Truckers urged to speak out against I-95 toll plan in North Carolina

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 1/25/2012

A heads up for truckers in North Carolina, the state DOT is proposing to rebuild Interstate 95 and use tolls to pay for it. The plan will cost billions and be done in phases. The public has an opportunity to comment during a series of public meetings in February. OOIDA leadership is urging members to let officials know truckers and their customers reject double taxation on I-95.

“This is going to have a bottom-line impact on their way of life with the addition of tolls,” said Ryan Bowley, OOIDA director of legislative affairs.

“Obviously the DOT is going to cater these meetings for residents of North Carolina, but even if you’re an out-of-state trucker and you’re in the area of where these meetings are taking place, try to go to one.”

The I-95 corridor from Maine to Florida is crucial to freight movement along the East Coast. Parts of I-95 were tolled prior to a federal moratorium on tolled interstates. A limited number of interstates can become toll roads through pilot programs administered by the Federal Highway Administration, but no state has made the conversion to date.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation is attempting to obtain one of the slots in the tolling program. According to the agency’s preferred design for I-95, the roadway would be widened and reconstructed in phases using tolls. The agency plans to use all-electronic toll collection including an option that would take photos of license plates and issue invoices by mail to vehicle owners.

Bowley says truckers pay their fair share to use federal interstates only to be asked to pay more in tolls.

“I think it’s important that officials understand that their decision to toll an interstate doesn’t just affect that state alone. It’s called an interstate for a reason,” Bowley said. “If the federal government, when they first implemented the system, wanted that system of roads, they would have set it up that way. But they didn’t. They set it up to be funded by the fuel tax.”

Trucking accounts for 30-40 percent of the federal Highway Trust Fund.

NCDOT has scheduled seven public meetings scheduled to discuss the I-95 Corridor Planning and Finance Study. Each of the meetings is from 4 to 7 p.m. as follows:

  • Tuesday, Feb. 7 at Robeson Community College, BB&T Room of the Workforce Development Center Building No. 1, 5160 N. Fayetteville Road, Lumberton, NC 28360
  • Monday, Feb. 13 at Halifax Community College, Centre Gallery, 200 College Drive, Weldon, NC 27890
  • Thursday, Feb. 16 at City of Rocky Mount, Imperial Centre Studio Theatre, 270 Gay Street, Rocky Mount, NC 27804
  • Monday, Feb. 20 at Johnston Community College, Paul A. Johnston Auditorium Lobby, 245 College Road, Smithfield, NC 27577
  • Tuesday, Feb. 21 at Bill Ellis Convention Center, 2904 Forest Hills Road, Wilson, NC 27893
  • Thursday, Feb. 23 at Dunn Community Center, 205 Jackson Road, Dunn, NC 28334
  • Monday, Feb. 27 at Double Tree by Hilton Hotel–Fayetteville, Grand Ballroom, 1965 Cedar Creek Road, Fayetteville, NC 2831

North Carolina isn’t the only state talking about tolls on I-95. Virginia has won preliminary approval from the Federal Highway Administration to rebuild its portion of I-95 using tolls. Other states in the corridor have also expressed interest.

“If the next highway bill opens up additional slots within the tolling program, we’re going to see all the I-95 states trying to get in on it,” Bowley says.

“If I-95 is so important to the economy, which it is, then why hasn’t it been a priority before now?” Bowley asks. “The only time it seems they make it a priority is when there’s an opportunity to take money out of truckers’ pockets. Truckers should not have to pay for decades of mismanagement by state DOTs.”

Truckers making pickups or deliveries in North Carolina should share their toll concerns with their customers, Bowley says.

“Make sure you talk about this and how it will affect their businesses,” he said.

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