The road to funding improvements on I-81 took another twist Wednesday, with the General Assembly voting to increase truck registration fees and impose new fuel taxes along the I-81 corridor.
After last-ditch effort to fund I-81 improvements this year fails, more study, another report, and lots of divergent opinions await
State Sen. Mark Obenshain went out on a limb with a bill to begin tolling on I-81 to pay for $2.2 billion in much-needed improvements to the interstate . Things didn’t work like he’d hoped, however.
“I’m deeply disappointed,” Obenshain said. “We had a commitment to a process last year, and, frankly, I did a pretty uncomfortable thing of taking the result of that process and carrying that legislation.”
Committees in both chambers of the General Assembly on Thursday approved revised versions of bills by Valley legislators that outline $2.2 billion in needed improvements to I-81 but now no longer explain how to pay for them. The new legislation, which Sen. Mark Obenshain called a “pale shadow of its former self,” was meant to keep I-81 in the foreground of public discussions amid continued disagreement over funding methods.
Now that valley-area legislators introduced companion bills calling for tolls to fund $2.2 billion upgrades to I-81, the plan’s supporters will face staunch opposition led by truckers, who say the proposal will unfairly target them and will cause a ripple effect in the economy.
As momentum grows for I-81 upgrades, lawmakers prepare to pick between tolls and taxes to cover the $2 billion cost
Toll or tax? That’s a question that state legislators will begin debating next month when the General Assembly convenes for its 2019 session. At issue is Interstate 81 – the increasingly congested, dangerous and routinely backed-up artery that carries hundreds of billions of dollars in goods each year straight through Harrisonburg and western Virginia.