Virginia senator files bill to fund expanding I-81, not using tolls

(WSET)

ROANOKE, Va. (WSET) -- A Virginia senator has filed a bill to expand I-81.

The funding would include a statewide funding stream to shore up the transportation system throughout the state of Virginia.

"Everyone has an I-81 story. Traffic is frequently and unexpectedly backed up due to accidents, construction delays, and even due to vehicles pulled over by the police. During the evenings and mornings, there is congestion as commuters try to get to work or go home after work in the Roanoke region," Sen. John Edwards said. "I-81’s lack of reliability is a statewide issue, and not just a local or regional issue. Trucks and vehicles traveling through Virginia either north or south have just two interstates to choose from: I-81 and I-95. Improvements to the roadway on one route benefits traffic on the other route."

RELATED | Local business leaders weigh in on proposed I-81 tolls, improvements

Sen. Edwards proposes to raise revenue statewide at the wholesale level.

That means tankers will fill their large containers at distribution points to transport the gasoline to retail service stations where motorists fill their individual vehicles.

The tankers also transport the wholesale gasoline to service stations in other states, so other states share in the costs of raising revenue for Virginia’s roads, Sen. Edwards suggests.

"Providing a wholesale tax of 5% will go unnoticed by people filling up at the pump because this is not a retail tax at the pump, and the price of gasoline at the pump varies tremendously on almost a daily basis," he said. "It is estimated that an additional $850 million annually can be raised statewide from this wholesale tax to build and maintain roads."

He said that each part of the state needs additional revenue for roads and this approach would make it unnecessary to expand tolls and rely as much on regional gas taxes under the Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads Transportation Authorities.

Under the legislation, a dedicated portion of the wholesale tax ($300 million) would be used to widen and improve I-81, making it unnecessary for tolls on commuters and travelers on I-81 or for a regional retail gasoline tax at the pump.

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