I-95 tolls headed your way

The ride to Richmond is not such a teeth-chattering event anymore. With VDOTs contract to add a smooth layer of asphalt to the potholed surface, most will agree the ride is more enjoyable.

But someone has to pay for the nice new ride. Mike Estes, the Commissioner’s Director of Strategic Initiatives for VDOT, presented the state transportation department’s proposals related to instituting a toll for those improvements to Interstate 95. Estes told the Chesterfield Board of Supervisors, June 27, that the highway that began carrying traffic in the 1950s, the Richmond-Petersburg Turnpike, is one of the first sections added to the interstate system, as the concrete slab marched south through the Commonwealth.

Estes told the board the Interstate 95 serves 45 percent of Virginia’s population and links 1.7 million jobs.

But he said it has its problems. It will cost some $12.1 billion over the next 25 years to maintain and bring up-to-date the road’s crumpling infrastructure with 80 percent of the bridges over 40 years old; 72 percent of the pavement is need of maintenance; 67 percent of the highway will be over capacity by 2035 and there will be a 40 percent increase in travel time during that same time period.

Estes said that between the cost to do the repairs and replacements needed and the current funding projected, there is a shortfall of $9.6 billion.

The Federal government allows states to toll interstates even though they must give the state permission to do so. The offices of the Richmond-Petersburg Turnpike toll road still stand at the Interstate 95/Route 10 south interchange. In September last year the Feds granted Virginia provisional approval to  toll travelers on Virginia’s north-south traffic corridor.

The revenue for the maintenance needed would be taken from the toll collections.

Community outreach began in February 2012 with local governments and regional planning organizations. Truckers and chambers of commerce got a look at the tolling proposal last month and the general public will be able to see the plans this fall.

If VDOT covers its entire shortfall they must build toll facilities just north of Richmond and just south of Petersburg. The user would have to pay $.53 per mile. If VDOT decides to collect tolls at six points, the rate would be reduced to $.27 per mile and if they go with a closed system, collecting by the mile, the rate would be $.14 per mile.

The way the toll could be collected would run the spectrum from collecting from those just traveling north and south to collecting from anyone who enters the interstate.

An agreement between the Federal Highway System and VDOT could be reached by the end of this year.

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