help repair the corridor,

“While it is true that I-95 is one of the ‘most important and heavily traveled highway corridors in the country,’ as Gov. McDonnell says, there are far more expeditious and efficient ways of raising revenue for its upkeep than tolls,� Graves said.

“Study after study shows that tolls carry astronomically higher capital and overhead expenditures compared to the fuel tax,� he said in a statement.

Graves said also imposing tolls would only add to I-95’s congestion, or move trucks onto smaller, secondary roads that are not designed to handle increased traffic.

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