The trucking industry has rallied against proposed tolls on I-95 in Virginia and is using the Internet and social media to expand opposition to the toll plan.
The campaign is being coordinated by the National Assn. of Truck Stop Operators, the American Trucking Assns. and the Virginia Trucking Assn. The trucking groups have launched a website — www.virginiatollfree95.com — and a companion Facebook page, where like-minded visitors can sign an online petition voicing opposition to tolls.
The Virginia Dept. of Transportation (VDOT) announced plans last September to build a new tolling facility on I-95 between mile markers 20 and 24 in Sussex County. The VDOT plan calls for a $4 toll for personal vehicles and a $12 toll for trucks. Exit and entrance ramps before and after the toll plaza will collect $2 from personal vehicles and $6 from trucks. The current proposal includes one tolling facility, other tolling locations on I-95 could be considered in the future.
The truckers point out that tolls on I-95 would impose a significant cost on trucking and the businesses they serve in Virginia.
“The trucking industry is highly competitive and the imposition of an additional highway use tax of this magnitude simply cannot be fully passed along to shippers,” trucking interests said on the opposition website. “In addition, trucking already pays 35% of the federal and state highway user fees collected for Virginia, but accounts for only 8% of total miles traveled in the state. This toll proposal would impose as much as an additional $22.9 million dollar tax increase on the trucking industry.
“The trucking industry currently pays a federal diesel fuel tax of 24.4 cents per gallon, a 12% excise tax on new tractors and trailers, an annual vehicle use tax of up to $550, and a tax on tires. In 2008, the trucking industry accounted for over $311 million (32%) of state highway user taxes paid directly to Virginia and almost $382 million (37%) of the federal highway user taxes collected and allocated to the Commonwealth. Imposing an even greater tax burden on trucking companies that operate in Virginia through tolls on existing would be both unfair and inequitable,” the truckers claim.
The trucking interests cite other arguments against the toll plan:
- “Waste of Taxpayer Money: Tolling is bad policy. It is the most inefficient way to generate transportation revenue. In the first six years, 38% of the revenue generated will go towards building and operating the toll plaza and 16% over the first 25 years. Virginia’s transportation needs are far too great to waste taxpayer dollars on a costly and inefficient tolling system. Taxpayers have already paid for I-95 via taxes and including a toll will be a double taxation for use.
- “Economic Development: Tolling I-95 will put Virginia’s business-friendly reputation at risk by unfairly targeting trucking and commerce along I-95. At a time when Virginia is attempting to create jobs and promote itself as the premier state to do business, tolls will be a red flag for any company looking to relocate or do business in Virginia. In essence, VDOT will be choosing winners and losers in the all too competitive environment of economic development.
- “Unfair: A single tolling location on I-95 would unfairly shift the funds generated in one locality to other localities along I-95 and would disproportionately affect the low income residents of Southside Virginia who are already struggling economically.
- “Traffic: It is inevitable that a toll on I-95 would force major diversions in traffic to roads that are less suited to handle high volumes of traffic. This will require increased maintenance costs on roads ill-equipped to handle such high traffic levels.
- “Unanswered Questions: There are far too many unanswered questions surrounding tolling I-95 that include safety, environmental impact, congestion and economic impact. There has been virtually no opportunity for public comments or questions.
Trucking interests aren’t the only folks in opposition to the toll plan. Resolutions were also passed by boards of supervisors in Sussex, Greensville and Hanover counties, as well as the Dumfries Town Council, opposed to the highway toll plan, according to the trucking industry.
The state plan must still win final approval. Tolling could begin next year.