Virginia seeks I-95 tolls along N.C. border

Posted May 10, 2010
Updated May 11, 2010

— Virginia's governor has asked federal highway officials to establish tolls on Interstate 95 near the North Carolina border to pay for repairs that he says are sorely needed along the busy interstate.

The tolls of $1 or $2 for each axle would generate $30 million to $60 million annually, Gov. Bob McDonnell wrote in a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

Virginia would be the only state south of Maryland to charge tolls on the interstate, which runs from Maine to Florida.

North Carolina Transportation Secretary Gene Conti said in a statement that states from Virgina to Florida have been working together to modernize and improve the I-95 corridor.

Tolls along I-95 within North Carolina are an option to pay for needed improvements, Conti said. A two-year study that began in 2009 would consider the impact of tolls on local drivers, as well as interstate traffic, and would look at revenue-sharing opportunities among the states along the I-95 corridor, he said.

McDonnell said I-95 sees more accidents than almost any other major highway or road in the state.

"Interstate Route 95 is one of the nation's largest and most important transportation corridors, linking commercial and economic centers and tourist destinations up and down the East Coast," McDonnell wrote in the letter, dated April 30 but released Monday.

"Currently, however, significant portions of Interstate Route 95 have deficient pavements and structures," McDonnell added.

From the North Carolina border to Fredericksburg, more than $600 million in needed safety improvements have been identified, Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean T. Connaughton said in an interview.

That stretch of highway - approximately 126 miles - records 21 deaths and 917 injuries per year, he added.

"This is essentially one the most heavily traveled roads in Virginia and the United States," Connaughton said. "It is essentially American's Main Street."

But Connaughton said I-95 needs a range of safety upgrades, including new road surfaces, guardrails and shoulder improvements. Fewer federal and state dollars are available to do the work, he added.

In his letter to LaHood, McDonnell noted that VDOT has seen budget reductions of $4.6 billion over the past two years. He said toll revenue would allow Virginia to redirect maintenance dollars to other transportation projects in the state.

McDonnell said he and Connaughton "believe that the imposition of tolls on I-95 is the most efficient and timely method to generate the much-needed revenue to make these improvements to the corridor."

Connaughton said tolls would be collected from the 36,000-38,000 vehicles that travel north and south along I-95 at the Virginia-North Carolina border. He said North Carolina was also considering tolls along the interstate.

North Carolina highway officials did not immediately respond to a request from The Associated Press for comment.

If approved by federal highway officials, a proposed toll area would have to undergo an environmental review. The governor's office said the earliest a toll would be established is 2012.

The tolling requested by Virginia is being sought under the provisional acceptance of tolls along Interstate 81. The shift in authority to I-95 is being sought because the I-81 project has been delayed.

Connaughton said a meeting is planned but not scheduled between Virginia and federal transportation officials.


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  • NH Mom May 11, 2010

    When Virginia had tolls on the Ricmond-Petersburg Turnpike, 95 would back up for miles. The original tolls were put in place to pay for expanding the RPT when it was incorporated into I95. The state of Virginia left the tolls in place for decades after the original investment was repaid and raised them periodically until a federal judge finally pulled the plug on that lucrative revenue generator.

    If every state on the east coast put toll booths on I95 to pay for their part of the upkeep, it would become the world's longest parking lot. Think of the fun of driving through southern Florida or the Baltimore-Washington corridor when everyone has to stop and hand over their dollars.

  • peppercorns May 11, 2010

    HEY PERDUE!!! Are you paying attention....Put Tolls on roads that NON-RESIDENTs use...not comuter roads. What will happen?
    OOOOOO North CArolina gets money to fix that and other roads..hmmm.That might help out the DOT and other poor folk who work for the state...OOO OOO and tha twould give you more money for the budget. Maybe then we could afford to eat out a bit more and buy more stuff to stimulate the REST of North Carolina.
    WOW>>> Must I think of EVERYTHING???!!!!!@!

  • Bendal1 May 11, 2010

    This action by VA may not be legal; the I-81 project was one of only 3 authorized by FHWA and that program hasn't been expanded. VA can't just shift the project from I-81 to I-95, and besides, the I-81 project involved adding lanes and tolling them, not maintenance work on an existing interstate. The vpd of 38,000 isn't enough to justify more lanes either; this is just Virginia showing how much in love they are with tolls.

    Oh, and NC is only talking about maybe putting tolls on I-95; we're not even to the drawing board stage yet.

  • Bob3425 May 11, 2010

    unaffiliated_voter-- you mean like it all bush is fault. However, I do agree we quick to find fault with whoever is in office. I would agree to tolls verus more property tax or income tax, just like if they raise anything it should be sales taxs, then everyone pays. I still like to know where the TARP funds when and all those big S-dollars when, does not look like the roads got it.

  • Bob3425 May 11, 2010

    What happen to TARP funds, for roads? ooops mis-spend somewhere else.

  • WHEEL May 10, 2010

    The Richmond/Petersburg Turnpike collected enough toll money to pay for the blasted thing 10 times. Tell Va to to re-introduce tolls on 95 and the alternate around Richmond (295 I think)

  • UPTOP May 10, 2010

    I know that's right, the money from the tolls alone is enough to help keep dollars in taxpayers pockets rather than someone else's.

  • whatelseisnew May 10, 2010

    "Technically it's a usage/consumption tax, which as a libertarian I like a heck of a lot more than an income tax. It's a lot more fair. As fair as you can consider a tax anyway."

    You are already paying a usage tax every time you fill your tank. On top of that consider all of these other taxes and wonder why more of that money does not go to highways: auto manufacturers; tire manufactures; makers of parts; car dealerships; auto body shops; repair places; parts stores; vehicle registrations; all the retail level taxes whenever you buy anything for your vehicle. Sales taxes when you buy your vehicle. All that money and none of it goes to roads or bridges. Oh and don't forget the rental car taxes. If even 10 or 15 percent of that money went to roads and bridges, they could eliminate the gas tax.

  • unaffiliated_voter May 10, 2010

    "You have obviously never driven to Chicago from Indiana."

    I have, but not on the toll road. I avoid toll roads whenever possible.

  • unaffiliated_voter May 10, 2010

    I agree with readme about preferring a consumption tax over an income tax. I'd say both gasoline taxes and tolls are consumption taxes.

    The reason I hate tolls and would prefer gasoline taxes is that I do not like being nickeled and dimed. I want to pay once and then be free to go about my business.

    I don't like restaurants that charge separately for potatoes and vegetables. I much prefer to pay once price and get a whole meal.

    I don't like paying all the many fees that airlines have added to airfares. I much prefer to pay a single price and get everything I need included in that.

    I want to know how much something is really costing me so I can decide whether or not to buy it - or in the case of taxes, whether or not to complain to my elected representatives. When I have to keep paying a few dollars here and a few dollars there, it's a lot harder to keep track of how much something is costing me.