Capital News Service
RICHMOND – A bipartisan group of 10 Virginia House members has sent a letter to the state’s congressional delegation, urging the federal legislators to join in opposing the Virginia Department of Transportation’s plans to charge tolls on Interstate 95.
The letter noted that U.S. Rep. J. Randy Forbes, R-Va., has come out against VDOT’s proposal to impose a $4 toll on personal vehicles and a $12 toll on trucks as they pass through Sussex County in the Tidewater area near North Carolina.
“I commend Congressman Forbes for his outspoken opposition to the plan, and now ask that the entire Virginia Congressional Delegation join in opposition to VDOT’s plan to toll I-95 in Sussex County,” said the letter, which was drafted by Delegate Christopher Peace, R-Hanover.
“We would ask that you communicate your concerns directly to the Federal Highway Administration and encourage them to not approve the plan, and particularly not take any action during the current General Assembly session.”
The letter was co-signed by six Republican delegates – John Cox of Ashland, John O’Bannon of Henrico, Tommy Wright of Victoria, Roxann Robinson of Chesterfield, Gordon Helsel of Poquoson, and Lee Ware of Powhatan.
The letter notes that numerous groups and citizens have expressed opposition to tolling. They include 23 local governments, 15 statewide business associations, five economic and planning authorities, public safety organizations and private businesses, and more than 6,800 individuals.
The document stated that tolls on I-95 would cause 35-40 percent of the interstate’s traffic to divert onto local roads in an attempt to avoid the charges. It also said tolling would cost jobs and hurt businesses in Virginia.
It noted that VDOT has applied to the Federal Highway Administration for approval to put toll booths on I-95 between mile markers 20 and 24 in Sussex County. Fees would also be collected at the exit and entrance ramps before and after the tolling plaza.
“There has been some discussion within VDOT that a toll plaza might be in Caroline’s future,” Cox said. “The citizens of Caroline that commute on I-95 would pay a significant toll tax, and receive less in road maintenance funds in return.”
“The excise tax is paid by everyone that drives a motor vehicle on the highways. The more you drive, the more you pay. And if you don’t use the roads, you don’t pay,” Cox said. “The fuel tax is much more efficient in that the revenue is already being collected by fuel retailers. The state doesn’t have to establish toll plazas, or a bureaucracy to administer the collection of tolls.”
Capital News Service is a student news-gathering program sponsored by the School of Mass Communications at Virginia Commonwealth University.