PETERSBURG - Republican Congressman Randy Forbes has joined a growing group of those opposed to Gov. Bob McDonnell's proposal to place a toll booth on Interstate 95 near the North Carolina border.
Forbes, whose Fourth District includes the I-95 corridor, sent a letter to fellow Republican McDonnell and separate letter to Victor Mendez of the Federal Highway Administration expressing his "strong opposition" to the proposal, according to a statement from the congressman.
"Adding tolling stations will disproportionately burden the citizens of [the] region unable to shoulder additional economic challenges," Forbes wrote. "Many of the communities surrounded by the proposed placement of the toll facility are already identified by the Commonwealth of Virginia as 'economically stressed.'"
Forbes said he has opposed the addition of tolls to the I-95 corridor south of Richmond since 2010.
Forbes said tolls will further distress the Southside Virginia economy and discourage economic growth. He also noted it would place a strain on families traveling in the region.
Initial estimates indicate that Virginia Department of Transportation's toll will cost $4 for cars and $12 for large trucks each time a vehicle passes through a gantry.
To date, the local governments of Emporia, Greensville County and Sussex County have each adopted resolutions in opposition to VDOT's proposed toll plan for I-95. Also, the trucking industry is opposing the proposed tolls, according to a media report. A mulitmedia campaign - including a website called VirginiaTollFree95.com and companion Facebook page - is being coordinated by the National Association of Truck Stop Operators, the American Trucking Association and the Virginia Trucking Association, according to The Virginian-Pilot.
VDOT has said that maintenance and upgrades to I-95 will cost an estimated $12.1 billion over the next 25 years. The state has budgeted about $2.5 billion of the repairs - leaving about $9.6 billion to be filled.
State transportation officials anticipate tolls will raise $35 million to $40 million annually, money that can be reinvested in the highway corridor to help plug the estimated $9.6 billion funding gap over the next 25 years.
Last September, the governor announced that federal highway officials had granted Virginia conditional approval to move ahead with the toll plan. Interstate tolls could begin as early as next year if the state plan wins final approval from the federal government.
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