Study to look at adding tolls on Interstate 81 gets green light

ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. – The possibility of truck tolls on Interstate 81 is getting closer to becoming a reality. 

The General Assembly passed a bill earlier this year directing Virginia to start looking at how tolls would impact the interstate and if revenue from tolls could be used to pay for interstate improvement projects.
The study would focus on high-occupancy toll lanes and heavy commercial vehicles like tractor-trailers.

"Are we going to add one more cost to an industry that is already stretched pretty thin?" said Peer Segelke, CEO of Lawrence Companies. 

The study, which will begin next month, leaves Lawrence Companies with lots of questions. 

"Would those companies come here that really depend on our interstate highway if there was more congestion on the roads that get them to the interstate and there's a lot more expense?" said Segelke.

According to VDOT, up to 40 percent of 81's traffic is big rigs, so Segelke not only worries about losing business, but also about drivers on secondary roads where truckers may travel to avoid tolls.

"The other impact of this is going to be moving traffic off the interstate onto these ancillary roads where we already have issues, and the congestion is going to get much worse for daily commuters that use route 460 and route 11," said Segelke.

Supporters of the study said looking at tolls is important, especially with parts of Interstate 81 in rough condition.

In a statement, VDOT sais, "Studying the Interstate 81 corridor, prioritizing improvements, and identifying possible funding sources could be the key to making this economically valuable corridor more reliable and more resilient. This is an important project for Virginia."

The study should be completed by the end of the year.