A second Midtown tunnel means tolls are returning to Hampton Roads. And not just the 25-cent variety. As announced by Gov. Bob McDonnell yesterday, a public-private partnership to build the second Midtown tunnel, rehab the Downtown tunnel and extend the Martin Luther King Freeway (whoops! – guess that’s the wrong name for the road) means tolls “initially ranging from $1.59 to $1.84 per car for the tunnels and $.50 for the Martin Luther King Freeway extension for tunnel users and $1 for non-tunnel users.”
In an op-ed published in today’s Virginian-Pilot, Art Collins, the former executive director of the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission and Metropolitan Planning Organization, eviscerates the deal.
The rest of the commonwealth gets its operations and maintenance paid out of the state transportation accounts. So Hampton Roads drivers will pay to maintain facilities in our region as well as the rest of the state through the existing gas tax and other fees.
And he raises a good question:
If the state is going to mandate a toll, which is a tax, without a referendum, why not mandate a sales tax and fix all our major transportation deficiencies?
I think I can answer that one: tolls aren’t taxes, Mr. Collins, at least not in the language of the legislature. That’s why they gave us the referendum. We are allowed – if approved – to raise taxes on ourselves, but Richmond can’t do that.
UPDATE: At the time of writing, the article had not been posted online. You can now find it here.