The Federal Highway Administration has given tentative approval to a plan that will bring tolls to Interstate 95 in North Carolina.
The state Department of Transportation said in a statement Friday that the agency gave its approval contingent on the outcome of the standard environmental and permit-seeking process.
The state says the tolls will pay for extensive renovations to the major highway corridor, including widening parts of the Interstate to six and eight lanes, raising and rebuilding bridges and making repairs to pavement. The work is estimated to cost $4.4 billion.
Current funding without the tolls only accounts for about 10 percent of that cost.
State officials hope to be able to start construction in 2016, with toll collection beginning three years later.
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If you drive I-95 a lot- you could have to pay a toll soon, and you have a chance to speak out about it
The N.C. Department of Transportation had the first of several public hearings in Rocky Mount Thursday. It is considering I-95 tolls to pay for improvements to widen parts of the interstate to 6 and 8 lanes, raise and rebuild bridges, and repair pavement. It says it would cost about $4.4 billion, and the state can only pay about 10 percent. Advance Moving & Storage workers in Greenville say they're on I-95 at least a couple times a week, and say with the cost of gas on the rise and having to cut their rates because of the recovering economy, every extra dollar will add up.
"You're wanting to monitor your expenses and you're trying to monitor where your money goes and trail that so - I mean, like I said, it is an added expense," said Aaron Bunch of Advance Moving & Storage.
There will also be 4 more hearings starting next week in Dunn, Smithfield, Wilson, and Cumberland County.
The DOT says this would be a 20-year project. It says it's hoping to start work on the highway from Robeson County to I-40 in Johnston County in 2016.
They would then add tolls and continue working on the rest of the interstate in 2019. It says it's goal would be to finish the project in 2032.
Statistics show more people die in crashes on I-95 in North Carolina than on that interstate in any other state. Now, officials want to improve I-95, and they want tolls to pay for it.
It's a hot topic, and it was the focus of a public hearing in Rocky Mount Thursday. Transportation officials think tolls will be needed to cover the 4.4 billion dollar price tag of the interstate improvements. They also plan to make long-distance truckers, out-of-state drivers and those who go more than just a few miles on I-95 to be the ones who pay the tolls.