RICHMOND, VA – Without any announcement to the public, last Friday the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) quietly submitted its application to toll Interstate 95 (I-95) to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The Governor’s view that tolling I-95 is the long-term solution to Virginia’s transportation funding needs is clearly misinformed. The application explains that, “It is VDOT’s intent to continue collecting tolls on I-95 in perpetuity...” (pg.26) This step comes in the wake of growing opposition from localities, economic and planning organizations, businesses and business associations, public safety organizations and thousands of individuals throughout the I-95 corridor who have formally opposed the Governor’s plan to toll I-95.
“The Governor has moved forward with this proposal with a complete lack of public input. He has requested approval without hearing from the people that it would affect the most. The Governor is trying to ram this through without fully understanding the consequences on the Commonwealth as a whole. His administration has said that this is just the first step and that other tolls could be added up and down I-95. We need to put an end to it now,” said Peggy Wiley, Chairwoman of the Greensville County Board of Supervisors.
VDOT expects a response to the application from the FHWA by September 21, and local officials are encouraging people to get involved. “This project is moving forward under the veil of darkness, and light needs to be brought to the negative consequences that tolling I-95 will have. This is a very serious matter. There are far too many questions that remain unanswered, and the Governor seems unwilling to hear them thus far. I would encourage all of those concerned to join the campaign in opposition to tolls on I-95 by visiting www.virginiatollfree95.com to sign the petition and get involved,” commented Sussex County Board of Supervisors Chairman, Rufus Tyler.
“It is shocking that in the face of such widespread opposition to the Governor’s proposal to toll I-95, he has not listened to those who he was elected to represent. My small, family-run business will suffer tremendously if tolls are imposed on I-95. It is bad public policy, bad for business and bad for the Commonwealth,” said Rex Davis, President of Davis Oil Co, Inc. and Davis Travel Centers. “There is nothing about the I-95 toll plan that makes sense, and the application submitted by the Governor actually affirms many of the reasons that people oppose the I-95 toll plan.”
In the application, VDOT admits that cars and trucks will divert onto secondary roads, increasing congestion and safety risks in local communities. The application notes that, “At the proposed toll rate, the traffic capture rate is estimated to be approximately 60% to 65% in the first five years. This means that 35% to 40% of traffic would find alternative local or regional modes of transportation, or choose not to travel.” (pg. 41)
The application highlights the inefficiency of collecting tolls, stating that toll collection would waste millions of taxpayer dollars in constructing and operating the toll plazas instead of funding road improvements. The application to the FHWA indicates that $95 million, or approximately 38% of revenue, collected in the first six years would go towards the construction and maintenance of the tolling facility. (pg. 36)
The application acknowledges that the proposed toll location places an unfair burden on families in Sussex County and neighboring counties, who can least afford tolls. It confirms the current economic struggles facing localities where the toll would be located, stating, “Sussex County and the City of Emporia have some of the highest overall proportions of low-income persons and minorities...” (pg. 38)
A growing number of localities, elected officials, industries, businesses and individuals are calling on the Governor to withdraw the application immediately. A grassroots campaign in opposition to the toll plan has taken shape. Almost 3,000 individuals have signed an online petition in opposition at www.virginiatollfree95.com, and 17 localities, seven business associations and four economic and planning organizations have passed resolutions in opposition to the Governor’s plan to toll I-95.