Report calls for $68 truck toll on I-95 in North Carolina

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 5/14/2013

Trucks could someday pay $68 in tolls to run I-95 in North Carolina according to an economic assessment of the corridor prepared by a private firm for the state DOT. The public still has two chances to weigh in on the subject during a pair of public meetings early next week.

According to the assessment by Cambridge Systematics, tolls would be collected every 10 miles along the 182-mile corridor, not every 20 miles as initially proposed, to pay for reconstruction and widening. The reason for 10-mile increments is to provide localized toll discounts, according to the document.

Truck tolls would range from $1.43 to $5.24 at each of the 18 proposed tolling locations. The maximum full-length toll adds up to $68.14.

Cars would pay between 51 cents and $1.87 per tolling location depending on local discounts. The most a car would pay for a full-length trip would be $24.

According to a 2012 financial report, the North Carolina Department of Transportation hopes to generate about $16 billion from tolls over the next 40 years to cover the initial $4.4 billion reconstruction cost and up to $12 billion in ongoing maintenance.

The same report says I-95 users could end up paying $30 billion in tolls during that time frame to cover the $16 billion costs.

In early 2012, the Federal Highway Administration granted conditional preliminary approval for I-95 to enter a pilot program that allows a small number of interstates to be tolled. Although the pilot program has existed since 1998, no state has achieved full approval to toll an existing interstate.

The No Tolls on I-95 Coalition, chaired by businessman Ernie Brame, is among those trying to keep the corridor toll-free in a state that already has the fifth highest tax rate for motor fuels.

“I see this as a fight for survival,” said Brame, general manager of the Kenly 95 truck stop, part of the Iowa 80 Group.

“My motor fuels tax has gone to improve every highway in the state,” he said. “They’ve built connectors, they’ve improved I-40 and I-44. … Now it’s time to improve I-95, and they don’t have any money. That doesn’t fly with me.”

Two public meetings remain on NCDOT’s schedule. Each of the meetings is from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. as follows:

  • Monday, May 20, Robeson Community College, Workforce Development Center/BB&T Conference Room, 5160 N. Fayetteville Road, Lumberton NC 28360
  • Tuesday, May 21, Halifax Community College, The Centre (Gallery), 200 College Drive, Weldon NC 27890

One condition of the Federal Highway Administration’s pilot program is that 100 percent of the toll proceeds must remain with the highway being tolled. That’s a condition that Pennsylvania officials could not satisfy when they applied to toll I-80 there.

Grassroots opposition was strong in Pennsylvania, and it is strong in North Carolina.

The No Tolls on I-95 Coalition, for example, currently has 5,500 names on its online petition and has a billboard asking the public to join the fight.

A bill in the North Carolina House, HB267, which has 21 cosponsors and received unanimous support in committee, would limit tolling on existing interstates to new lanes only and require the DOT to maintain the same number of toll-free lanes that exist there now.

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