Don’t Turn I-95 Into a Toll Road

By: - August 25, 2005 4:32 am

Southern Pines Pilot

Did you know the 2005-’06 state budget includes a provision allowing North Carolina to turn its section of Interstate 95 into a toll road?

Neither did we. And more important, neither did many members of the General Assembly, who weren’t aware that they were taking that major step until they had already taken it. Seems the little bombshell got dropped quietly into the budget at a late stage in the negotiations.

It is dumb legislation, approved in a dumb way. Surely something of this magnitude should become law only after thoughtful debate among both the lawmakers and the public. Trying to sneak it through at the last minute is an insult that turns the concept of due process on its ear. That kind of thing seems to be happening all too frequently these days in Raleigh.

But put process aside and consider the idea on its merit. Even if the federal government goes along with the idea, which is far from sure, do we really want to set up toll booths and barricades along I-95, requiring motorists to stop every 30 miles or so and toss coins into receptacles? Anybody who has put up with that on a regular basis elsewhere, as on some thoroughfares in the Greater Washington area, knows what a pain that can be.

But put the matter of annoyance and inconvenience aside, too. There would be negative effects at the practical level. Truckers would probably start turning onto alternate routes to avoid fares on at least some stretches of the Interstate, causing dangerous traffic problems on lesser roads.

This looks like one more example of trying for a quick budget fix. If there’s not enough money to maintain our highway system, then we need to raise the gasoline tax. Turning open roads into closed turnpikes is not the answer.

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Chris Fitzsimon

Chris Fitzsimon, Founder and Executive Director of N.C. Policy Watch, writes the Fitzsimon File, delivers a radio commentary broadcast on WRAL-FM and hosts "News and Views," a weekly radio news magazine that airs on multiple stations across North Carolina. [email protected] 919-861-2066