NC DOT hears from public on I-95 expansion, tolls
Posted May 13, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — North Carolina's Department of Transportation is looking to collect more ideas on ways to pay to upgrade Interstate 95, including hearing about the possible cost to businesses of charging tolls.
The DOT held the first of four public hearings Monday in Smithfield. Others are scheduled for Tuesday in Wilson and next week in Lumberton and Weldon.
The state says nearly $4.5 billion in upgrades are needed along the entire 182 miles of I-95 from Virginia to South Carolina. The proposals include widening parts of the interstate, raising and rebuilding bridges, and repairing pavement to bring the roadway up to current interstate design standards.
An economic assessment that the DOT released Monday found that there's only $455 million in existing and anticipated funding – about 10 percent of what it would cost to make the improvements – and that tolling is the most feasible financing option.
Roberto Canales, the DOT's coordinator of strategic initiatives, says counties along I-95 would benefit the most from improvements.
"You can improve safety, you can improve travel efficiency and you can plan ahead for economic welfare and growth because a good-running road is more attractive to industry," he said.
But what state leaders see as an economic benefit, store owners say tolls would hurt business
Tolling I-95, they say, would put the greatest economic burden on them.
Ernie Brame, who owns Kenly 95 Petro, says he sees no advantages.
"My company has invested tens of millions dollars in our property to grow our business based upon a business model of a free and unencumbered interstate," he said.
In March, North Carolina Transportation Secretary Tony Tata said tolling roads couldn't be ruled out as a way to help pay for future transportation projects, but he wouldn't say whether tolling I-95 should be an option.