How low do they want to go?

Virginia DOT considering offering I-95 toll discounts to local residents

Blog Entry August 26, 2012
Bill Wilson

Bill Wilson is the editorial director of ROADS & BRIDGES magazine and has been covering the industry since 1999. He has won seven Robert F. Boger Awards for editorial excellence, including three in 2011. He also was the creator of the Top 10, Contractor's Choice Awards and Recycling Awards platforms, as well as ROADS & BRIDGES Live.

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There is low-income housing, but should there be low-income travel lanes? The idea might be on the table in Virginia. where officials are looking to toll I-95, but some say it is unfair to hit one of the poorest areas with another financial burden. In response, the Virginia Department of Transportation is looking into offering toll discounts to local residents.


What I want to know is how deep these discounts will go? Toll authorities across the U.S. have offered lower rates for those carrying the right kind of transponder, and I do think those who use the route as part of their livelihood should get a precentage off their trips if they follow the right protocol. However, is VDOT looking to give local travelers an additional break? If that is the case, why stop there? How about we give "qualified" individuals a lesser tax at the pump? How about we also give them a lesser charge when they renew their license? And while we are at it, let's drop the state and local sales tax.


Virginia is hoping to generate around $35 million annually with the I-95 toll. Of course, if you factor in all of those rebates, you might be looking at a little lighter bank. And if you round up all of those additional fee cuts I mentioned earlier, the entire state would be suffering from fiscal deficiency involving its road and bridge infrastructure.


If a family looks into taking a trip to Europe, and finds out airfare alone will break the budget then the excursion is either delayed or canceled. If traveling on a route will pinch your wallet a little too tight, then it is time to find another route. Toll roads are not the only alternative to get from point A to point B, and in Virginia I am willing to bet choice B and C may not be the most efficient, but they still work.


If Virginia is looking into offering a form of pavement welfare then it is barking up the wrong toll booth. If low income runs rampant in this region, then the state needs to find a way to maintain the route another way. Whether that be via public-private partnerships or a bigger piece of the federal funding pie, a different course of action needs to snuff out this idea of discount driving. Let's not go down this road. If you are going to toll I-95, and the federal government signs off on it, charge how you have historically charged. If you have reservations about it, then go a different direction. You are either all in, our all out. Let's set the table that way.

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