Bill would broaden I-81 toll in Virginia

| 1/27/2004

A proposal in the Virginia General Assembly would enable the state to toll all vehicles using Interstate 81. Current state law permits tolling of trucks.

The provision is critical to one road-building consortium’s plan for widening the highway, The Roanoke Times reported.

Without such legislation, the state cannot consider Fluor Virginia’s proposal to widen most of the interstate to six lanes under a public-private partnership law. Fluor’s $7 billion financing plan relies on tolls collected from all vehicles using the Virginia portion of the interstate.

A competing $13 billion proposal from Star Solutions would widen the interstate to eight lanes, separate car and truck traffic, and impose tolls on trucks only. State lawmakers passed legislation in 2002 to permit tolling of trucks on I-81.

Under legislation – HB905 – introduced earlier this month by Delegate Leo Wardrup, R-Virginia Beach, all I-81 vehicles would be subject to tolls. But Wardrup, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, told the newspaper he has no preference between the plans.

“I just want to get the playing field leveled,” said Wardrup.

A Virginia Transportation Department advisory panel is evaluating the I-81 widening proposals and will make a recommendation to the department.