North Carolina must find a more efficient and economically beneficial solution to the state’s transportation funding problems other than resurrecting the specter of tolling existing interstates, Ernie Brame, General Manager at Kenly 95 Truckstop in Kenly, N.C., recently wrote in a letter to the News & Observer.
Responding to a March 25 article in which Rep. Leo Daughtry was quoted as saying that “it is easier to pick the pocket of a Yankee than it is to pick cotton,” Brame questioned state transportation leaders for looking to toll existing interstates after North Carolinians, the legislature and the governor rejected the prospect of tolling in 2013.
Brame said tolls put the responsibility of solving the state’s funding problems on all drivers and takes politicians off the hook. Tolling existing interstates also will double tax North Carolinians while overcrowding ancillary roads not meant to handle the traffic and congestion, he said. Brame serves as Chairman of the No Tolls I-95 Coalition.
In 2013, the state legislature passed HB 817, which limited the N.C. Department of Transportation’s ability to toll Interstate 95 without leaving the same number of pre-existing lanes toll-free.
Elected officials have expressed a renewed interest in tolling existing interstates, however, in the wake of the recent passage of the five-year federal highway bill known as the FAST Act. North Carolina holds one of three slots in the federal Interstate Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Pilot Program (ISRRPP). In the FAST Act, Congress included a “use it or lose it” provision on the ISRRPP that requires North Carolina to either implement interstate tolling within a limited timeframe or lose the slot to another state.
In the pilot program’s 17 years, not a single existing interstate has been tolled due to strong public opposition.
Brame said without the ISRRPP in place “our legislators will have to start finding a truly sustainable solution to North Carolina’s transportation funding problems.”
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