Virginia transportation officials are considering tolling drivers on I-81 to the tune of $2 billion in order to fund infrastructure improvements.
Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) officials say that I-81 is in serious need of improvement to cut down on crashes and to reduce traffic congestion.
VDOT has identified dozens of improvements to be made to I-81 — but those changes won’t be cheap. Shannon Valentine, Virginia Secretary of Transportation, told WDBJ7, “We’ve identified about $4 billion worth of improvements. The funding options we’re presenting today would be for $2 billion.” Improvements would include adding another lane to the interstate, lengthening on and off ramps, and adding lighted signage.
Valentine says that a number of funding options are on the table — including truck tolling: “A gas tax, a sales tax, a truck tolling tax, and then a very kind of interesting idea, an annual pass that would be available for passenger cars.” An increase in the motor fuels tax is also being considered.
Valentine stated that the proposed truck toll would be no more than 17 cents per mile.
Valentine says that VDOT is also considering a plan to toll trucks less at night, a move which officials hope could convince some truck drivers to operate at night.
Several groups have spoken out against the idea of truck tolling, arguing that the tolls would harm Virginia businesses and could force truck traffic onto Route 11 and 460. The Alliance for Toll Free Interstates sent a letter to VDOT opposing the truck toll plan.
From the letter:
“Tolling trucks using I-81 will raise costs for moving goods through the supply chain, hurting the competitiveness of local companies. Restaurants, convenience stores, travel plazas and gas stations operating near the interstate will face higher costs from manufacturers and shippers, who will be forced to charge more to transport goods by truck. Everyday consumers will be shouldering the burden by paying more for goods. A toll will become nothing more than an underhanded tax on the general public. Inevitably, truck tolls will have a chilling effect on consumer activity.”
The Virginia Commonwealth Transportation Board will be hearing a final plan for I-81 improvement funding at a December meeting, after which they will present their recommendations to state lawmakers in January 2019.