Sunday, February 15, 2004

Economics of I-81 expansion considered

In articles here from the Roanoke paper ("Panel gives Star's plans green light for 1-81," 2/15/2004), here ("VDOT panel says STAR plan closest," 2/15/2004) in the Bristol paper, here ("I-81 Expansion May Toll Truckers," 2/14/2004) from Channel 11, and here ("Panel wants all drivers to pay," 2/14/2004) in the Richmond paper the finances of the expansion of Interstate 81 are discussed.

Apparently, it would take a big increase in the gas tax to pay for the interstate widening project, and since the General Assembly would never agree to that, the cost will be paid through tolls on users, the incidence of which will fall mostly on locals in Western Virginia from Bristol to Winchester, since the interstate traffic will find other routes, including Interstate 95 in Virginia, which I always thought was more dangerous than 81. People will do weird things to avoid paying the government, ask any Bristol Virginia employee with employees from Tennessee.

I guess I'll never understand these things, but it seems to me that all of these facts have always been true - if it took local money, there were be no interstates. If interstate traffic is what makes the expansion necessary, then federal money should be the solution. If tolls on Virginians are what is required, then put the tolls on every mile of road in the state. If taxes are the only solution, then put in a new bunch of legislators. What is intolerable is Western Virginians paying the bill for what ought to be a statewide and national expense. (Let's see, I drive on the Interstate about 20 miles per day, at 20 cents per mile, that $4 per day, 25 days per month, 12 months per year, that $1,200 - guess I'll be taking Jonesborough Road or Route 11 or swinging around by the lake to get to and from Bristol.)

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