The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Assn. is asking truckers in North Carolina to speak out against a plan by the state DOT to rebuild Interstate 95 and convert it into a toll road. The plan will cost billions and be done in phases, according to a Land Line report.
OOIDA leadership is urging members to let officials know truckers and their customers reject double taxation on I-95. Truckers can make their opinion known to officials at a series of public meetings scheduled in February.
“This is going to have a bottom-line impact on their way of life with the addition of tolls,” said Ryan Bowley, OOIDA director of legislative affairs. “Obviously the DOT is going to cater these meetings for residents of North Carolina, but even if you’re an out-of-state trucker and you’re in the area of where these meetings are taking place, try to go to one.”
A limited number of Interstates can become toll roads through pilot programs administered by the Federal Highway Administration and the North Carolina Dept. of Transportation is attempting to obtain one of the slots in the tolling program, according to OOIDA.
The state plans to widen and reconstruct I-95 in phases using all-electronic toll collection to pay for the road work. The toll plan includes an option that would take photos of license plates and issue invoices by mail to vehicle owners.
Pointing out that truckers pay their fair share to use federal Interstates — trucking accounts for 30-40% of the federal Highway Trust Fund — Browley said it’s unfair to the ask them to pay more in tolls.
“I think it’s important that officials understand that their decision to toll an Interstate doesn’t just affect that state alone. It’s called an Interstate for a reason,” Bowley said. “If the federal government, when they first implemented the system, wanted that system of roads, they would have set it up that way. But they didn’t. They set it up to be funded by the fuel tax.”
• Tuesday, Feb. 7 at Robeson Community College, BB&T Room of the Workforce Development Center Building No. 1, 5160 N. Fayetteville Road, Lumberton.
• Monday, Feb. 13 at Halifax Community College, Centre Gallery, 200 College Drive, Weldon.
• Thursday, Feb. 16 at City of Rocky Mount, Imperial Centre Studio Theatre, 270 Gay Street, Rocky Mount.
• Monday, Feb. 20 at Johnston Community College, Paul A. Johnston Auditorium Lobby, 245 College Road, Smithfield.
• Tuesday, Feb. 21 at Bill Ellis Convention Center, 2904 Forest Hills Road, Wilson.
• Thursday, Feb. 23 at Dunn Community Center, 205 Jackson Road, Dunn.
• Monday, Feb. 27 at Double Tree by Hilton Hotel–Fayetteville, Grand Ballroom, 1965 Cedar Creek Road, Fayetteville.
OOIDA warns that North Carolina isn’t the only state talking about tolls on I-95. Virginia has won preliminary approval from the Federal Highway Administration to rebuild its portion of I-95 using tolls and states in the corridor have also expressed interest.
“If the next highway bill opens up additional slots within the tolling program, we’re going to see all the I-95 states trying to get in on it,” Bowley says.
“If I-95 is so important to the economy, which it is, then why hasn’t it been a priority before now?” Bowley asks. “The only time it seems they make it a priority is when there’s an opportunity to take money out of truckers’ pockets. Truckers should not have to pay for decades of mismanagement by state DOTs.”
Bowley also recommends that truckers making pickups or deliveries in North Carolina should share their toll concerns with their customers.
“Make sure you talk about this and how it will affect their businesses,” he said.