Virginia's governor is making plans to erect a tollbooth on Interstate 95 near the North Carolina border, and North Carolina officials are talking seriously as well about collecting tolls to pay for a multi-billion-dollar overhaul of I-95 as it passes through eastern North Carolina (see Sunday's story with reader comments.)
Tolls only at the border are somehow more palatable to voters and in-state drivers, and that's what Senate leader Marc Basnight favors: tolls, but only at the Virginia border.
But in interview remarks that didn't make Sunday's story, Gene Conti, the state DOT secretary, says Virginia's border-only approach would not raise enough revenue to pay for the I-95 fix. North Carolina probably will have to have several toll collection points along the 182 miles of I-95, Conti said.
"We would like to work with Virginia. But we would like to do more than just toll at the border, because that's not really solving the problem. That's just putting up one tollbooth and hoping you can collect enough to make a difference. ... It's just not the most cost-effective way to do it. ... We're looking at a more comprehensive approach."
North Carolina's all-electronic tolling technology would not require drivers to stop or slow down for tolls, and it could give the state flexibility to limit the impact of tolls on state residents who use I-95 for short trips from one North Carolina town to the next, Conti said.
The state might set up electronic tolling sensors (to photograph license plates or receive signals from drivers who use E-ZPass or other transponders) in only four or five places between Virginia and North Carolina.
"The local traffic would be exempt because you don't have tolls at every interchange. We might have them spaced out to catch the majority of the interstate traffic, but if you do only the short-distance travel, you may not ever have to pay anything. In effect, you're not using I-95 as an interstate -- you're using it as a local road."