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| Shapiro, Appleton, Washburn & Sharp

Virginia (VA) recently saw its plans for tolls on the I-95 approved. And we are likely to be seeing more of tolls as the crumbling road system around Norfolk, Portsmouth and Virginia Beach, VA, is dragged into the 21st century.

In a recent blog post, my colleague John Cooper asked if the interstate tolls that recently won federal approval will really raise revenue for the projects needed to improve safety on the highway. In a similar vein, a skeptical article in the Virginian-Pilot suggests the tolls on the I-95 will only be the start and more tolls will be needed in Tidewater to finance an improved road network.

“Two decades of eroding buying power compounded by political cowardice have left Virginia with nowhere near enough money to pay for the roads it needs. It is a testament to how far behind the state has fallen that Gov. Bob McDonnell’s $4 billion in borrowing will buy us merely a down-payment,” the article states.

Although tolls are rare in Hampton Roads, VA, this has not always been the case, according to the article.

The James River Bridge linking Newport News with the Isle of Wight once had tolls, but those were removed in the 1970s; likewise, the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel that links Hampton with Norfolk, VA. The Downtown and Midtown Tunnels between Norfolk and Portsmouth, VA once had tolls but they were removed by the end of the 1980s and tolls on the Virginia Beach Expressway were ended in 1996.

However, a new era of tolls looms. Projects such as a widening of the Midtown Tunnel, improvements to the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel or a third crossing, would likely require tolls to claw back some of the costs.

Federal rules mean money from tolls on an existing highway have to be spent on that road.

“But those rules also mean that if we want to maintain and improve the roads we have – in the absence of meaningful money from the state – the only way to do so will be by erecting tolls, including on roads where they were removed long ago,” the Pilot article states.

As experienced Virginia car and motorcycle accident injury attorneys, my colleagues and I take notice of countless crashes on the region’s congested roads and tunnels. Recently, for instance, we reported on the death of a young motorcyclist in Norfolk’s Downtown Tunnel.

The kind of stop-and-go traffic seen during peak hours on I-64 or I-264 is frequently linked to injury accidents.

It’s unclear if tolling will help the traffic flow much or plough enough money into safety projects. But it’s clear that improvements are likely to only come at a price to drivers.


About the Editors: The Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.

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