The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
I–95 toll meeting set for Monday here
BY SCOTT SHENK
The Virginia Department of Transportation’s interstate toll plan continues to strike a negative chord.
The highway department held two meetings on the plan last week and, according to news reports, opponents have dominated the debate so far.
Meetings were held in the Richmond area and in Sussex County near the North Carolina line, where the controversial Interstate 95 toll would go, if approved.
A third meeting will be held at VDOT’s Fredericksburg District office on Deacon Road in Stafford from 6 to 8 p.m Monday.
The opposition isn’t new, as nearly two-dozen localities, including Spotsylvania County, have come out against the potential toll.
The trucking industry and several Virginia senators have spoken against the tolling plan.
Also, a group called Keep 95 Toll Free says more than 6,200 people have signed its online petition against the toll plan at virginiatollfree95.com.
Virginia is part of a federal pilot project that could lead to the I–95 toll in Sussex, near the Virginia and North Carolina state line. The Federal Highway Administration has to approve the plan. If tolls are approved, they could be up and running by 2015, according to VDOT.
At both meetings last week, opponents have said the tolls would hurt the local economy and residents already struggling financially.
Opponents also have complained that the tolls could lead to congestion problems and say there are unanswered questions regarding potential environmental impacts.
VDOT still has to submit an environmental impact assessment to federal transportation authorities.
News reports indicated that between 200 and 300 people showed up at the first meeting hosted by VDOT on Monday in Sussex. On Wednesday at John Tyler Community College near Richmond several-dozen people came out for the meeting.
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 department says there is a $10.1 billion funding gap.
Over the first six years, VDOT says the tolls could generate $155 million that could go toward improvements on I–95, as well as Interstates 64 and 81. The highway department also says an analyst it hired found that the tolls could generate $1.5 billion over 30 years and create jobs.
As for the location, VDOT says that video analysis showed that 70 percent to 80 percent of I–95 traffic in the area where the toll would go comes from out of state.
There were a few updates at the meetings, with one being a discount plan for those who live near the tolls.
Also, VDOT’s updated plans, which are available online and will be on display at Monday’s meeting, show a combination of electronic and cash toll options. The electronic version would require the use of an E–ZPass, the same system planned for the express lanes, which are being extended in the I–95 median from Dumfries to Garrisonville.
For updated plans, virginiadot.org/projects/i-95_corridor_improve
Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436