Efforts to toll Interstate 81 in Virginia appear to have been put on hold this legislative session after the Virginia Senate Finance Committee adopted a substitute measure that establishes the Interstate 81 Corridor Improvement Fund but does not identify any funding options for improving Interstate 81.
SB 1716 calls for the funds to improve I-81 to eventually be financed through the recommendations of an Interstate 81 Committee of General Assembly Members, which is tasked with studying various funding sources and receiving public comment throughout the coming year.
Truckstops, travel plazas and a host of businesses that operate along the Interstate had urged Members of the General Assembly and Gov. Northam to reject tolling as a means of funding infrastructure.
Volvo Trucks, which operates its largest manufacturing facility in the world in Dublin, Va., sharply criticized the tolling option stating that manufacturers on I-81 will face a competitive disadvantage if tolls are levied on every shipment they make and receive in their home state.
On Jan. 30 the Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates, of which NATSO is a founding member, testified before a Va. subcommittee that tolling I-81 would have many negative consequences for not only western Virginia, but the whole Commonwealth. Imposing tolls on 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," ATFI testified.
ATFI will continue to voice its opposition to tolls as the Interstate 81 Committee studies funding options to ensure that tolling is not reintroduced in the next legislative session.
Va. Gov. Ralph Northam in early January announced plans to place tolls on existing lanes along Interstate 81 to fund $2.2 billion in improvements to the western Virginia highway after the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) submitted two proposals to the Virginia General Assembly to fund I-81 improvements. The proposals included tolling or a regional tax increase on the sales and use tax of 0.7% and a regional fuel tax increase of 2.1%.
Any tolling plan would require federal approval due to the federal prohibition on tolling existing Interstates funded by federal dollars.
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