Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Great Blog Post from Lumberton: No Tolls!

A blogger from Robeson County, the southernmost of the eight that I-95 traverses, has laid out his case for keeping I-95 toll free. Barney Bornn blogs at "The Incompleat Curmudgeon," and he's got it right:

I’m not aware of any studies on the economic impact of the I-95 project, but a few things seem clear. People and shippers will do what they can to avoid the tolls, and in North Carolina route 301 is parallel to I-95 for much of its length. Elsewhere, there are local roads that can expect increased traffic, heavier vehicles, and increased maintenance costs. Neither 301 nor the local roads are designed for the kind of traffic they are likely to get. High volume traffic mixed with shoppers, pedestrians, and kids on bicycles would mean more accidents: adding a toll in money to I-95 would add a toll in blood to other roads.
Barney also hits the target with his conclusion:

I’ve sent messages like this one to officials at the Federal, State, County, and City levels. If you’re a resident of North Carolina I’d appreciate your writing your elected officials. We can defeat this plan!

We sure can.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Public Officials Are lining up AGAINST Tolls

As of March 9, three public officials and one county commission have declared their opposition to told on I-95. Rep Renee Ellmers is first out of the box to take steps to stop the plan to put tolls on I-95 in NC. “My constituents in these areas are already facing hard times and now we’ve increased their gas tax and we’re going to be adding another tax on them to go to and from work — to and from their daily lives,” said Ellmers. “I just think that’s incredibly-- here's a video report

Ellmers is not alone, however. The Johnston County Commission unanimously adopted an anti-toll resolution on March 5. (The text is on this blog in a separate post; the official record is here.  )

Other public officials are also speaking up. Jimmy Keefe, a member of the Cumberland County Commission, published a column opposing the tolls. And William David Ayers, Town Commissioner for St. Pauls NC, took to the Letters column of the Fayetteville Observer on March 9.  Here's what he wrote:

Being from a small town on Interstate 95, the topic of tolls is inflammatory. St. Pauls has suffered economically with loss of industry. The town now counts on the interstate as its 21st century industry.
St. Pauls has two underdeveloped exits on I-95 and an adjacent certified industrial site. I believe the tolls now jeopardize a bright future centered on development of those sites.
The DOT stated in The Fayetteville Observer that upgrades to I-95 cost $4.4 billion and would take 60 years with existing funds, leaving no money for other roads. Let's take a closer look. One cent in gasoline tax equals $50 million in revenue, according to the DOT. Therefore the 39.5 cent per gallon tax generates roughly $2 billion a year for roads. Add in diesel taxes, road use taxes and other revenue - the total generated has to be well over $2.5 billion.
How to pay for upgrades? Using only the 4.5 cent gasoline tax increase from this year, $225 million would be generated. Dividing the $4.4 billion by $225 million, it would take almost 20 years to pay for upgrades to I-95. Doubling that to 9 cents from the current 39.5 cent per gallon gasoline tax, we could pay for the upgrades in 10 years.
Can't the DOT be run on $1.5 billion from the remaining 30.5 cents per gallon gas tax and additional revenues?
I oppose this toll and the economic impact it will have on small towns. 
William David Ayers, town commissioner, St. Pauls
 We predict there will be more public officials joining this chorus of sensible opposition.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Throw In The Towel on Our Economic Future? Cumberland County Commissioner Says NO To Tolls, Too

From the Fayetteville Nc Observer Feb. 27, 2012

Op-ed: Keefe - Tolls may harm communities
Jimmy Keefe
The N.C. Department of Transportation's move to turn Interstate 95 into a toll road strikes me as a case of short-term thinking and not truly looking at the global array of solutions to our economic crisis.
Jimmy Keefe
It is a narrow perspective of how the DOT may eliminate its fiscal responsibility to maintain the highways without taking into consideration unintended consequences.
But the butterfly effect of toll roads on Cumberland County, its industry and citizens will be felt every day in the future, a constant reminder of why we cannot break out of the tar pit of financial burden created by government on the backs of citizens and industry.
Cumberland is the most populous county on I-95 in North Carolina that will be affected by this decision. Tolls will have a negative impact on our ability to recruit new business and industry. Our greatest asset and selling tool is proximity to I-95. This toll initiative would largely negate any advantage we have in the global market.
It will not matter how good our schools are, how low our tax rate is, how vibrant our arts and culture programs are. Industry will ultimately make decisions based on the cost of doing business. If every shipment moving on I-95 will have to pay a toll, if every worker has to pay a toll to come to work and every potential customer or visitor has to pay a toll to arrive at his or her destination in Cumberland County, we might as well throw in the towel on economic development, recruitment and tourism.

It's Unanimous: Johnston County Commissioners Say NO to 95 Tolls

On March 5, 2012 the Johnston County NC Commissioners unanimously adopted the following resolution:

WHEREAS, In January of 2012 the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) released the I-95 Corridor Planning & Finance Study identifying tolling as the most feasible means for funding future improvements of Interstate 95 in North Carolina; and

WHEREAS, Prior to the release of the I-95 Study, the NCDOT submitted an application to the FederalHighway Administration requesting approval to implement tolling on the Interstate 95 Corridor under the Interstate System Reconstruction & Rehabilitation Pilot Program; and

WHEREAS, Interstate 95 is a primary transportation artery in Johnston County and a major catalyst for tourism and economic development; and

WHEREAS, Significant negative impacts for communities and businesses that depend on Interstate 95 travelers for their livelihood could occur due to travelers diverting to alternate roads to avoid tolls; and