Proposed I-95 tolls will affect some area motorists

Published 11:37 am Wednesday, July 11, 2012

EMPORIA—Mona Murphy spends $100 a week to drive 156-miles roundtrip daily to Richmond for work. She doesn’t want to spend another $40.

It appears Murphy will be spared under a proposal that calls for charging $4 tolls on Interstate 95 north of Emporia.

Five days a week, she takes Route 35 to I-95 to get to her job at the Defense Supply Center; the interstate exit is north of the proposed tollbooth.

Either way, the 59-year-old Franklin City Councilwoman doesn’t favor new tolls.

“I think it’s awful,” she said. “With the economy and everything that is going on… there are a lot of people that drive that route who make less than I do and it’s hard for me.”

Western Tidewater residents who take Route 58 to Interstate 95 and want to head toward Richmond will have to pay the toll if the proposal is approved, said Mike Estes, director of strategic initiatives for the Virginia Department of Transportation in Richmond.

Anyone who takes Route 35 or Route 460 to I-95 and heads south into North Carolina also would have to pay the toll.

The state is recommending one main toll collector at $4 for cars and $12 for large trucks — plus $2 tolls for cars or $6 for trucks at four nearby exit/entrance ramps, two on each side of the main toll, to discourage drivers from seeking free routes.

Virginia and North Carolina received conditional federal approval to toll the interstate to pay for pavement and safety improvements, Estes said.

Virginia highway officials expect to collect $35 million to $40 million annually for six years to help fill a $9.6 billion funding gap projected over the next 25 years, he said.

The state plan must still win final approval.

Tolling could begin next year.

Will Drewery, a 911 emergency dispatcher in Richmond, also takes Route 35 from his home in Franklin. He drives 138 miles roundtrip when scheduled for a 12-hour shift.

Assuming Drewery would have to pay the toll, he would begin taking Route 460.

The 23-year-old figures the extra 10 miles of driving will cost less than paying a toll.