Virginia congressman targets truckers for I-81 tolls

| 10/6/2003

Motorists shouldn’t have to pay tolls on Virginia’s I-81 because commercial vehicles are responsible for most of the traffic congestion, according to a U.S. representative from Virginia.

“I strongly oppose and have urged a rejection of any proposal to place tolls on passenger vehicles in Interstate 81,” U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher, a Democrat, told The Associated Press recently. “The traffic congestion problem on the interstate arises from commercial truck traffic.”

His comments came shortly after the release last month of two private-sector proposals to rebuild Virginia’s 325-mile stretch of I-81.

One plan, from STAR Solutions, would run an estimated $6.3 billion before inflation. The plan is based on tolling trucks only, but it includes an alternate plan to charge tolls on car drivers and to reduce truck toll rates. Another plan from Fluor Virginia Inc., totaling $5.9 billion after inflation, would charge car and truck drivers to use the roadway.

Boucher told The AP that Virginia’s law prohibiting tolls on cars on interstates should remain unchanged, noting that most I-81 car traffic is intrastate. He said instead it is “entirely consistent with principles of fairness” to charge truckers based on miles traveled on the interstate with the highest fees charged to interstate traffic.

“Apparently the representative is unaware that trucks already pay fuel taxes and registration fees to every state they operate in based on the miles they travel,” Todd Spencer, OOIDA executive vice president, said.

“What lawmakers so often fail to realize is truckers are no different than power lines, whether you want electricity or water pipes. If you want to live in places that have electricity, water, food and other goods that sustain life, those goods have to get there some way. Trucks deliver to every single community in Virginia and are essential to every resident in Virginia and every other state.”

VDOT officials are hoping to decide which proposal to accept by December, but there still is a chance neither proposal will be selected, Harrisonburg’s WHSV TV reported. Actual construction is likely still years away.