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Broken Record Time: NC looks at tolling I-95 (again)

It seems like every year for the past decade, a story about NCDOT looking at the possibility of tolling Interstate 95 comes out. The local news outlets pick it up, and you have a reporter in an orange vest asking motorists what they feel about the idea. The story dies until it comes up again the following year.

And now that ground has been broken on the state's first toll road - guess what highway story is in the news again? Tolling I-95.

It's the trial balloon that never lands!

Some background (because we haven't covered this issue here at the blog, yet):

Interstate 95 is the backbone of the East Coast - and most of its traffic through the Tar Heel State is through traffic. The highway is four lanes throughout - and a significant stretch of highway dates to the early 1960s if not earlier.

NCDOT officials admit and have plans to widen the highway to a minimum of six lanes, but like many other states - they don't have the funding. So tolling the route has been considered since at least 2001.

There has been debate on how the road would be tolled. Since most of the traffic on I-95 are out-of-state drivers passing through (or to) North Carolina, some have suggested only having toll booths at the state lines. Obviously, many are concerned that folks not wanting to pay the toll will jump off I-95 onto two lane US 301 to avoid the toll. That would hurt revenue and most likely make US 301 a traffic mess.

Other options include electronic tolling, staggered toll barriers throughout the state, and just about every other toll possibility imaginable. Toll rates have varied from $5 - $15 to travel I-95.

As mentioned earlier, the state does have plans to widen I-95 to six lanes. Projects like the rebuild of the Four Oaks Interchange (Exit 87) were constructed to accommodate a six lane I-95. Within the NCDOT STIP, widening I-95 from Eastover to Kenly has been programmed with some projects possibly beginning in 2013 or 2015. This widening would be piecemeal and similar to widening projects of I-85 and I-40. However, funding concerns has continually pushed any efforts to widen I-95 back...sometimes indefinitely.

So where are we now?

State Secretary of Transportation Gene Conti has stated in a number of different forums that the state will start a study on tolling I-95 next year. The length of the study was not announced. Don't expect seeing tolls on I-95 soon though, that's years away.

Of course there is that whole issue of getting federal approval for tolling the highway, and just ask Pennsylvania how well the proposal to toll I-80 through that state is going.

Comments

Anonymous said…
That's stupid. to toll I-95 when our tax payers already paid them off... that is gonna make other drivers not happy and dump traffic on US 301.. or any nearby highways, thats for sure.
Anonymous said…
It's inevitable that Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina will put tolls on I-95. The road is basically unchanged from the 1950's design, but it carries three or four times more traffic than it was designed for. None of these states can pay for the upgrades, which will probably cost over a billion dollars for the whole 450 miles.
Anonymous said…
Virginia used to have tolls on I-95 from Petersburg to Richmond and tolls were already removed.. if SC and NC decided to put up tolls on the state lines.. i cant imagine how nightmare the traffic will be when drivers decide to dump traffic on local US routes..

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