The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Sussex site for tollbooth on I–95
BY SCOTT SHENK
The recent toll application for Interstate 95 pinpoints Sussex County as the area where state officials want to start charging drivers.
Officials also say revenues from the tolls will help lead to more road work in the state, including big projects in the Fredericksburg area.
In its application, the Virginia Department of Transportation calls tolling a “new funding source for I–95” and tells the Federal Highway Administration that the area for the toll is between exits 20 and 24 in Sussex, which is not far from the North Carolina line.
The application also points out that initial toll revenues should allow the state to do more work on the interstate, primarily in the Fredericksburg and Richmond areas.
Opposition has arisen from the trucking industry and localities along I–95. The plan to add tolls to the interstate isn’t popular among drivers either, according to polls.
Cord Sterling said he can’t understand how anyone would be against a plan that will help pay for improvements on I–95, especially in the Fredericksburg region, which he said at times becomes a “parking lot.”
Sterling, a Stafford County supervisor and a member of the Commonwealth Transportation Board, said the toll plan is better than raising the gas tax because it will put more of the burden on those who use the interstate and less on Virginians.
“I don’t think that’s unreasonable,” he said Friday, pointing out that he believes the trucking industry is the driving force behind the opposition to the tolls.
More than a dozen localities—from Virginia Beach to Northern Virginia and including Spotsylvania County’s Board of Supervisors—recently have voted against the toll plan.
Last month, Spotsylvania joined 14 other localities in opposing the toll plan, which would charge drivers of cars $4 and tractor–trailers $12. According to news reports, Emporia officials have led the cry against tolls in its area, saying it would be unfair to a community already struggling financially.
The officials against the VDOT plan also have said tolls would lead to congestion on local roads with drivers avoiding them and wasting taxpayer money during construction and operation of the tolls.
They also have noted that the environmental impacts are unknown.
VDOT said in its application that the state’s interstate system is in grave need of an upgrade and there is a funding gap of $10.1 billion.
“We’re running out of money,” said Sterling, “and there are limited options.”
Initial toll revenues could allow for $155 million in I–95 improvements over a six year period, according to the application.
Some of that funding is geared toward the planned new interchange at Courthouse Road in Stafford County.
Funds also could go to “capacity expansion” south of where the interstate’s new electronically tolled express lanes will end at the Garrisonville exit.
There are plans to extend the express lanes to the Massaponax exit.
The expansion along that stretch of I–95 could also include improvements to the U.S. 17 interchange as well as the addition of feeder roads from that spot to State Route 3 in Spotsylvania, across the Rappahannock River.
The state’s toll plan is part of a federal pilot project involving two other states. It originally looked at several potential locations and methods for the tolls. There also were considerations of multiple toll locations. VDOT officials also have said there could eventually be tolls in more than one location.
But the VDOT application to the federal highway authorities mentions only the toll area in Sussex.
Federal authorities have to approve the plan.
VDOT wants to have the toll in effect by next spring.
Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436