The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Truckers oppose I-95 toll proposal
BY SCOTT SHENK
The line of those against tolling Interstate 95 has formed and is growing.
Already, elected officials in several localities along the interstate have come out against the Virginia Department of Transportation’s plan to charge drivers to use I–95.
And now the trucking industry is railing against the concept, forming a campaign that calls the plan “highway robbery.”
Coordinated by the National Association of Truck Stop Operators, the American Trucking Associations and the Virginia Trucking Association, the campaign has started an online petition calling for VDOT and Gov. Bob McDonnell to ditch the toll plan.
“This grass-roots effort comes on the heels of local governments voicing their opposition to the tolling plan,” the group said in a release. “In recent weeks, boards of supervisors in Sussex, Greensville and Hanover counties as well as the Dumfries Town Council, have passed resolutions in opposition to the VDOT plan for a preliminary tolling facility located in Sussex County.”
VDOT has considered numerous tolling options, but its plans call for one tolling station in Sussex, in Southside Virginia.
Virginia is part of a three-state federal pilot program allowing interstate tolls.
VDOT says tolls can help pay for much-needed work on the interstate corridor. It estimates that it will take $12.1 billion over 25 years to fix the state’s aging interstate. Several billion dollars have been set aside to do some of that work, but the highway department says there is a $9.6 billion funding gap.
Tamara Rollison with VDOT said the state has to consider many options to pay for maintenance and construction of roads.
“It takes many sources to do that and tolling is one potential source,” she said.
VDOT has given numerous presentations on the toll plan in recent months and Rollison said they will continue to do that.
“Public input is very important to us,” she said. “Whether it’s for, against or neutral, we take all of that into consideration when we move forward on these projects.”
In a AAA poll, 71 percent who responded said Virginia needs more funding for roads, but only 14 percent supported putting tolls on I–95.
Martha Mead, a spokeswoman with AAA, said the auto group is aware of the state’s “funding crisis,” but it does not support tolls on existing roads.
“A $4 toll is exorbitant on a road [drivers] think they already paid for,” she said. “It’s not a surprise at all that it is angering motorists.”
Spotsylvania Count Supervisor Gary Skinner said the state is in desperate need of road funding. And he thinks tolling is a good way to get those who use the interstate to pay for it.
“I don’t know of any other way to do it than let the users pay for it,” he said.
But he sympathizes with the Sussex officials, who have claimed that the tolls would hurt the county.
“Nobody wants it in their backyard,” he said.
Initially there were concerns that a toll would be put on the interstate as far north as Massaponax—and VDOT has said there could eventually be more than one toll area.
Skinner wouldn’t support local tolls, which he said would especially impact commuters.
“I don’t want the people of Spotsylvania and Fredericksburg to have to pay a toll when they go to work,” he said.
VDOT plans to send the application in for the toll proposal this summer. The department will hold public hearings in the fall, and could strike an agreement with the Federal Highway Administration this winter.
Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436
The trucking industry has launched a Web-based petition drive against the plan to put a toll on Interstate 95 in Virginia.
See more about them at: virginiatollfree95.com