Why Rhode Island may be able to put tolls on I-95 after allJune 8th, 2011 at 10:21 am by Ted Nesi under Nesi's Notes
When Tim White interviewed U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood last month, President Obama’s transit chief appeared to pour cold water on the Chafee administration’s proposal to put new tolls on I-95 to fund repairs.
“If a state or a governor or DOT wants to add capacity or two lanes on each side, we think that’s a good use of tolls and we have supported that kind of approach,” LaHood told Tim.
But Chafee’s transportation director, Mike Lewis, still sounded optimistic about the potential for tolls on “Newsmakers” last week, because he said adding capacity doesn’t necessarily require adding lanes – you could also change the engineering of on- and off-ramps, for example, on the I-95 bridge next to Providence Place.
Today Stateline’s Daniel Vock followed up on our stories with a closer look at the issue. After declaring that I-95 “is falling apart” in Rhode Island, Vock describes a way the state could get around the general ban on tolling roads paid for with federal tax dollars:
In 1998, Congress created a pilot program under which up to three states can start collecting tolls on existing interstates to fund improvements on those roads. So far, though, no states have used it.
Virginia and Missouri both have federal permission to move ahead with the idea, but neither has the tolls up and running. …
Pennsylvania also applied for the exception, in order to put tolls on Interstate 80 across the northern stretch of the state. The federal government rejected that plan, largely because it would have diverted some of the toll revenue from the highway to support public transit in Philadelphia. …
Rhode Island hopes to qualify for the spot left open when Pennsylvania’s application failed. Lewis, the transportation director, says Rhode Island officials learned from Pennsylvania’s experience. Under the plan they are now developing, tolls collected on I-95 would go only toward improvements to the interstate itself.
Even if everything went the way Lewis wants, Vick reports, the toll booths wouldn’t open for at least another two years. Interesting nonetheless. And thank you to the Nesi’s Notes reader who sent the article along.