Trucking industry opposes toll option for Interstate 81

Published: Oct. 30, 2018 at 4:14 PM EDT
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It's a multi-billion dollar problem with no easy solution. How do you fix and pay for improvements to Interstate 81?

Current plans call for a third lane northbound between Christiansburg and Roanoke. Tolls are an option on the table to pay for that as well as other improvements, and that idea is already receiving some criticism.

One idea is that commuters could get an annual pass for $20 to $30. Another is that there could be a couple different taxes. A truck toll is also on the table, an idea that is raising some concerns in the industry.

Sprinkled along Route 11 are companies that run on 81.

Peer Segelke, Lawrence Companies CEO, said, “As a trucking company, that's the lifeblood of our business.”

Their fleet of 250 trucks relies on the interstate, and Segelke understands its issues.

“No doubt, we have to improve interstate 81; no doubt, we need to pay for improvements on interstate 81,” he said. “But what is the best method to do that?”

Segelke said truck tolling could have unintended consequences, pushing people onto smaller roads like routes 11 and 460.

“You could end up with a lot of drivers on those roads trying to avoid the tolls,” he said.

In an interview last week, Virginia's Secretary of Transportation, Shannon Valentine, said there is no final funding decision. Current ideas include two different truck toll prices, making it cheaper to drive overnight.

“We're just going to look forward to listen to see what businesses and manufactures have to say in the input we receive,” she added.

“If we could move some of the traffic to the overnight hours, it could really open capacity.”

Segelke believes tolls are more trouble than they're worth, and he wants a closer look at other options to fund the future of I-81.

“I think people need to realize that those trucks are moving our goods throughout the country,” said Segelke. “The end consumer is going to feel it.”

The Commonwealth Transportation Board will be collecting comments for another month.