The Virginia Senate has approved a bill that would allow
officials in Virginia and North Carolina to form a compact to collect tolls
from all drivers on Interstates 85 and 95 near the states’ common border south
of Richmond, VA. The effort is among several toll-related bills drawing
consideration since the legislative session began last month.
Senators voted 37-2 to advance the tolling compact measure –
SB614 – to the House for further consideration.
Each state could bring in nearly $100 million annually under
the plan, The Associated Press reported. It would require revenue to be
spent on work for the two interstates.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Frank Wagner, R-Virginia Beach, is calling for $5 car tolls with a higher fee for large trucks.
If approved in both states, their transportation departments
would study the toll proposal. It would need final approval from federal
So far, lawmakers in North Carolina haven’t shown much
interest in adopting similar rules there. Gov. Mike Easley and the North
Carolina Department of Transportation have yet to comment on the toll compact,
saying it is a legislative decision.
A separate effort in Virginia would give the Commonwealth
Transportation Board authority to impose tolls on all vehicles crossing the
North Carolina-Chesapeake line on U.S. 17.
Sponsored by Delegate John Cosgrove, R-Chesapeake, the
border-tolling measure – HB133 – won passage before the full House earlier this
month. It has been forwarded to the Senate Transportation Committee for further
Tolls would be used to pay for widening Dominion Boulevard
in Chesapeake, replacing the two-lane Steel Bridge on U.S. 17, and improving
the interchange at the Oak Grove Connector.
Depending on the type of bridge designed and the
configuration of the interchanges, the price tag could be between $128 million
and $210 million, The Virginian-Pilot reported.
Chesapeake and the Virginia Department of Transportation are
preparing a toll study to determine toll amounts. Cosgrove’s bill, however,
mandates large trucks pay a minimum of $3.
Another Wagner bill – SB720 – unanimously approved by the
Senate would allow the state’s transportation board to impose tolls on state
highways. Localities would have to agree to adding tolls.
Tolls could be imposed only on limited access highways,
where users could not evade paying.
One other bill approved by the Senate would charge fees on
all major bridges in Hampton Roads.
Sponsored by Sen. Marty Williams, R-Newport News, the bill
would set up a regional bridge authority with the power to levy tolls to pay
for roadwork and upgrades on seven major bridges and tunnels in the region and
build a third crossing to connect the Peninsula with South Hampton Roads, the Daily
The revenue would pay for improvements to those bridges,
aimed at reducing traffic congestion either through widening lanes or adding
additional tunnels on the most heavily used water crossings in the region.
The House has approved two other tolling initiatives.
A bill from Delegate Robert Marshall, R-Prince William,
would allow adjoining counties, cities, and towns to enter into agreements for
the construction and operation of highways, bridges, and ferries within their
The measure – HB201 – would allow the localities to impose
and collect tolls.
VDOT would get the final say on any project.
And a bill from Delegate Leo Wardrup Jr., R-Virginia Beach, would permit private groups to improve existing roads or build new ones and
then charge tolls to recover costs.
Unanimously approved by the House earlier this month,
Wardrup’s bill would amend existing public-private partnership laws by making
certain that companies collecting tolls also maintain and improve the roads
Wagner’s state highway tolling bill – SB720 – and Williams’
bill – SB192 – are in the House Transportation Committee. Marshall’s bill –
HB201 – and Wardrup’s bill – HB1426 – are in the Senate Transportation Committee.
– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor