Following Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s proposal on Monday, Sept. 19, for tolling Interstate 95, the American Trucking Associations wasted little time in rebutting the plan, saying it would harm the state, as well as the nation’s economy, more than help repair the corridor.
“While it is true that I-95 is one of the ‘most important and heavily traveled highway corridors in the country,’ as Governor McDonnell says, there are far more expeditious and efficient ways of raising revenue for its upkeep than tolls,” said Bill Graves, ATA president and chief executive officer. “Study after study shows that tolls carry astronomically higher capital and overhead expenditures compared to the fuel tax.”
Graves said raising the fuel tax provides revenue immediately rather than over several years like tolling. “And it doesn’t require upfront investment to build a government bureaucracy to collect it,” Graves said. “While many see tolling as a way to avoid raising taxes, tolls certainly are taxes, and imposing them is certainly not a conservative way to finance highways.”
In addition to the financing inequity, Graves said imposing tolls only would drive trucks off onto smaller secondary roads that aren’t designed to handle the increased traffic. “The Interstate Highway System was designed to promote the free flow of goods across our country,” he said. “Setting up toll booths at our borders and near our cities will restrict those goods and harm our economy.”
Proposals like this one, Graves said, are a symptom of the problems the federal government has had in passing a long-term highway bill. “As a former governor, I know that when Washington abdicates its responsibility, states must step up to fill the void,” he said. “If President Obama and Congress were serious about creating jobs and improving our roads and bridges, they would quickly pass a long-term well-funded transportation bill focused on critical corridors like I-95.”