General Assembly to discuss tolls next week

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) — Tolls on bridges and tunnels will be a big topic when the General Assembly convenes next week. Will you have to pay more, or is there a way to stop additional tolls?

State Senator Frank Wagner (R) Virginia Beach and Delegate Chris Jones (R) Suffolk think taxpayers got a raw deal on tunnel tolls. They have their own ideas on how to protect taxpayers from anymore bad deals.

“If you look at what happened with the Downtown and Midtown Tunnels, I think we all think that was handled the wrong way,” says Delegate Jones.

He says it’s wrong to put up tolls without offering a reasonable free alternative route that has no toll.

“If you have tolls on the High Rise Bridge then you have to have a free alternative on the High Rise Bridge, so if you add two or four lanes then you would toll the new lanes [only] which would be like hot lanes,” said Jones.

Same thing goes for the Monitor Merrimac Memorial Bridge Tunnel and The Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel.  Here’s the important part: no new lanes, then no new tolls.

“If you want to add two lanes to the HRBT, you toll that, but until you do that there will be no tolls on the HRBT…the way the bill is written that would be correct,” says Jones.

What about the reversible lanes to Naval Station Norfolk?

“Secretary Layne has requested we look at hot lanes, the HOV lanes going to the base and converting them to a hot lane configuration,” Jones added.

Over in the Senate is State Senator Frank Wagner. “Now is the appropriate time to have that discussion. Do we want tolls or do we want to increase the effort through a gasoline tax,” said Wagner.

Senator Frank Wagner is writing a bill to increase the gas tax to pay as we go for three high priority road projects instead of using tolls which usually doubles the cost of a road project.

“If we were willing to make a bigger effort now, and not a major effort, but a bigger effort in terms of gas taxes I think we can avoid tolls all together, and I certainly think we can minimize the amount of money we need to borrow,” said Wagner.

That gas tax could go to the I-64/I-264 interchange, the I-64 widening on the Peninsula and work on the I-664 Patriot Crossing.

You might be hearing about these plans for the first time, but you can count on 10 On Your Side to keep close eyes on this legislation.

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