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McDonnell asks feds to allow tolls on I-95 near N.C. border

Rosalind Helderman

Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has officially asked permission from the federal government to begin collecting tolls near the Virginia-North Carolina border on I-95, writing a letterto U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood on April 20 making the request.

Tolling near the border was an important piece of the transportation funding package floated by McDonnell during last year's campaign for governor. He estimates Virginia could generate $30 million to $60 million a year from tolls on the Interstate, money that could be used to maintain the state's aging road network.

But the proposal illustrates an important fact about McDonnell's transportation funding plan: None of it is easy. To get tolling, McDonnell would have to secure federal approval for switching permission for tolls on I-81, where Virginia already has conditional tolling authority, to I-95 instead. In his April 20 letter, McDonnell argues the state needs revenue from the tolls to provide maintance funds for the highway, freeing up funds for other state roads.

But federal approval is no sure bet--for one thing, officials from North Carolina may well have something to say about the idea.

Meanwhile, McDonnell last week announced the members of his new government efficiency task force, which will examine how to go about selling state-run liquor stores. It will be up to the task force to come up with a way to make a profit off the sale--money that is to go to transportation.

But to make the sale work, they'll have to to convince alcohol-wary Republicans in the General Assembly that privitization won't lead to a liquor store on every corner. And they'll have to find a new taxing scheme for alcohol that will replace the annual revenues the state gets from the stores and still be acceptable to the tax-adverse GOP.

But if those ideas sound hard, they don't compare to the third major leg of McDonnell's campaign funding package: McDonnell proposed using revenue from drilling for oil off Virginia's coastline.

By Rosalind Helderman  |  May 10, 2010; 3:05 PM ET
Categories:  Robert F. McDonnell , Rosalind Helderman , Transportation  
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During my years living in that government labor camp called NOVA, I always believed tolls would solve many traffic headaches. My suggestion was toll booths at all Potomac River crossings into Maryland at 10 bucks a car and then wait to see which state went bankrupt first.

Posted by: slim2 | May 10, 2010 5:24 PM | Report abuse

McDonnell wants this because Virginia's legislature refuses to raise the state's gas tax to pay for highway maintenance and construction.

This proposal would be the equivalent of a 52-cents-a-gallon increase in gas taxes on those who drive the 192 miles of I-95 from Washington, DC, to the North Carolina border.

Posted by: JoelWhitaker | May 10, 2010 7:01 PM | Report abuse

Boob McDonnell is an idiot... nuff said!!!

Posted by: kbees1 | May 10, 2010 7:54 PM | Report abuse

Another tax and blame republican.

Posted by: hhkeller | May 10, 2010 10:16 PM | Report abuse

What are the criteria for allowing a state to impose tolls on an interstate? Surely its something more than 'we need money but we don't have the balls to raise taxes on our own population.'

I can't think of any incentive the Obama administration would have to approve this request. (Which probably means they will do it, in quest of the ever-elusive holy grail of bipartisanship.)

Posted by: exgovgirl | May 10, 2010 11:59 PM | Report abuse

exgovgirl asks who decides tolls on Interstates. That's a that's a good question but old McDonnell has got to come up with some source of income and maybe he thinks that I95 tolls will be mistaken by most Virginians for another one of them taxes from up Naawf.

What I wonder is if the toll will be charged for getting in to Virginia or for getting out.

Governor Nice Bridge, the best thing to come out of Virginia.


Posted by: chrisbrown12 | May 11, 2010 5:53 AM | Report abuse

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