As state legislative sessions opened up last week, tolling continues to be an issue in several states despite widespread opposition.
In North Carolina, the No Tolls I-95 Coalition issued a letter to members of the General Assembly opposing the North Carolina Department of Transportation's proposal to toll Interstate 95. The coalition asked that the governor withdraw its tolling application pending at the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
North Carolina, along with Virginia and Missouri, holds a slot in the FHWA pilot program that allows tolling on existing interstates in up to three different states. Last year, grassroots efforts led to the North Carolina General Assembly's passage of a two-year moratorium on any movement toward implementation of the tolling proposal, and Governor Pat McCrory made public statements opposing the tolling project during his campaign this past year. As part of the two-year moratorium, the North Carolina General Assembly directed the DOT to conduct a comprehensive study to determine the economic impact of tolling on residents and businesses along the I-95 corridor. DOT is required to report the results of its study to the 2013 General Assembly by March 1, 2013.
In Virginia, Governor Bob McDonnell unveiled his transportation funding plan that would provide more than $3.1 billion in transportation funding for the Commonwealth over the next five years. As part of the plan, the state would eliminate its 17.5-cent gas tax and replace it with a 0.8 percent increase in the state's sales tax that would be dedicated to transportation. The proposal would make Virginia the first state in the nation to eliminate the state tax on gasoline. The governor would not change the tax on diesel, but he would increase vehicle registration fees and impose new fees on alternative vehicles. NATSO is continuing to review Gov. McDonnell's plan and is working with its coalition partners to form a formal position. So far, McDonnell appears to have the support of the legislature's leadership. While the plan does not mention the state's I-95 tolling proposal, McDonnell continues to pursue the plan to put tolls on the corridor despite opposition from a wide array of people.
While Missouri also holds a slot in the FHWA pilot program, the DOT has not acted to finalize approval. A panel appointed by the Missouri House of representatives to study the state’s transportation needs recently released its final report, stating that Missouri needs an additional $600 million to $1 billion a year to maintain transportation infrastructure. The report outlined several funding options, including tolling. Retired Democratic State Senator Bill McKenna, co-chair of the Blue Ribbon Citizens Committee on Missouri's Transportation Needs, said, "We wanted to lay everything out and let the legislature decide.”
Last year, the Missouri legislature halted the state's Department of Transportation from taking further action to finalize FHWA approval, but NATSO will closely monitor lawmakers' interest in the tolling project as the new legislature gets underway and continue to actively fight tolling proposals in the state.
This article originally ran in NATSO News Weekly (NNW), NATSO's member only weekly electronic newsletter. NNW is packed with the latest updates on government and business issues affecting the truckstop and travel plaza industry.
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