Battle over new I-95 tolls intensifies in Emporia

Posted at 9:30 PM, Aug 28, 2012
and last updated 2012-08-28 21:30:08-04

SUSSEX COUNTY, Va. (WTVR) The battle between Emporia leaders and Commonwealth transportation officials continues to heat up over a proposed new toll in Sussex County.

Virginia's Department of Transportation formally submitted a request to the Federal Highway Administration for the new toll location Monday.

"The folks in Richmond don't really care about Southside," Emporia Mayor Sam Adams told CBS 6.

"The proposed plan that VDOT has set forth shows just how disconnected the Governor is," Adams added.

Many Emporia residents tend to agree.

"This is a low income area and people just can't be hit with more problems," Sam Johnson, an Emporia resident, said.

VDOT officials told CBS 6 that although the department has asked for federal approval, it does not mean the new toll in Sussex County is finalized.

"By no means is it a done deal," Michael Estes, VDOT's Strategic Initiatives Coordinator, said.

Estes emphasized that the state must generate revenue in some fashion to meet the maintenance needs of Virginia's roads.

"There has been an identified need of at least ten billion dollars," Estes said.

Under the proposal submitted to the Federal Highway Administration, VDOT outlined where the revenue generated by a new toll would be spent.

"With this modest toll revenue we can fund an important project in the Petersburg area," Estes said.

Other projects slated to be completed as a result of the new tool booths include bridge work in Richmond.

Emporia leaders and residents recognize the need for revenue to fix roads but contend a toll in Sussex County is not the solution.

Mayor Adams believes a toll booth in Caroline County would be more efficient.

"Caroline County carries 85,000 cars a day so obviously over 50,000 more cars a day is going to generate more revenue."

Others believe it is time to raise the state's gas tax, which hasn't been increased since 1986.

Mayor Adams tells CBS 6 he will meet with lawyers tomorrow to discuss legal options including possible federal intervention.

Governor Bob McDonnell tells CBS 6 Virginia is at least 18 months away from instituting any new toll booths.