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The Virginian Pilot ^ | 2/8/2012 | Bill Sizemore

Posted on 02/08/2012 5:41:35 AM PST by wolfman23601

Public outcry over impending tolls on the Downtown and Midtown tunnels has helped spark widespread opposition in the General Assembly to the governor's request for broad new authority to use tolls as a major transportation funding mechanism statewide.

There is no serious talk of legislatively halting the planned tolls on the two Elizabeth River crossings. A last-ditch attempt, initiated by Del. Kenny Alexander, D-Norfolk, was scotched by the Republican-controlled Assembly last week.

But outrage in Hampton Roads over the tolls, slated to begin this year and start at $1.84 for cars at peak hours, is a key factor in legislative pushback against the Republican governor's transportation funding package, which includes a powerful new statewide tolling authority.

Gov. Bob McDonnell's statewide tolling proposal "is on life support," House Minority Leader David Toscano, D-Charlottesville, said Tuesday. "People don't like tolls, and they especially don't like paying tolls that are going to be sent someplace else."

That has been a major objection raised to the tunnel tolls: Under the state's agreement with a private-sector partner, revenue collected at the Downtown Tunnel, which will not be expanded, is to be used in large part to help pay for a two-lane expansion of the Midtown Tunnel.

McDonnell's proposed Virginia Toll Road Authority would expand that concept statewide. The new state entity would be empowered to impose tolls for construction, maintenance, repair and operation of any roads, bridges, tunnels and other transportation facilities designated by the governor, the legislature or the Commonwealth Transportation Board. There is no provision tying toll revenue to the facility where it is collected.

In addition to the power to set tolls, the new authority would be given the power of eminent domain - the ability to take private property by condemnation - and it would be exempt from public procurement, personnel and administrative process laws.

This week, the Republican patrons carrying McDonnell's transportation package in the House and Senate were backing away from the tolling piece of it.

A key test for the proposal will come today when the governor's package is taken up by the Assembly's two budget-writing committees.

In the latest draft of the legislation in the House, the proposal for a stand-alone statewide tolling authority has been eliminated altogether. In its place is a scaled-down provision giving the Commonwealth Transportation Board authority to impose tolls for "any new or substantially expanded primary road."

The language specifies that toll revenue must be used solely where it is collected. In addition, no tolled project could begin before adjournment of the Assembly session after the project is announced - in effect giving the legislature veto power over the project.

Even that isn't good enough for some lawmakers. Del. Chris Jones, R-Suffolk, said he thinks tolled projects should require the concurrence of the Assembly, not just after-the-fact review.

The House sponsor of the legislation, Del. Scott Lingamfelter, R-Prince William County, said he and the governor's office are in "a dynamic discussion."

"One of the things that General Assembly members, including myself, are sensitive to," he said, "is that, when you toll a facility, I should have a reasonable expectation that the toll is going to go to the operation, maintenance and improvement of that facility."

In the Senate, the governor's transportation package was still in the drafting stage Tuesday evening. But the patron of the legislation, Sen. Frank Wagner, R-Virginia Beach, said of the tolling provisions: "A lot of that language will be stripped out."

The uproar over the Elizabeth River tunnel tolls has sensitized lawmakers to the need for local input and involvement in transportation planning, Wagner said. Leaders in Norfolk and Portsmouth have complained that they were not sufficiently consulted about the project and were blindsided when they saw the details.

McDonnell's proposed statewide tolling authority would diminish the localities' role still further, Wagner said.

Jeff Caldwell, a McDonnell spokesman, said that "tolling remains a key component of the governor's transportation plan for financing major congestion-relieving projects."

"We continue to work with members in the House and Senate to determine the appropriate mechanism for moving forward on this proposal," Caldwell said.

Meanwhile, in Portsmouth, growing alarm over the tolls has prompted two influential groups to join forces for what members called the first time in their decades-long histories.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Steering Committee, composed of black political, church and community leaders, and the Portsmouth Partnership, a civic-minded organization of business leaders, will ride together on a bus to Richmond today in support of an amendment to the state budget proposed by Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, that would steer $500 million in bond proceeds toward the tunnel project.

