Virginia Editorial: Tolls on I-81? Proceed with caution, please

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced a plan Jan. 8 to add tolls on the I-81 corridor between Winchester and Bristol to fund a $2.2 billion in improvements for the heavily travelled interstate. Owners of small trucks and automobiles would be able to purchase an annual unlimited pass for a fixed $30 fee under his proposal.

The idea for the tolls is to feed a dedicated “I-81 Corridor Improvement Fund” to fund the upgrades along the 325-mile stretch of roadway, which include adding a third lane in high-traffic areas, widening shoulders, making curves safer and adding technology to improve traffic flow. Virginia is also looking at federal money to supplement the toll revenue.

Love them or hate them, the political allure of tolling is obvious. Easing or eliminating the need to raise taxes to fund expensive road improvements while shifting the cost to those who most directly use the interstates sits well with some constituents, particularly those who live in other parts of the state.