The Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates, of which NATSO is a founding member, on June 14 urged Virginia’s Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) to exclude recommendations for tolls from its upcoming I-81 Corridor Improvement Plan, which is due to the Virginia General Assembly later this year.
In formal testimony submitted to the CTB, ATFI argued that imposing tolls on commercial trucks that use existing lanes on I-81 will increase shipping costs for goods, suppress consumer activity, waste revenues on bureaucratic administration, double-tax businesses, divert traffic onto local roads, and negatively impact residents and communities located around toll facilities.
Senate Bill 971 directed Virginia’s Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment, Department of Transportation and Department of Rail and Public Transportation to complete an I-81 Corridor Improvement Plan. Introduced by state Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham), SB 971 commissioned the study to chart future improvements for the route and identify possible funding sources. The law charges the CTB and the Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment to study the feasibility of truck tolls along I-81.
ATFI’s testimony was submitted in response to a series of public meetings that sought to solicit community, industry and stakeholder feedback concerning tolls on I-81. Four initial meetings were held over the weeks of June 4 and 11, and two more series of meetings are planned for late summer (dates yet to be announced). A draft plan report is planned for the fall, and the CTB plans to report findings to the General Assembly in December, prior to the opening of Session in January 2019.
ATFI’s testimony makes the case that tolls will hurt Virginian families, communities and businesses alike. “The western part of Virginia, especially Southwest Virginia, is facing an economic crisis and a demographic crisis. We need to make it easier for businesses to succeed, not harder. We need more opportunities in order for more people to relocate here and lift the region’s economy,” said ATFI. “State and local officials have spent years working on plans to promote growth and opportunity here; tolls would undercut all of those efforts and hamstring future progress.”
Any Virginia resident or organization can submit testimony to VA81CorridorPlan@OIPI.Virginia.gov. The first comment period will end August 6, 2018. ATFI and NATSO will continue to monitor the situation in Virginia and actively work to oppose new tolls on I-81. Please contact David Fialkov or Tiffany Wlazlowski Neuman if you would like help coordinating public comment on behalf of your organization. More information about the study is available at www.VA81Corridor.org.
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