transportation officials are considering a plan to widen Interstate
81 to eight lanes. In the plan, truckers would pay tolls to use
four reserved lanes. Under the proposal, truck tolls would pay
at least half the cost of the I-81 project. Federal and state
taxes on fuel and other transportation resources would repay the
travel in the remaining four, toll-free lanes from Bristol to
the Winchester area. The lanes would be separated by rumble-strip
medians along most stretches, and by concrete barriers in places.
There would be separate ramps for cars and trucks at major truck-route
Department of Transportation said in 1999 that a six-lane widening
on I-81 would cost $3.4 billion and take about 30 years under
its conventional pay-as-you-go financing. Gov. Mark Warner called
the new proposal "a promising approach" that "deserves
serious consideration." While both officials and truckdrivers
agree safety will improve if cars and trucks are separated, OOIDA
member Howard Boswell, of Granite Shoals, TX, says this is just
another attempt to dip into the pockets of truckers for funds.
"This is pure double taxation, targeting trucks to pay for
roads," Boswell says. "It's just another scheme to make
money off truckers." If VDOT approves the proposal, construction
could begin by 2005.