Political power-plays could determine toll fate for I-95 - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

Political power-plays could determine toll fate for I-95


Governor Bob McDonnell announced this week he would abandon a controversial plan for tolls on I-95, if his sweeping transportation proposal is signed into law.

Democrats across the state largely oppose McDonnell's transportation vision, but a Democrat leading the fight against the tolls said she may have to vote with Republicans to protect her district.

"If there are any options to prevent tolls on I-95, I will look at them very closely," said Del. Roslyn Tyler (D-Emporia). "I need to fight for my district first, and tolls could threaten the survival of Southside Virginia."

Del. Tyler represents Virginia's 75th House District, spanning from the North Carolina border, to Sussex County. The area is one of the poorest in the Commonwealth, and Tyler says a proposed $4 toll on cars in each direction will be devastating for businesses and families.

"My constituents use I-95 every day to go to hospitals in Petersburg, universities in Richmond, and work in North Carolina. The tolls would be a disaster for them, paying the fee day after day."

Gov. McDonnell said he will withdraw the toll plans, if his landmark transportation proposal passes the General Assembly. McDonnell proposes to eliminate the gas tax, and raise the state's sales tax to improve infrastructure. Democrats oppose the measure, hoping to raise the gas tax instead.

Del. Tyler fears if Democrats and Republicans find themselves in a stalemate, McDonnell's transportation plan could fail, and tolls will become a necessary source of road revenue.

"Everything could fall apart, and the tolls still come," Tyler said. "That's a dangerous possibility."

The transportation plans cleared House and Senate Finance committees, and now move on to a full vote by both houses. Lawmakers will insert amendments before the full votes, which could come as early as next week.

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