Are tolls on the way for I-95?

Published 8:25 am Friday, July 2, 2010

RICHMOND—The Virginia Department of Transportation has released a preliminary list of projects along Interstate 95 that could be funded if Gov. Bob McDonnell’s proposal to enact tolls on the highway near the North Carolina border is approved.

Cash-strapped VDOT estimates the tolls could generate $30 to $60 million in revenue annually, if tolls are set at $1 to $2 per axle.

“Such user fees will help the Commonwealth generate the revenue necessary to make much needed infrastructure and safety improvements in the I-95 corridor to better serve the traveling public and increase economic productivity,” McDonnell said in May.

VDOT spokesman Jeff Caldwell said about 38,000 vehicles travel I-95 at the North Carolina border daily.

“We’re still in the very early stages of this,” Caldwell said, adding that any tolling on the interstate requires federal approval. He said the state plans to submit its application to federal transportation officials by the end of this year.

The preliminary list of possible toll-funded projects includes $59.3 million to upgrade existing assets, like guardrails and overhead structures; $63.7 million for additional safety features, including shoulder widening and new and improved median barriers; and $53 million for interchange modifications for safety.

The state currently has the authority to toll I-81, but wants to switch that authority to I-95.

If tolls were approved for the highway, it wouldn’t be the first time drivers have had to pay to use I-95 in Virginia. Caldwell said a portion of I-95 in the Richmond area was tolled until the early 1990s.