Holding a sign reading "no tolls" in bold red letters, Del. Roslyn Tyler (D-Sussex) introduced a bill to the public Thursday that would stop tolls on interstates without General Assembly approval.
"My bill will allow the General Assembly to vote on tolls, and broaden the conversation," said Tyler at a news conference Thursday. "We need to have a voice for tolls that could be devastating."
Tyler's bill, HB 1460, along with legislation proposed by Delegates Christopher Peace (R-Hanover), Lionell Spruill (D-Chesapeake) and Sen. Donald McEachin (D-Richmond), all called for the General Assembly to approve tolls in the future, rather than leaving the decision up to VDOT and the governor.
The proposals are in response to plans for a toll plaza on I-95 near Emporia. Critics contend the tolls could adversely impact the local economy near the North Carolina border, at the expense of northern areas receiving a portion of the toll revenue.
"A majority of the people in Southside Virginia travel I-95 just for survival," Tyler said. "Everyone should pay for these projects, rather than riding on the backs of Southside Virginia."
According to VDOT, funds from the proposed tolls would repair bridges in Richmond and widen I-95 south of Petersburg. The revenue would fund construction projects expected to add more than 1,000 jobs per year for three decades.
Business leaders and lawmakers at Thursday's news conference commended Governor Bob McDonnell for prioritizing transportation during the 2013 General Assembly, but said they wanted tolls to be part of the discussion.
"All proposals related to transportation have to go through the General Assembly," said Peace. "We need to bring the subject of tolls back to its proper place."
The toll, not yet finalized, would charge cars $4 and trucks $12 both ways. The bills currently await a vote in the Transportation Committee.
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