Tolls it must be

Published 9:15 am Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Few issues facing Virginia are more pressing than the need to fund vital transportation projects.

New infrastructure projects, such as the construction of the new 460, are vital to improving the flow of traffic and effectively move the untold thousands of containers that will soon be traveling to and from the ports in Hampton Roads.

Transportation in Virginia, more specifically the funding of transportation, for years has been a political can that has been kicked down the proverbial road by lawmakers in Richmond. We have reached the point where the can has run out of road, and solutions for funding road, bridge and tunnel projects must be agreed upon.

The economic future of Virginia, and the obvious importance of the ports to the future of Hampton Roads, demand immediate action.

We are not fans of tolls. We are also not fans of raising the gas tax. Yet the state requires major upgrades in infrastructure that can only come from an increase in revenue, and imposing one of these two types of user fees is the only viable solution.

Both an increase in the gas tax and tolls are fair assessments in that they proportionally impact those who use our roads the most, as well as collecting revenue from out-of-state drivers traveling our highways.

Democrats have long pushed for an increase in the gas tax, but can’t get it done. Republicans, many of whom acknowledge privately that a gas tax increase would be appropriate, fear the backlash from their anti-tax constituents.

Lack of political muscle from one party and political backbone from the other leaves few options.

If the only two choices left on the table are to either enact tolls or leave transportation projects unfunded, then we reluctantly say tolls it must be.