Gov. McDonnell wants tolls to fund road projects.

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The Federal Highway Administration has given preliminary approval for Virginia to impose tolls on Interstate 95.

These new tolls will fund transportation projects, Gov. Bob McDonnell’s office said Monday.

Federal Highway Administration Administrator Victor Mendez granted the Virginia Department of Transportation conditional provisional approval for a toll plan the state submitted in January. Virginia will secure full approval upon meeting specific requirements Mendez outlined in a Sept. 14 letter, McDonnell’s office said.

“This approval is a major step toward funding critical capacity and infrastructure improvements needed in this corridor,” McDonnell said in a statement. “The commonwealth cannot continue to be a leader in economic development and job creation if we do not address our transportation needs.”

The tolls would be imposed under the Interstate Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Pilot Program, that  allows three states to impose tolls on interstate highways. As part of the process, the federal agency will rescind conditional provisional approval for Virginia to impose tolls on Interstate 81 in western Virginia.

VDOT estimates the I-95toll program could generate $250 million in its first five years, and more than $50 million annually in subsequent years. The revenues would pay for expanding highway capacity, improving road safety, and reconstructing and rehabilitating pavement and structures along I-95, one of the nation’s most heavily traveled interstates.

Officials say specific toll-funded projects could include widening I-95between I-295 and the North Carolina border, improving pavements on more than 700 lane-miles, enhancing Intelligent Transportation Systems, widening shoulders, and installing guardrails and vehicle-height detectors on bridges.

Currently Interstate 81 and Interstate 64, both of which run through Rockbridge County, are without tolls.

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