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The State of NoVa
Posted at 10:11 AM ET, 10/12/2011

Northern Virginians oppose tolling I-95, according to new poll

Northern Virginians, who endure some of the worst traffic in the nation, don’t want to try to solve the region’s congestion problems with tolls, according to a poll released Wednesday by Quinnipiac University.

Fifty-two percent of registered voters in Northern Virginia polled oppose putting tolls on I-95 -- a proposal sought by Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) to raise money to improve the corridor. Forty-two
Dulles Toll Road, Vienna, Va. (jahi chikwendiu)
percent approve.

The Federal Highway Administration, which has authority over tolling on interstates, recently granted the state preliminary approval to move ahead with a plan to require tolls from drivers heading into the state from North Carolina.

Northern Virginia voters prefer tolls by a margin of 52 percent to 38 percent over raising the gas tax to fund road repairs in the state.

Statewide, more residents — 60 percent to 28 percent -- favor tolls over a gas tax increase. That’s not too surprising considering only some use I-95, while all drivers would be impacted by an increase in the gas tax.

The Virginia General Assembly has long considered raising the gas tax, but Republican legislators opposed to raising any taxes have repeatedly proposals.

Northern Virginia voters approve of the job being done by the divided legislature by a margin of 49 percent to 33 percent.

McDonnell, who also opposes raising taxes, is searching for other sources of revenue to maintain and replace an aging network of roads and bridges.

This year, legislators approved McDonnell’s plan to borrow $2.9 billion for roads for 900 projects — the largest infusion of funds into the state’s cash-strapped highway coffers in more than two decades.

The poll showed a hefty 60 percent of voters in Democrat-leaning Northern Virginia approve of the way McDonnell is handling his job, while 23 percent disapprove.

Fifty-five percent said they personally like McDonnell while 14 percent do not. Fifty-one percent like his policies, while 26 percent do not.

The Federal Highway Administration, which has authority over tolling on interstates, recently granted McDonnell preliminary approval to move ahead with a proposal to require tolls from drivers heading into the state from North Carolina.

The state estimates it would collect $250 million in tolls in the first five years of operation and more than $50 million a year after that. Federal rules mandates the toll money be used to improve or expand capacity on the highway where it is collected.

To win final federal approval of the I-95 tolling plan, the state must conduct an environmental review, outline improvements that will increase capacity, determine where tolls will be collected and defend that determination, and certify that toll revenue will replace all other federal funding that otherwise would have been used for maintenance or improvement of the tolled portions.

If the state meets the requirements, Virginia officials have estimated it would take 18 to 24 months before toll collection would begin.

Thirty percent of Northern Virginians polled said they use I-95 regularly and 45 percent occasionally.

The independent Quinnipiac poll, conducted by live interviewers with registered voters on land lines and cell phones, releases periodic voter surveys of office holders, candidates and issues in Connecticut, New York, New York City, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida. This year, it added Virginia, increasingly considered a swing election state.

Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,459 registered voters Oct. 3-9. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.

By  |  10:11 AM ET, 10/12/2011

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