FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 4, 2012
Contact: Casey Werderman (804-771-5303)
Southern Environmental Law Center Opposes Tolls on I-95 in Sussex
-Group Cites Equity and Impact on Other Roads Among Reasons for Opposing-
Richmond- The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) is the latest organization to oppose Governor McDonnell’s plan to toll Interstate 95 (I-95) in Sussex County. SELC has expressed its concern with the planned location of the toll, the diversion of traffic to other roads that the toll would cause, and the potential economic, equity, and environmental impacts of the proposal.
The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is proposing to build a tolling facility on I-95 between mile markers 20 and 24 in Sussex County, one of the more economically depressed areas of the Commonwealth. Although SELC recognizes the need to fund maintenance and improvements to I-95, it has raised concerns about the impacts of VDOT’s tolling plan.
Trip Pollard, Director of SELC’s Land and Community Program, noted "Southside Virginia already has some of the highest unemployment rates in the state, and to place a toll there raises serious equity concerns. It would put the area at a further disadvantage when it comes to attracting business and jobs, and disproportionately burden low income and minority populations."
SELC also has expressed concern with the impacts of traffic diversion the proposed toll would cause. In VDOT’s recent application to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the agency estimates that 35-40% of all vehicles using I-95 would divert around the toll and onto secondary roads.
Pollard continued, "The proposal would shift traffic onto secondary roads and other parts of the road network as many trucks and cars seek to avoid paying the toll. Many of these roads are ill-equipped to handle the increased traffic, which would harm surrounding communities, increase congestion and safety problems, and produce more air pollution."
Over the last two months, opposition to Governor McDonnell’s plan to toll I-95 has grown to a fever pitch. Yard signs, billboards, bumper stickers, shopping bags, three trucks and a water tower are all carrying the message that Virginia does not support Governor McDonnell’s plan to toll I-95. Twenty-three localities, thirteen business associations, five economic and planning organizations and numerous businesses and public safety groups have joined over 6,200 individuals who have signed the online petition at www.virginiatollfree95.com in opposition to the Governor’s proposal to toll I-95 in Virginia.
"There is a broad range of opposition to Governor McDonnell’s proposed tolls in Sussex County," said Dale Bennett, President of the Virginia Trucking Association, which has also opposed tolling I-95. "You don’t always see such diverse groups as the Southern Environmental Law Center and the Virginia Trucking Association working together to oppose a transportation proposal, but when you do, clearly it is a bad idea."
For over 25 years, the Southern Environmental Law Center has worked to protect the environment of Virginia and five other states in the Southeast. Their work in all three branches of government and with more than 100 partner groups makes them a strong addition to the growing number of voices in opposition to this toll proposal. SELC is determined to shape, implement, and enforce laws and policies to protect our quality of life.