Lucas has said her measure would reduce the tolls by 50 cents.

"It's really a bigger issue than both of our groups," said Philip Rudisill, president of the Portsmouth Partnership. "It's going to impact the business community and citizens. We certainly thought it was appropriate at this point in time to band together our resources to see what we can do to help the city."

Pilot writer Dave Forster contributed to this report.

TOPICS: Chit/Chat; Local News
KEYWORDS: articletitlenoturl; mcdonnell; virginia
This guy is destroying the republican party in Virginia. FYI to anyone who thinks he is Vice Presidential material.
1 posted on 02/08/2012 5:41:44 AM PST by wolfman23601
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To: wolfman23601

Yes, sounds like a good VP for Romney!

RINOs is as RINOs does...

2 posted on 02/08/2012 5:46:18 AM PST by fruser1
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To: wolfman23601

These tolls here are a really bad idea...
I get the need to raise revenue (how cutting spending and putting more toward transportation?) but people want the bloody traffic to move and tolls bog everything down...
want to p.o. people royally, put up tolls.

3 posted on 02/08/2012 7:57:32 AM PST by matginzac
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To: wolfman23601

I don’t think tolls are a bad idea. Making people pay to fix the congestion problems they are partly the cause of, rather than putting the burden on others, is a conservative idea. It’s not like the tolls pay for an entire road, most costs are still covered by the gas tax.

And I also think it’s a good idea sometimes to toll something to build something else — if that something else will help those using the thing being tolled. FOr example, look at the two tunnels. The one can’t really be expanded, but expanding the other tunnel would lessen traffic in the downtown tunnel, so those users would benefit, even if that tunnel isn’t upgraded.

The most extreme example I can think of for this is in downtown Baltimore — where they put tolls on an I-95 tunnel, and used it to build two new tunnels, which ended up connected to a road that somewhat parallels 95, but is separate from it. Clearly that new tunnel was helpful to those using the old I-95 tunnel (in fact I believe 895 actually uses the old tunnels, and 95 has the new ones, but I’m just trying to make a point).

I don’t like the idea of tolling things that used to be free, in order to provide new benefits for others. I’m not a fan of the HOT lane concept on I-95 for that reason, even though for now current legal uses of the HOV lanes will still get to use them for free, and the private company taking them over is supposed to ENSURE that those HOV users move as quickly as they did before. This is impossible of course, because the whole point of HOT was there was unused capacity, and increasing to the capacity of the road will slow down traffic, probably to within the speed limit but people WERE going faster.

Anyway, I know a lot of people just hate tolls. But we do have some real traffic problems in a few places where people have CHOSEN to live one place and work in another, and they made the choice based on the contributions of all taxpayers to building those roads, and now those roads are almost impossible for casual users because you can’t count on getting anywhere at major periods of the day.

If tolls make those people pay fairly for those choices, we all benefit.

of course, part of the reason for tolls is beause the anti-tax crowd is serious here in Virginia, and so if you really need more revenue, this is the only way to get it — especially since nobody will approve selling the ABC stores.

4 posted on 02/08/2012 9:24:50 AM PST by CharlesWayneCT
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To: matginzac

Traffic isn’t moving much down there. And with the new fastpass tolling schemes, toll booths no longer have to slow traffic down. Plus, the fastpass allows for easy toll-metering schemes, so you can drop or eliminate the toll on non-peak hours, and charge people for using the roads when everybody wants to use them.

This would further remove casual users from the commuters who have no choice, which should speed up traffic.

5 posted on 02/08/2012 9:28:32 AM PST by CharlesWayneCT
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To: CharlesWayneCT

1. The people targeted for tolls still pay the gas tax to pay for the roads they don’t use.

2. In this instance, there are 2 existing roads being tolled and only is being expanded. You are tolling one road to add capacity to another.

3. This creates a “tolling authority” with the power to toll roads and take land via emminent domain without any due process.

