I-81 Corridor Tolling
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In early March 2003, the Virginia Department of Transportation requested approval to toll Interstate 81 from the U.S. Secretary of Transportation and submitted an application for tolling under Section 1216(b) of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21).
TEA-21 is federal transportation legislation. It includes an Interstate Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Pilot Program that allows up to three U. S. highway facilities to qualify for tolling. VDOT requested one of those slots. In late March 2003, the Federal Highway Administration granted “conditional provisional approval” of VDOT’s tolling application, reserving one of the three pilot slots for I-81 in Virginia.
FHWA and VDOT are working together to satisfy several requirements for final approval. Completion of the first part of a federally required environmental review of the corridor would fulfill one stipulation. FHWA also requires evaluation of the impacts of tolling.
It is expected that federal approval to go forward with pursuing tolling as a source of funding I-81 improvements will come after the first portion of the environmental review is complete in mid-2005. This does not mean that tolls would begin to be collected on I-81 in 2005.
Highlights of VDOT’s Toll Application
VDOT’s toll application states:
- The reconstruction and rehabilitation of I-81 cannot be achieved or functionally improved within a reasonable timeframe without the collection of tolls.
- A good number of sections throughout the corridor are reaching the end of their useful service life and will require additional rehabilitation and/or total reconstruction.
- VDOT has implemented several safety improvements to address safety issues including speeding, crashes and outdated design. These measures improve current operation, but not future capacity. Learn more about safety improvements.
- Accepted design standards for a rural interstate call for a Level of Service B on a scale of A to F, with A being free-flowing traffic and F being traffic at a standstill. Currently 90% of I-81 functions at less than B. By 2025, it is projected that most of I-81 will be operating at or near failure during peak hours.
- The original design of I-81 anticipated that it would carry a total of 15% truck traffic; the highway now carries up to 34% or more truck traffic. By 2010, about one third of I-81 will be at level D or worse with stop-and-go traffic conditions reducing operating speeds, especially from the Roanoke area through the Harrisonburg area.
- Accidents involving trucks are a concern. During a recent 18-month period, there were 2,681 accidents on I-81 with 41 deaths and 1,528 injuries. Commercial trucks were involved in 825 accidents, which resulted in 15 deaths and 449 injuries.
- In accordance with current Virginia Law, passenger vehicles cannot be tolled. The application requests approval for flexibility in the classification of vehicles to be tolled.
Link to application on FHWA Web site: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/programadmin/032003.htm