Tolls, tolls and more tolls

A copy of the Hampton Roads map with a ring of fire engulfing the region has circulated around city halls and in the community. (City of Norfolk staff)

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.

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3 thoughts on “Tolls, tolls and more tolls

  1. Maybe when the people are tired of tolls they will wise up and take an interest in what the Va. Leg. is doing with revenue for roads and sit. in Northern Va. Maybe.

  2. Richmond can’t raise taxes on us? Or just sales taxes?

    I wish we had the Hampton Roads Transportation Authority as an option, but the current Govenor mismanaged that process, I believe. Designing an organization while he was Atty General that was deemed unconstitutional.

    Or I wish, as Collins points out, we had managed to have the sales tax referendum approved by the voters. Roads in Hampton Roads are almost as good as a third world country’s. It is embarassing that our legislators refuse to do the jobs we hire them to do.

    And now we are stuck with an awful project as was contracted yesterday.

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