U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers opposes the I-95 tolls plan. The Dunn Republican charges that residents in her district would be disproportionately affected since a major portion of the highway runs through the region. She sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation Wednesday calling for an economic impact study on local business and residents.
Last month, North Carolina won preliminary approval from the Federal Highway Administration to collect tolls on Interstate 95 to pay for a $4.4 billion widening project.
“While I recognize the need to maintain I-95, paying for the construction through a highway tax could be devastating to residents and small businesses along the I-95 corridor,” Ellmers wrote.
Bruce Siceloff reports that the state Department of Transportation is proposing to overhaul all 182 miles of the four-lane interstate between the South Carolina and Virginia borders. To pay for it, DOT wants to collect tolls from drivers on I-95, which was built with tax dollars.
When tolling starts in 2019, a car driving all the way between South Carolina and Virginia probably would be tolled $19.20, DOT says. Tolls for heavy trucks would be higher.
Ellmers said she’s heard from many residents concerned about the tolls. She said the NCDOT did not give enough consideration to alternative ways to pay for the construction. She said the NCDOT proposal would also encourage trucks and cars to avoid the tolls and instead use less durable secondary roads that will have to be repaired.
Roberto Canales, a DOT engineer involved in the I-95 plans, said DOT is conducting further study of its toll proposal and its effects on businesses and drivers. Drivers would make their own decisions about whether to use I-95 or switch to a toll-free road, he said.
“Certainly, people driving trucks and cars will have to weigh the cost of the added fuel they will burn, and the added time they will spend, if they decide to make diversions. That’s part of the study," Canales said.
Rep. Mike McIntyre, a Lumberton Democrat, also "is opposed to tolling in North Carolina," spokesman Dean Mitchell said by email. "He has heard from both individuals and businesses who are concerned about the impact that tolling will have on their pocketbooks."