Editor: I’ve been a resident of Loudoun County my entire life. I recall when the tolls on the Dulles Greenway and Dulles Toll Road were half of what they are now, and I’m sure even the newer residents recall being able to drive on I-66 for free into Arlington and DC each morning.
Throughout the past decade, the Commonwealth of Virginia has consistently “nickeled-and-dimed” travelers by either increasing toll fares (i.e. the Dulles Toll Road) or adding tolled-lanes to existing non-tolled roads (i.e. I-495, I-95). To the surprise of Virginians, these roads weren’t just charging a few nickels or dimes, but rather tolls that sometimes skyrocketed upwards of $3 per mile, for example, on I-66.
I am currently a student at Virginia Tech, so I drive Interstate 81 several times each year going to and from school. I agree that I-81 could use road improvements; however, I firmly believe that a toll road is not the solution to gather funding given our government’s track record of charging high tolls.
Dating back to early America when toll roads started appearing, people disliked the feeling of paying a toll. As a result, lots of travelers choose to shunpike. Today, everything is still the same, and according to a 2004 study titled “The Impact of Tolls on Freight Movement for I-81 in Virginia” produced for the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, tolls above 20 cents per mile along I-81 cause a significant impact to local highways, as 35 percent of trucks will seek alternate routes. Not only will this cause more traffic cutting through small towns along US-11, but also more wear and tear on these local roads. Even with a much lower 5-cent per mile toll, the report says that nearly one-fifth of trucks will seek alternate routes. The report also explains how local travelers will likely avoid I-81 altogether. With inflation and increased traffic along the corridor, these implications have only increased since the study was conducted.
These small towns are filled with history and culture, and I’m sure they don’t want their main streets to become lined with 53-foot trailers for as far as the eye can see. I hope that our legislators in Richmond will do their jobs. They are elected to serve the people, and regardless of political affiliation, I think most Virginians, especially here in Loudoun County, don’t want to be held captive to another expensive toll road.
Daniel T. Eisert, Ashburn