Virginia lawmakers hit the brakes on I-81 tolling plan

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Virginia legislators are seemingly backpedaling on legislation that would have instituted tolls on I-81 through the state – at least for now.

On Thursday, Jan. 31, the Virginia House and Senate each submitted substitute bills to replace the bills introduced on Jan. 15. The new bills make no mention of tolling to fund improvements to the 325-mile stretch of interstate, but a committee established by the bills could still choose tolling as the best way to generate funds for improving I-81.

The first set of bills called for tolls on Class 6 and higher trucks of 17 cents-per-mile, at most, for a one-way maximum fee of $55.25 to cross the entirety of the state on I-81. Tolls for Class 5 and smaller vehicles would have been capped at 11 cents-per-mile, or two-thirds of the rate for heavy trucks.

The new bills would instead direct the Commonwealth Transportation Board to establish an Interstate 81 Committee to provide advice and recommendations to the board.

The bills direct the committee to review the I-81 Corridor Improvement Plan adopted in December as it relates to funding options and to report back to the governor and General Assembly by Dec. 15, 2019, with funding recommendations. Part of the committee’s review of funding options would include conducting regional public meetings and seeking input from the public and stakeholder organizations.

The legislation introduced Jan. 15 was met with opposition from trucking industry stakeholders, such as the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the American Trucking Associations. ATA threatened legal action against the state if the bills were passed as first introduced.