In responding to Sen. Brent Jackson’s comment that the state should resurrect the specter of tolling on an existing interstate, Rep. Leo Daughtry was quoted as saying in the March 25 article “Lawmakers talk taxes, tolls and bathrooms” that “it is easier to pick the pocket of a Yankee than it is to pick cotton.”
North Carolinians, along with the legislature and governor, rejected the prospect of tolling existing interstates in 2013, with the passage of HB 817, which limited the DOT’s ability to toll I-95, without leaving the same number of pre-existing lanes “toll-free.” Now, faced with more tough funding decisions, legislators are taking up the cry again. They argue that there’s just no other way. It’s the same cry that has gone up in Charlotte on the I-77 added capacity lane, totally legal by the way, and that has been met with the same staunch opposition.
So, why do politicians continue to float this idea? North Carolina holds one of three slots in the federal Interstate Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Pilot Program, a program to toll existing interstates. In the program’s 17 years, not a single existing interstate has been tolled due to intense public opposition.
This past fall, Congress passed a five-year federal transportation bill that placed a “use it or lose it” provision on the ISRRPP. With the “use it or lose it” provision, North Carolina is on the hot seat to either implement interstate tolling or lose the slot to another state.
North Carolina transportation leaders keep looking to tolling to solve the state’s transportation funding problem because it puts the responsibility on the drivers of a particular road, all drivers, and takes the politicians off the hook. When pressed on the burdens of tolling, pro-tolling politicians simply throw up their hands proclaiming there’s no other way, and then throw the clincher in: You don’t have to use it. You can simply overcrowd the ancillary roads that were not meant to handle the traffic and congestion. Thankfully, without the ISRRPP in place, our legislators will have to start finding a truly sustainable solution to North Carolina’s transportation funding problems.
Our politicians want to toll our home state. Thousands of North Carolinians believe we must find a more efficient and economically beneficial solution to our state’s transportation issues, like the ones we seem to be able to find to continue to build I-70 to get to the Crystal Coast.
Since I and my fellow North Carolinian “Yankees” who travel I-95 do not wish to pay the double taxation of a toll and fuel tax, it is our hope that our political and transportation leaders will take an honest look at improving our roads and bridges. Our state’s future depends on it.
Chairman, No Tolls I-95 Coalition, Inc.
The length limit was waived to permit a fuller response to the issue.