Virginia lawmakers send Interstate 81 tolling bill to governor

| 3/5/2008

A bill nearing passage in the Virginia statehouse is intended to give state legislators more power over whether truckers and other drivers are charged tolls for using Interstate 81 in the state. Another bill would repeal Virginia law that allows a toll plaza to be placed on Interstate 95 at the border with North Carolina.

The state’s House voted 93-5 to sign off on Senate changes to a bill that would require the General Assembly to authorize putting tolls on Interstate 81. The measure – HB1516 – now moves to Gov. Tim Kaine’s desk.

Sponsored by Delegate Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock, the bill was offered in response to the Virginia Department of Transportation’s recommendation to widen the 323-mile roadway that runs through southwest Virginia and possibly charge tolls.

Advocates say the bill is needed to make sure the decision to place tolls on I-81 is not made by an unelected board. It also would give communities along the I-81 corridor a voice in the expansion of the interstate.

Another bill on its way to the governor’s desk would revoke a 2-year-old law that authorizes VDOT to partner with North Carolina to erect a toll plaza along I-95 at the state’s border.

Virginia law requires the North Carolina General Assembly also to approve the same measure. It would need final approval from Congress.

According to an impact statement, tolls could generate $50 million to $60 million annually for each state. Tolls for cars would be $5 with a higher fee for large trucks.

Revenues would be split evenly between the two states.

Sponsored by Delegate Steve Landes, R-Weyers Cave, the bill – HB84 – would void Virginia law in reaction to failure by North Carolina lawmakers to enact a similar compact.

Two anti-tolling bills failed to advance to the governor’s desk.

The first bill – HB405 – sought to prohibit enacting tolls along Interstate 64 between the state Route 143 interchange in Newport News and the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel and Interstate 664 between I-64 and the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel.

The second bill – HB135 – called for prohibiting the designation of high-occupancy toll lanes on any portion of I-95 between the Potomac River and Fredericksburg.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Virginia in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor