NC unsure of following Virginia's lead in tolling I-95

Posted September 26, 2011
Updated September 27, 2011

Interstate 95 sign

— While Virginia has received permission to charge tolls on Interstate 95 to help fund transportation projects, North Carolina officials say they haven't made up their mind on whether to follow suit.

The Federal Highway Administration a week ago gave Virginia preliminary approval for I-95 tolls. Virginia Department of Transportation officials said tolls could generate $50 million a year for expanding the highway, repaving and improving road safety.

North Carolina has also applied for federal permission to toll I-95. Consultants are finishing up a two-year study of the highway in North Carolina, and state officials could make recommendations by the end of the year.

"We need to keep that corridor vibrant," North Carolina Transportation Secretary Gene Conti said Monday. "Main Street of the East Coast is what I like to call it. We need to make sure it's up to modern standards and can support the traffic it now carries."

I-95 is the state's deadliest highway. Most of it remains four lanes wide – the same width as when it was built decades ago – and it doesn't meet modern safety standards.

Conti said no decision has been made yet on tolls, but he said the state has to find some way to cover the estimated $5 billion to $6 billion repair bill for I-95 over the next 20 years.

"We don't have the money to pay for that right now, so we're trying to look at all the alternatives to figure out how to it," he said.

Drivers weren't too pleased with the prospect of paying to use I-95, which covers more than 1,900 miles and passes through 16 states. 

"There's so much traffic, and it would back traffic up for miles and miles and miles. I just don't think it would work," said Bill McGuire, a resident of Rhode Island, which also is looking at tolling I-95.

Toll Roads NC considers tolls to pay for I-95 upgrades

States should budget for road work instead of imposing tolls, McGuire said.

Don Christman, who is from Nebraska, also panned the idea of tolls, but quickly added that I-95 needs work.

"It needs to be done, I guess. I don't want to be driving over bumps and potholes," Christman said.

A.P. Pascaran, who was on his way home to Delaware, said he is used to paying tolls for highway maintenance and wouldn't have a problem if North Carolina imposed them.

"If they can keep the roads well maintained, I have no problem with that, as long as it's not $10 every 10 miles," Pascaran said.

There's no word yet how much the tolls on I-95 could cost if North Carolina adopted them. Similar highways in other states average around 10 to 20 cents per mile.

If tolls are approved, Conti said, they probably wouldn't start for a couple of years.


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  • LBJ192 Sep 28, 2011

    "Add to that the traffic that would use the secondary roads to avoid the toll roads and the backups, not just to save some money, and you add to an already dangerous situation."

    I doubt people would take secondary roads to avoid tolls when traveling long distances. When my family travels we just pay the toll so we can get on to our destination. Maybe it will be the same for most others.

  • mmtlash Sep 28, 2011

    if they are even contemplating it then it's inevitable (unless there's a law on the books preventing it)...I thought I heard somewhere that in NC only new roads could be tolled, not I'm a bit confused....must have misinterpreted something?

  • Vietnam Vet Sep 28, 2011

    frosty: I think most new tolls are collected automatically via transponders to minimize any traffic congestion at the toll sites.

  • frosty Sep 28, 2011

    Absolutely a bad idea. As the article mentioned, the back ups at the toll booths would be horrendous. Add to that the traffic that would use the secondary roads to avoid the toll roads and the backups, not just to save some money, and you add to an already dangerous situation. And it causes traffic problems not just at the toll booths but all along the highway as faster and slower traffic sort themselves out again. I remember not just the Richmond toll road but I-95 in Connecticut. The were STUPID.
    Any politician or bureaucrat who puts forth such and idea should be immediately fired or voted out of office.

  • PTParks Sep 28, 2011

    How did Georgia and Florida manage to widen their portion of I-95 without resorting to tolls? I remember when Virginia had 4-5 .25c tollbooths on I-95 going through Richmond. Talk about traffic jams!! The road would widen to 6 lanes or so to provide access to the tollbooths, and then quickly neck back down to two lanes shortly after leaving the booth. With the attitudes of drivers these days I predict a large number of wrecks associated with traffic piling up trying to get through the proposed tollbooths. If this proposal is put into effect, plan on adding an hour to your future travel times when driving north through Virginia and North Carolina on I-95.

  • short Sep 28, 2011

    Will someone please tell me where all the tax dollars are going when we buy gas? I mean - is that not what that cash is for?

  • nc1state Sep 28, 2011

    Fine. Toll it. Only if you make it at least a minimum of 6 lanes...

  • hp277 Sep 28, 2011

    'It continues to cost more to live in NC, we are paying several cents per gallon more in tax than Virginia, now on top of that they want to add tolls.'
    September 27, 2011 3:06 p.m.

    NC maintains the second largest road network in the nation. Other states leave the maintenance of secondary and rural roads to cities, towns and counties who have to use property taxes or other sources to pay for roads that NC maintains with the gas tax.

  • davidgnews Sep 27, 2011

    If the DOT wasn't as corrupt and didn't waste money, this wouldn't even be an issue.

  • maydaymanny Sep 27, 2011

    Do we really need a study to find that more money = better roads. Maybe we should just use the money from the unnecessary study instead of having tolls???