VDOT says more tolls may be coming

Look for tolls to become more common. Virginia\'s state-maintained highway system is the nation\'s third largest at 126,187 miles. It includes 11,848 VDOT-maintained bridges. (WTOP/Dave Dildine)

Michelle Basch, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – No driver likes paying a toll, but more may be coming in part of the Washington region.

Virginia’s 17.5-cents-a-gallon gas tax is a crucial source of transportation funding. But there’s a problem with that says Virginia Department of Transportation’s Greg Whirley, the commissioner of highways.

“People are traveling more, but the revenue is trailing down. That’s because cars are more fuel efficient,” he says.

On top of that, fixing and building roads is getting more expensive.

“Since 2002, our asphalt prices have increased 350 percent,” says Whirley.

Money for roads is so hard to find in Virginia that for years, VDOT has been taking money out of its construction fund to pay for maintenance.

“It costs us more to maintain our roads, and the usage of our roads is going up which means more repair, but revenue is falling. That’s the issue. That’s the problem that we face. We need long term sustainable revenue to address this,” says Whirley.

“Our construction program now is largely federal. There’s no state money into that. That’s why we have suspended the formula that we have to distribute money to the localities. It’s not there.”

When it comes to transportation funding, Whirley expects the Commonwealth to reach what he calls a “fiscal cliff,” in about two years.

To help generate money, VDOT plans to use tolls more often to pay for future projects.

Plans are in the works to start charging tolls in both directions on part of Interstate 95 near the North Carolina border, but they’re not final yet.

“We’ve gotten conditional provisional approval to toll 95, which is another funding source that we are examining. We’ve submitted our final application, and we’re waiting for approval of that. Hopefully that will come within the next few weeks or before the end of this year,” says Whirley.

Whirley spoke last week at a seminar hosted by the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance. Bullet points and charts from Whirley’s presentation are available in PDF.

More about the plan to start charging tolls on I-95 near the North Carolina line is available here.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)


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