Author: Attorney David M. Williams, Jr.
On September 19, 2011, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell announced that the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has authorized the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to move forward with the Governor’s plan to toll I-95. Although there are a number of turnpikes, and other roads, that charge motorists, the interstate system has been largely free of tolls since its birth. This has left many Virginians asking how? why? where? and when?… can I-95 be tolled.
The Transportation Equity Act for the 21stCentury (TEA-21) is federal legislation governing transportation programs for highways, highway safety and transit. TEA-21 includes the Interstate Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Pilot Program that allows up to three existing U.S. Interstate facilities to qualify for tolling to fund needed reconstruction on Interstate highway corridors that could not otherwise be adequately maintained or improved without toll collection. The three “slots” for this program must be maintained in different states.
Secretary of Transportation Sean T. Connaughton, at the request of Governor McDonnell, submitted Virginia’s proposal to toll I-95 in April 2010. VDOT followed by submitting a formal expression of interest in January 2011. Now, Virginia is looking to join Missouri in planning to charge drivers for the use of an existing interstate.
Money is needed to fund improvements on an aging corridor that is obviously critical to Virginia’s economic health.
Governor McDonnell said: I-95 is one of the most important and heavily traveled highway corridors in the country, linking population and commercial centers up and down the East Coast. Limited funds and growing capital and maintenance needs have led to deficient pavements and structures, congestion, higher crash density and safety concerns. This approval is a major step toward funding critical capacity and infrastructure improvements needed in this corridor. The Commonwealth cannot continue to be a leader in economic development and job creation if we do not address our transportation needs. Earlier this year, the General Assembly passed my transportation plan setting the framework for investing $4 billion in our transportation network over the next three years. The ability to toll I-95 will help leverage this investment by funding transportation improvement in this vital corridor.
VDOT estimates it could generate $250 million over the first five years of the toll program and over $50 million annually thereafter.The Governor sees these toll revenues as the best way to fund reconstruction, rehabilitation, capacity expansion, and safety improvements on Virginia’s stretch of I-95.
The exact location of tolls is unknown but the administration is looking at a 126 mile stretch of the interstate from the Fredericksburg area to the North Carolina border.
It is estimated that it could take up to two years to get the program in place. The FHWA approval is conditional and it simply reserves a “slot” for Virginia to further develop its plan to toll I-95 and submit a detailed plan to gain final approval. The FHWA has outlined several steps Virginia must take to move forward including providing the following information:
- The specific short-term improvements Virginia will implement via the toll revenues and why these particular improvements were selected;
- A more detailed, specific explanation of how this request will support the creation of new capacity on the facility.
- How VDOT will address the issue of maintenance of effort on the tolled portion of I-95; and
- Where the tolls will be collected and why VDOT selected these particular locations for toll collection sites.
So while there is much work to be done, this preliminary permission from the Federal Government is indeed a “major step forward” for Governor McDonnell’s tolling project.
About the Author: Fredericksburg car accident lawyer David M. Williams, Jr. is an expert in the litigation and resolution of car accident claims, wrongful death, medical malpractice and products liability cases. David has successfully argued multiple cases before the Virginia Supreme Court in more than 15 years of experience with personal injury law.