Ellmers Right about TollsMarch 5 2012
Editorial, Dunn Daily Record
It’s good that Rep. Renee Ellmers is taking an active role in the debate over making I-95 in North Carolina a toll road.
As reported in Friday’s Daily Record, the first term congresswoman sent a letter to the Federal Highway Administration in which she opposed the conditional preliminary approval the FHA recently granted the North Carolina Department of Transportation to implement tolling along I-95 through North Carolina.
Under the toll plan, those who live along I-95 would pay a disproportionate amount of the $4.4 billion project. And that’s simply not fair.
It’s not fair that people who live near I-95 would pay a bunch of tolls while those who live near other interstate highways don’t.
I-95 is vital to the American economy, as goods are trucked up and down the eastern seaboard. Making the people who live beside it pay more would be like asking the people who live beside Fort Bragg to pay a higher percentage of our nation’s defense budget.
As Rep. Ellmers pointed out in her letter, “Residents of the Second District will end up being the primary source of funding for an interstate commerce resource more properly funded by the population as a whole.”
She also pointed to other cost and safety issues that would come about as a result of the tolls. She correctly said the tolls would cause drivers to use alternate routes to avoid tolls — particularly U.S. 301 — which “would shift traffic from the interstate to less safe secondary roads which are not built to withstand such wear and tear, and would therefore require more maintenance.”
Tolls could also hurt our small businesses as drivers avoid tolling locations.
“The loss of income to businesses dependent on I-95 traffic ... could lead to job losses or business closures,” Rep. Ellmers wrote.
She wants the state DOT to study “the impact a highway tax would have on existing businesses and residents along the I-95 corridor and across the state.” And that’s exactly what should happen. Tolling I-95 is a huge and long-lasting decision. There’s no need to rush it; we first need all the information we can gather about how the tolls would affect our state. There’s another argument against the tolls that citizens of our community should repeatedly use as a rallying cry: WE ALREADY PAID.
We pay one of the highest gasoline taxes in the country. And if lawmakers hadn’t raided our state’s Highway Trust Fund to pay for other things, we would have enough money to pay for the I-95 improvements.
Rep. Ellmers wrote that imposing tolls would be “a form of double taxation on motorists already paying high taxes on gasoline.”
She’s right, of course. And we congratulate her for her leadership on this issue.