Shock or Yawn? Virginia’s GOP Governor Backs Highway User Fees

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), who has won over many conservatives by reviving the state's recognition of Confederate History Month and attempting to declare the White House health care bill invalid within its borders, today proposed to add tolls to Interstate 95 along the North Carolina border.

6a00d8341c630a53ef0120a621ca48970b_600wi.jpgGov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) (Photo: LAT)
McDonnell announced that he has asked Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to apply Virginia's clearance to levy user fees on Interstate 81, first okayed in 2003, to Interstate 95 instead. Federal law currently requires that the U.S. DOT approve any request to toll existing interstates -- a complicated process that Pennsylvania's Democratic administration recently failed to complete for the third time.

"After a careful review of the Commonwealth [of Virginia]'s transportation needs, I believe the ability to toll Interstate 95 at the border will quickly enable the Commonwealth to begin addressing some of our greatest areas of concern," McDonnell said in a statement on his move.

"Such user fees will help the Commonwealth generate the revenue necessary to make much needed infrastructure and safety improvements in the I-95 corridor to better serve the traveling public and increase economic productivity." 

The state DOT has estimated that setting I-95 toll rates between $1 and $2 per vehicle axle would yield between $30 million and $60 million annually. All of the revenue would be used for roadway improvements, McDonnell's office said today, with safety and pavement upgrades taking first priority.

Eventually, according to the governor's statement, toll revenues could be used to add roadway capacity along the I-95 corridor.

McDonnell began his first year in office by declining to seek an immediate solution to Virginia's transportation budget shortfall, which has swelled even as residents of the state's denser, northern region grapple with intense road congestion. Last month, however, his administration took steps to raise money for a new transit line by selling about $500 million in transportation bonds.