Hoping to bolster its case for adding tolls to I-95, the Virginia Dept. of Transportation has assembled a preliminary list of improvement projects in the corridor that would be funded by the new revenue.

Totaling more than $775 million, the projects include capacity and safety upgrades, paving, bridge and ramp improvements, and operations systems along a 126-mile stretch of the state’s busiest highway from the North Carolina state line to Fredericksburg. 

Virginia is currently authorized to institute tolls on Interstate 81 as part of the Interstate System Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Pilot Program, created by TEA-21 in 1998. In May, Gov. Robert McDonnell requested permission to switch the state’s participation to I-95, as the program stipulates that such toll revenues must be used exclusively in that corridor.  

With 36,000-38,000 vehicles crossing the Virginia-North Carolina border in both directions each day, VDOT estimates that a $1-$2 per-axle toll could pour as much as $60 million a year into the state’s severely depleted transportation coffers.  

VDOT’s I-95 toll revenue project list includes $176.4 million worth of safety improvements (e.g., pavement markings, signs, shoulders, guardrails, and lighting); $155.8 million for more than 514 lane miles of paving work; and $56 million for operations systems such as cameras, weight detectors and communications. 

In addition, the list identifies more than $197 million of ramp improvement projects, and $185.4 million in bridge improvement projects, including $31 million for I-95’s crossing of the James River, Route 60/360 and the CSX railroad in downtown Richmond; and $17 million for U.S. Route 17 overpass near Fredericksburg. Toll revenue would also fund the costs of inspection and yearly maintenance of the ramps and bridges.

None of the identified projects is slated to receive funding in VDOT’s six-year transportation improvement plan, or from the state’s Stimulus allocation.  

Capacity issues in the I-95 corridor north of Fredericksburg, which includes the heavily populated Washington, D.C., suburbs, are being addressed separately through the
public-private I-95/395 HOT lanes project.

VDOT is scheduled to provide FHWA with more details about the I-95 tolling plan by the end of this year. Should the request be approved, Virginia could begin collecting tolls on I-95 as early as 2012.