A leading state lawmaker in Virginia has filed a bill to create a
regional transportation authority with the power to levy tolls to pay for
roadwork and upgrades on all major bridges and tunnels in Hampton Roads.
Another measure calls for a mix of tolls and fees to pay for needed work.
Sponsored by House Transportation Committee Chairman Leo Wardrup, R-Virginia Beach, the transportation authority bill also would allow for tolls on existing
roads, bridges and tunnels. The bill – HB5091 – is expected to be considered by
lawmakers in a special session on transportation that starts Monday, Sept. 27.
Wardrup’s effort is similar to a bill that failed earlier this year
after the House removed the proposed authority’s ability to collect tolls. However,
the latest effort could fare better with the recent endorsement of House
Speaker William Howell.
Howell, R-Stafford, has gone as far as to predict the bill’s passage in
“I think tolls are defensible if you’re using them to build and improve
facilities that directly help the people who are paying them,” Howell told The Virginian-Pilot.
Despite the wave of support, delegates said the idea of a tolling
authority remains controversial. Others said authorizing tolls to be placed on
existing roadways would be very difficult to pull off.
Wardrup said the intention of his bill is to allow tolls on existing
roads to pay for repairs to that road or to others nearby.
Another bill – HB5072 – expected to draw consideration during the
special session would allow for a mix of tolls and fees to pay for the region’s
The bill’s sponsor, Delegate Chris Jones, R-Suffolk, said tolls alone
cannot be relied on to pay for the region’s top-priority transportation
“I support the concept of the regional authority, but there must be a
sustainable, dedicated source of revenue for it to work,” Jones told The Virginian-Pilot.
The additional fees would include a $25 per axle fee for trucks and a
$20 fee on trailers.
House leaders, including Wardrup, have repeatedly said they are not in
favor of tax increases to pay for roads. Higher fees also are expected to be a
Instead, the Republican-led chamber has indicated they would rather use
funds now earmarked for other programs to pay for transportation.
With that in mind, Wardrup has offered a bill – HB5092 – that would
spend $339 million from last year’s budget surplus on specific projects.
Another bill, HB5082, would send a larger portion of revenues – about $60
million annually – from a state tax on real estate transfers for