4. No tolls for Northern Virginia - ever. Even the proposed toll on I-95 would begin and end at Fredericksburg.

5. Not many people chose to live in one place and work in another. In a military and contracting heavy area, where one reports to work changes day to day. Plus, in a crappy economy, you take te work you can get and most people can’t up and move.

6. The people complaining are the ones that use the tunnels (a majority are low income Portsmouth residents). Nobody asked them their thoughts. Most would prefer the status quo. They will pay tolls for 10 years BEFORE the project is completed. During that time, traffic will be worse with lane closures etc. I don’t accept the premise that something HAS to be done. Come up with the funds with the taxes we already pay or leave it alone. We are already taxed to the brink.

7. Tolls in essence are a liberal idea, not a conservative one. Exhibit states and areas that currently have heavy tolls. It is a cowardice cop out.

8. Unaccountable tolling authorities with emminent domain power are sure as hell not conservative.

9. This really isn’t a democrat/republican issue. It is a crony issue that elites in both parties have supported for years.

6 posted on 02/08/2012 9:43:24 AM PST by wolfman23601
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To: CharlesWayneCT

The good news is they sell a glaze at Autozone that makes your license plate undetectable to cameras.

7 posted on 02/08/2012 9:48:11 AM PST by wolfman23601
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To: wolfman23601

i’m not a fan of “tolling authority”, just as I was not a fan of the privatised HOT lane idea that is coming here in northern virginia (which is a toll road, but is a self-selected toll road).

On self-selection — this is an idea that I think deserves consideration, I don’t want to dismiss it out of hand. When I was in California, they had roads that were like HOV, but were toll roads, and you could decide to use them or not, and the tolls changed depending on how crowded the main road was, so if you wanted to pay more and get somewhere faster, you could.

That is the idea for the HOT lanes here, except that they took existing roads paid for by taxpayers and handed them over to a private company and will allow them to collect money from non-HOV users.

Do people choose to live where they work? I don’t know in general, but I did, and when I got tired of my 15-minute commute, I moved closer and can walk or ride my bike if I want now. I’m blessed, probably, although I don’t remember being given a special magic wand to give me a good job and the ability to pick where I work and where I live.

I don’t do much down in the Hampton roads area, but when I do I always plan around that stupid I64 tunnel. If I’m on a business trip in Virginia Beach I make sure I get out in time to beat the traffic to the tunnel, or else I wait until late evening. I do a lot of travel at night to avoid traffic, but then you hit construction.

If the two tunnels serve a similar traffic corridor, it would benefit users of both to expand one and move some traffic out of the other. I don’t know if that is the plan, if not then they shouldn’t both be tolled.

I agree that toll roads can be a panacea, and a crutch. But I don’t think they are inherently liberal.

And again, I don’t like the tolling authority idea. I also don’t think that will survive the process, because the delegates don’t seem keen on it either. I guess we’ll see.

I will say that I’m extremely cautious right now about attacks on McDonnell. I don’t think he’s perfect, and I’ve complained about things he has done. But I also have seen some attacking him out of anger over his endorsement of Mitt Romney, and while I don’t support Romney this time around, I’m not targetting others for doing so.

8 posted on 02/08/2012 3:20:11 PM PST by CharlesWayneCT
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To: CharlesWayneCT

My anger at McDonnell has nothing to do with his endorsement of Romney and everything to do with local issues. If you do back, you will see I have been critical for over a year. In all honesty, I think McDonnell has done an excellent job of bringing companies and jobs into the state and I think he is solid on social issues, so I don’t think he is all bad either, I just don’t think he is a solid all around conservative.

I on my third job since 2009. I live in Newport News in a house I bought in 2007. i got laid off in December of 2008 literally on the week my son was born. Out of necessity of being a productive citizen and paying my mortgage, I took a job in Virginia Beach as a complete career change. I was there until May 2011, when I voluntarily left and took my experience in my new career and got a new job with more money 4 miles from my house. Frankly, I don’t use the tunnels anymore anyway unless I am going to an ODU basketball game (I am a big fan and season ticket holder). The tolls won’t affect me much at all unless I am forced to find a new job again, but I am still against them. The people that use them pay the same gas tax as the people who commute to Williamsburg and don’t pay tolls and it will isolate and ruin what little of Portsmouth is still decent.

