Virginia received preliminary approval from the Federal Highway Administration last week to implement tolls on Interstate 95.
FHWA Administrator Victor Mendez granted the conditional approval in a letter dated Sept. 14, but the commonwealth announced the news Monday morning.
Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) has sought the approval to toll on the southern reaches of I-95 to raise revenue to improve the congested corridor.
“I-95 is one of the most important and heavily traveled highway corridors in the country, linking population and commercial centers up and down the East Coast,” McDonnell said in a statement. “Limited funds and growing capital and maintenance needs have led to deficient pavements and structures, congestion, higher crash density and safety concerns. This approval is a major step toward funding critical capacity and infrastructure improvements needed in this corridor.”
Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton said in May that officials were considering one toll collection facility at the North Carolina border because “most of the traffic is interstate.”
VDOT estimates that the tolls could raise $50 million a year to pay for expansion, improvements and rehabilitation, including widening I-95 between Interstate 295 and the North Carolina border.
Mendez granted provisional approval and outlined steps Virginia must take before tolling would be possible. State officials estimated earlier this year that once approval is granted, it would be 18 to 24 months before toll collection could begin.
“The entire I-95 corridor averages a level of service of ‘D’ and some more urban portions are ‘F’ during peak periods,” Connaughton said in a statement Monday. “This level of service is unacceptable anywhere, let alone on the most traveled corridor in Virginia. The ability to implement tolling will provide the revenues necessary to improve I-95.”
[This story is developing; This post will be updated]