Virginia lawmakers are looking into tolling commercial vehicles on I-81 in order to fund “safety improvements”on the interstate, which carries about half of the state’s total truck traffic.
Senators Say That Crashes On I-81 Led To Toll Proposal
A bill proposed last week by state senators Mark Obenshain and Bill Carrico directs the Commonwealth Transportation Board to study the feasibility of tolling trucks on I-81 and using the revenue generated by the tolls to fund infrastructure improvements. The bill would make sure that all toll revenue would go into improving I-81 only.
Obenshain says that the proposed I-81 truck toll would be a potential solution to a “very real safety crisis“: “With over 2,000 crashes per year, and 30 crashes a year with a clearance time greater than six hours, we must be willing to look at creative methods to find substantive solutions to this problem.”
A news release from Obenshain’s office points out that other states have been successful at generating revenue for infrastructure funding by tolling trucks: “With similar programs passed in states like Kansas and Rhode Island, tolls on heavy commercial vehicles have the potential to be a stable source of funding for transportation needs. In Kansas, commercial vehicle toll revenue in 2017 was $48 million and $37 million in 2016. In Rhode Island, an economic impact study predicts $60 million annual revenue to be leveraged for transportation infrastructure improvements.”
According to the Virginia Department of Transportation, commercial vehicles make up about 40% of the traffic on I-81. The interstate was designed to only carry about 15% trucks.
Critics of the plan worry that if the toll is put into place on I-81, it could force truck traffic onto back roads, which could be hazardous. Others say that the cost of an I-81 toll could be prohibitively burdensome on trucking companies.