Backlash From Trucking Industry DEFEATS Plan To “Primarily” Toll Truckers On I-81
Richmond, Virginia – Virginia lawmakers are hitting the brakes on their plans to advance legislation which called for “primarily” tolling truckers along I-81.
Virginia State Senator Mark Obenshain’s bill (SB 1716) created a fierce backlash from many trucking stakeholders and others. The measure called for raising $2 billion in new revenue for improvement projects along I-81 through tolling “primarily” heavy trucks.
The backlash continued to grow as the American Trucking Associations (ATA) along with the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) sent Virginia Governor Ralph Northam letters urging him to reconsider his support for the measure. On Thursday, lawmakers in the state House and Senate advanced alternate versions of the bill with no mention of “tolls” along I-81.
Delegate Steve Landes introduced the revised bill in the House and said disagreement over tolling led to the decision to strip the legislation of that provision. “There has been not, what I would say, total agreement on what the funding mechanism should be for Interstate 81,” Landes said. “What this legislation now does is take the tolling mechanism out.”
The revised bill passed out of the House Transportation Committee on a 22-0 vote on Thursday. It calls for $2 billion in improvement projects along I-81, and creates an “Interstate 81 Committee.” The 15-member committee will be comprised of Virginia lawmakers, members of the Commonwealth Transportation Board, and the chairs of each planning district commission along the corridor.
The “Interstate 81 Committee” is tasked with studying revenue generating mechanisms such as tolling and increasing fuel taxes along I-81. The committee will review the Interstate 81 Corridor Improvement Plan adopted by the transportation board in December, and is required to issue a final report with its recommendations to the General Assembly by December 15, 2019.
Sen. Mark Obenshain and Sen. Charles Carrico pushed through a similar substitute bill in the state Senate.
Trucking stakeholders have signaled support for plans introduced by Sen. Emmett Hanger and Sen. John Edwards that would levy sales tax on fuel sold along the I-81 Corridor and deposit the money from that tax into a fund for I-81 improvements. A bill with such a provision passed the state Senate last year, but failed to make it into law.
National trucking stakeholders such as the ATA and the Truckload Carriers Association have long supported raising federal fuel taxes as the most efficient way of generating additional revenue for funding needed infrastructure projects. Groups such as OOIDA, and others, stand in opposition to increasing fuel taxes.
Transportation Nation Network (TNN) has reported on this issue extensively and will continue to do so. For now, it appears Virginia lawmakers have thought the better of pushing tolls on I-81 down the throats of the trucking community.
It will be interesting to see what recommendations the “Interstate 81 Committee” puts forward later this year. You can be sure TNN will be here to bring you the news when it happens.