The Virginia Department of Transportation has its sights on slapping an extra tax on Interstate 95 in Sussex County near the North Carolina border. State officials filed an application with the Federal Highway Administration on Tuesday, Aug. 28, seeking entry into a pilot program that allows a small number of existing interstates to become toll roads.
Under the plan, VDOT would place a tolling location between mileposts 20 and 24 in Sussex County, and place “ramp tolls” at eight separate locations. The ramp tolls would, if approved, act to discourage truckers from exiting the toll road to seek a toll-free alternative route.
“It’s going to be a huge tax on mobility, especially for truckers delivering goods and keeping the economy moving in the state of Virginia,” said Ryan Bowley, director of legislative affairs for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. OOIDA opposes the conversion of existing highways into toll roads, saying it amounts to a double tax on the user.
“Truckers and motorists have been paying fuel taxes to fund I-95 in Virginia,” Bowley said. “The question truckers have is, where did that investment go?”
Virginia officials say 72 percent of the mainline pavement on I-95 is in need of maintenance and that 67 percent of the highway is going to be under-capacity by 2035. The state is hoping for an answer from the FHWA by Sept. 21, according to the application.
“VDOT is asking for a green light from the U.S. DOT to put tolls on I-95 in perpetuity, even after improvements are made,” Bowley points out.
“Once again, truckers and other motorists are being asked to pay for the chronic mismanagement of a critical national infrastructure link by a state department of transportation.”
Truckers can call their federal lawmakers and ask them to weigh in with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood about how tolls affect small businesses and the men and women who rely on trucking for their household income.
“By and large, tolls come directly out of the pocketbook and the family incomes of truckers, especially small-business truckers,” Bowley said.
A separate group called Keep I-95 Toll Free, consisting of 15 city and county government and backed financially by Natso and the Virginia affiliate of the American Trucking Associations, launched an anti-toll campaign last week.
“This project is moving forward under the veil of darkness, and light needs to be brought to the negative consequences that tolling I-95 will have,” group member and Sussex County Board of Supervisors Chairman Rufus Taylor said in a statement.
See related story:
Communities join truckers against I-95 tolls in Virginia
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