Proposed 460 tolls are nutty

Published 7:59 am Friday, November 5, 2010

We appreciate Gov. Bob McDonnell’s enthusiasm for a new Route 460 through Southampton and Isle of Wight counties and the economic development that a new highway would likely bring to the region.

The project should not go forward at any cost, however.

Current proposals to fund the highway through a public-private partnership call for ridiculous one-way user tolls of up to $11 for cars and $22 for trucks. Even at those rates, the private partners are likely to demand financial guarantees from the state in the event that tolls don’t cover the cost of building and maintaining the Suffolk-to-Petersburg road.

That is a flawed formula and almost certain to negatively affect the taxpayers of the Commonwealth in the long run.

If state lawmakers are serious about fixing Virginia’s crumbling highway system, much less building new roads such as McDonnell’s proposed limited-access Route 460, they should bite the bullet and raise the state’s comparatively low gasoline tax to pay for it.

Virginia’s current gas tax of 19.5 cents per gallon is among the 10 lowest in the nation.

We’d rather pay a few more cents every time we fill up, drive on first-rate highways, bridges and tunnels throughout the state, and alleviate the need for outrageous tolls. Taxpayers are going to have to pony up either way. Under the plans currently being considered, even those citizens who don’t use the toll roads will help pick up the tab of subsidizing the developers who built them.