Archive for August, 2012

Dispute Over I-95 Tolls Heats Up

Friday, August 24th, 2012

The dispute over Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s proposal to toll Interstate 95 near the North Carolina border is getting hotter.

Dozens of local governments, regional governmental and economic development bodies have now voiced opposition to the plan. And just last week, Emporia’s mayor and a city councilman grilled the governor on statewide radio about plans to toll a rural part of the state that is economically struggling.

Emporia Mayor Samuel Adams and Councilman Jim Saunders told McDonnell on WRVA-AM that instead of harming a rural area of the state with tolls, the state could marginally raise the gasoline tax, unchanged at 17½ cents since 1986, to produce more revenue.

“We could raise about $325 million a year, based on numbers I’ve run, versus $30 (million) to $35 million on the tolls,” Saunders said.

The Richmond Times Dispatch (RTD) also came out in opposition to the plan in its recent editorial “Tolls: Mr. Inefficiency.” “The administration is moving forward with a plan to put tolls on I-95 near the North Carolina border,” the Dispatch wrote. “The aim — raising money for transportation — is admirable. The means are not.”

The newspaper also advocated raising the gasoline tax by one penny to generate $50 million a year.

Tolling I-95 Will Further Virginia’s Transportation Problems; Not Solve Them

Friday, August 10th, 2012

In a recent commentary in The Richmond Times-Dispatch, columnist Jeff Schapiro outlines the growing opposition to tolls on I-95.  It’s worth noting that opposition is growing for good reason.  If Governor McDonnell puts tolls on I-95 and continues his efforts to turn Virginia into the “Tolled Dominion” the following will happen:

•    Localities along the I-95 corridor in Virginia will be forced to spend millions of dollars more for local road repairs after 80,000 pound trucks and increased car traffic attempt to avoid the toll and divert from the interstate onto local roads.
•    Those in localities surrounding the toll will face increased safety risks due to the traffic diversion.
•    Those living along I-85, I-81 and 301 should expect to see significantly greater truck and car traffic volumes as a result of tolls on I-95.
•    Businesses along I-95 will be put at a competitive disadvantage compared to competitors along other interstates as a result of this government policy that selects winners and losers.  It will put Virginia’s business-friendly reputation at risk and cost the Commonwealth jobs.
Tolls are taxes plain and simple. Moreover, tolls are the most inefficient method of taxation.  Virginia needs to look at all of their options for collecting revenue for transportation, but tolls on I-95 are an option that lacks common sense.

VDOT has forecasted that 38% of toll revenue collected in the first six years will be lost to pay for construction, maintenance and operations of collection compared to less than 1% collection cost associated with the fuel tax collected at the wholesale level. In other words, when $1 million in toll revenue is collected, $380,000 ends up not going toward transportation improvements. With the fuel tax, however, for every $1 million collected in fuel tax, only $10,000 is lost to administrative costs.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch commentary points in part to more fuel efficient cars as the reason for the infrastructure funding shortage that Virginia is facing; however, the fact that the state excise tax on fuel has failed to keep pace with rising inflation and increased construction costs is a better culprit.  The problem is that the purchasing power of the fuel tax has fallen off considerably. That explains Mr. Schapiro’s comment that Virginia drivers are basically paying a fuel tax that is .08 cents less than it was in 1986. Think of it this way, if someone was to earn a salary in 1986 and that salary had not been adjusted since, the individual’s salary would effectively be much less now than it was in 1986 because the cost of everything else has increased considerably since then.

Raising revenue for transportation is critical to the economic vitality of the Commonwealth, but tolling I-95 will only serve to further Virginia’s transportation problems, not solve them.

Opposition Continues to Grow Against Va. and N.C. I-95 Tolling Plans

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

Opposition continues to grow against the Virginia and North Carolina Departments of Transportation’s plans to toll Interstate 95 as a means of generating revenue for state infrastructure projects.

Va. Gov. Bob McDonnell’s persistence in tolling is galvanizing an increasing number of opponents, according to the Virginia Pilot. And Hanover County and the Town Council of Dumfries, in Northern Virginia, recently joined the fight against the toll plan.

A Virginia Village Voice editorial last week reported that tolling I-95 offers no redeeming qualities for the citizens of Emporia, Greensville or Sussex yet ultimately will deliver “serious negative blows” to local communities. The proposal does not have the approval of any local official, the newspaper said, nor will it create new roadways, leverage unique funding pools or ease commuter congestion.

Those opposed to the tolling plans can voice their opposition by signing the online petition or liking the Virginia and North Carolina Facebook pages.  Already, more than 2,200 people have signed their names against Virginia’s tolling plan.