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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.