A North Carolina state lawmaker
said he wants to turn Interstate 95 in the state into a toll road to pay for
Sen. Larry Shaw, D-Fayetteville,
said he has yet to introduce a bill, but lawmakers soon will tackle the issue
during the legislative session that started May 9.
“It’s the only option we’ve got,” Shaw, who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee, told NBC17, a
television station in Raleigh. “That’s why we say put (toll booths) at the
border. We just want the traveling community that’s passing through to help pay
for this road.”
Early this year, the North
Carolina Department of Transportation turned in an application to the Federal
Highway Administration to preserve the state’s option of designating I-95
throughout the state as a pay-to-play route. If given federal approval, the
General Assembly would be able to consider changing a state law that prohibits
adding tollbooths to existing roads.
A similar request has been
submitted by the South Carolina Department of Transportation for that state’s
stretch of I-95. A federal pilot program is in place and could allow up to
three states to add tolling to interstates.
In April, Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine
signed a bill that would allow a toll plaza to be placed on I-95 at the border
between Virginia and North Carolina.
The tolling compact could bring in
nearly $50 million to $60 million annually for the two states, The
Associated Press reported. It calls for $5 car tolls with a higher fee for
North Carolina lawmakers would have to approve the same measure. It would
also need final approval from Congress.
Supporters of tolling the nearly
50-year-old roadway say it is running out of ways to make needed improvements
and accommodate traffic counts that are expected to double by 2030.
Opponents say the state should tap
into some of a projected $1 billion surplus to replenish the state’s Highway
Trust Fund for making upgrades. The fund is raided annually to cover budget
shortfalls, NBC17 reported.
Others say a toll is just a tax on
drivers who already pay their dues at the fuel pump.
At a forum May 8, some elected
officials and business people from communities along the 182-mile route told NCDOT
officials that drivers would go out of their way to avoid tolls, The
Fayetteville Observer. They said that would hurt businesses along the
interstate, cut into anticipated toll revenues and lead to a large number of
vehicles diverting to nearby secondary roads.