‘Talk Before You Toll’

Published 11:48 am Monday, May 7, 2012

By Lance Martin


ROANOKE RAPIDS – Congressman G.K. Butterfield said he would introduce a bill called Talk Before You Toll.

Speaking on Friday morning to members of the Halifax County Chamber of Commerce, Butterfield said the bill would require the highest priority be given to local opinion when weighing the possible tolling of Interstate 95.

“It would confirm your advocacy to the Congressional Record,” he said of the bill, which may be introduced as early as Wednesday.

Butterfield said 24 percent of the First Congressional District he serves lives below the poverty level.

“It’s an added tax. To the hard-working, struggling people who use the Interstate system it is fundamentally unfair,” he stressed.

The congressman said the bill would not be one that stands on its own, however. It will have to be attached to another one that is related to transportation.

“Thank you for your support,” said chamber board of directors member Anitra Collins, of KapStone. “You are the only person at the federal level who has done anything to help us.”

Halifax County Economic Development Director Cathy Scott there is a groundswell of anti-tolling sentiment growing in Virginia that North Carolina’s coalition will help them with.

Asked by rrspin.com how the bill would be enforced, Butterfield said, “That’s the record I’m trying to make so we can document to decision-makers there is no meaningful support for this.”

Scott said opposition to the tolling issue in North Carolina stretches along the interstate and even into Perquimans County. In March, the Northampton County Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution in opposition to tolls on I-95.

Butterfield said North Carolina has the power to stop the tolling and must submit economic and environmental impact statements to the Federal Highway Administration.

“I feel a lot better today,” Collins said. “I’ve felt like this is David versus Goliath. I feel a lot stronger today.”

State Representative Michael Wray said the area’s legislative delegation is fighting tolling hand-in-hand. “We’re going to add our opposition and work on legislation to stop it on the North Carolina side and talk to the Republicans. It’s a very important issue because it affects our whole community,” Wray said.

Earlier this year the North Carolina Department of Transportation (DOT) released a $6.4 million I-95 Corridor Planning and Finance Study that aims to improve the safety, connectivity and efficiency of the historical thoroughfare that connects the eastern coast of the United States.

In the study, DOT identifies tolling as the most feasible means of funding future improvements. Prior to the release of the study, DOT submitted an application to the Federal Highway Administration requesting approval for the tolling under the Interstate System Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Pilot Program.

(Lance Martin is Publisher and Editor of www.rrspin.com. This article is reprinted with permission.)