9 posted on 02/08/2012 3:38:21 PM PST by wolfman23601
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To: wolfman23601

That Newport News to Virginia Beach commute could be troublesome.

One time, a while ago now, I had a job on the naval base just around the corner (east) from the tunnel. They put us in a hotel in Newport News, because some other guy liked to stay there when working on a ship at the commercial shipyard on the west side of the tunnel.

So we had to commute through the tunnel. We left early in the morning, and then ate dinner on the other side after work, so we came back through late.

Most of my drives down to your area stop at Busch Gardens. On the other hand, my new state senate district almost makes it to your area....

10 posted on 02/08/2012 4:01:47 PM PST by CharlesWayneCT
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To: wolfman23601; CharlesWayneCT

Let me put my 2 cents in here, as an “outsider.” I’ve been following the toll fiasco on the Pilot even though I don’t live in Hampton Roads, I also get my “local” TV news from there. I live on the Eastern Shore and rarely venture to the other side of the Bay.

However, traffic and congestion, and yes even tolls in the Hampton Roads area, do effect me because it is amazing just how much stuff has to cross the Bay to get here.

A few weeks back, before this “tolling authority” plan came up I suggested a small increase in the gas tax, but ONLY if the distribution formula was changed. Considering the amount Hampton Roads generates for the Commonwealth in gas taxes, the percentage of it returned to the region is disgraceful. The lion’s share always goes to NoVA.

I hate taxes, and toll is just another name for tax, as much as the next gal, but the Hampton Roads infrastructure is important to all of us and something has to be done.

11 posted on 02/08/2012 4:21:11 PM PST by Gabz (Democrats for Voldemort.)
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To: Gabz

Decent proposal. I think McDonnell’s problem is he misread the tea leaves. All the cronies and the media sounds off that something, anything, must be done. In reality, us common folks would just prefer they pave the roads we have, give up on the choo choo projects, and stick with the status quo if tolls are the alternative.

12 posted on 02/08/2012 4:39:46 PM PST by wolfman23601
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To: wolfman23601

Increasing taxes rubs everyone the wrong way, but these tolls are just down right wrong. I hate the $$$ toll on the CBBT, but at least that toll is only used for that crossing - which is as it should be.

The gas tax hasn’t been raised in over 20 years, and with the price of it right now fluctuating nearly daily, who is going to notice 5cents?

I know, I know, what kind of a conservative can I claim to be supporting a tax increase - but something has to give. Between what I see from the morning traffic reports and read on the Pilot far more gas is wasted in a daily commute than a mere nickel a gallon.

13 posted on 02/08/2012 5:03:08 PM PST by Gabz (Democrats for Voldemort.)
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To: wolfman23601
Oh so it's a Squid Tax to get too NNSY how nice. /Sarcasm.

I hated the Portsmouth {downtown} Tunnel in the late 70's. Hampton Roads Tunnel was OK and when I was there the toll had been lifted a year or so earlier.

14 posted on 02/08/2012 5:41:31 PM PST by cva66snipe (Two Choices left for U.S. One Nation Under GOD or One Nation Under Judgment? Which one say ye?)
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To: Gabz

That’s funny, because in Northern Virginia, we believe that most of our money goes to southwest virginia.


15 posted on 02/08/2012 9:25:38 PM PST by CharlesWayneCT
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To: CharlesWayneCT

Proportionally based on revenues generated SW VA, you are probably right - but in raw numbers NoVA does get a larger amount.

When the new causeway/bridge was being built to Chincoteague we all had lots of laughs listening to the whining of the folks from NoVA complaining it was such a waste of money that could be better spent on roads there. Of course they were also the ones who yelled loudest when the old bridge occasionally got stuck and it took them an extra 15 minutes, or heaven forbid 30 minutes, to get on the Island.

16 posted on 02/09/2012 6:41:15 AM PST by Gabz (Democrats for Voldemort.)
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