Tolls Bad for Business

New details continue to emerge in Virginia about plans to toll Interstate-95 under a Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) pilot program.

But as Virginia considers how best to grease its own pockets, the state is ignoring the ill effects that tolls will rain down on businesses operating along the interstate.

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) said recently in public meetings that it is currently seeking to install one tolling collection site in Sussex County between exits 20 and 24. VDOT said the state thinks it can generate $155 million in tolls in the first six years by charging $4 for cars and about $12 for trucks. To mitigate toll diversion, the state said it plans to add additional toll booths at exits 17, 20, 24, and 31. VDOT said it would charge $2 for cars, and about $6 for trucks both exiting and entering the I-95 corridor.

Virginia’s Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) met last week in Richmond to discuss VDOT’s plan.

Virginia lawmakers should take note that tolling interstates makes it less attractive for highway users to exit the interstate and patronize the businesses that create a local tax base for communities and employ Virginia residents.

And as a significant number of drivers divert onto secondary roads to avoid the tolls, businesses that invested top dollar for their properties based on proximity to the highway will see big declines in sales.

As interstate businesses take a hit on business, it ultimately hurts local governments, too, which depend on their tax revenues.

Virginia should abandon its plan to toll Interstate-95 and instead focus on helping private businesses thrive.

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