NCDOT Receives Last FHWA Conditional Approval to Toll Existing Interstate

AASHTO Journal, 24 January 2012

North Carolina secured the third and final slot in a pilot program allowing states to pursue tolling on existing interstate highways, the state’s Department of Transportation announced last Friday. Missouri and Virginia previously received the other two slots.Federal law prohibits tolling existing interstate highways. The pilot program specifically created three exemptions to be issued at the Federal Highway Administration’s discretion.

FHWA gave conditional approval to NCDOT’s application to toll Interstate 95 as part of the Interstate System Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Pilot Program. The department wants to toll I-95 to fund necessary improvements to that highway.

“We are pleased to be moving forward in securing new funding to help us make I-95 a 21st century interstate,” North Carolina Transportation Secretary Gene Conti said in a statement. “NCDOT has taken a data-driven and conscientious approach to the repair, enhancement, and expansion of I-95.”

North Carolina began a corridor planning and finance study in 2009. The study evaluated the interstate to determine how to improve the safety, connectivity, and efficiency of all 182 miles of I-95 in the Tar Heel State.

An environmental assessment recommends widening the interstate to six and eight lanes, repairing pavement, raising and rebuilding bridges, improving interchanges, and bringing I-95 up to current safety standards. The total cost for making these improvements is estimated at $4.4 billion. Current funding would only cover about 10% of these costs, according to NCDOT.

The department must now complete an environmental and permitting process before it could place tolls on I-95. NCDOT will develop a tolling plan that includes pricing, project identification and scheduling, and a detailed description of how toll revenues would be applied to projects along the corridor.

Upon receipt of all required materials, plans, and public comments, FHWA will review these items and determine if NCDOT meets all federal guidelines. If approved, FHWA and NCDOT would then enter into a toll agreement.

More information on NCDOT’s plans to improve I-95 is available at FHWA Administrator Victor Mendez’s two-page letter reserving a pilot program slot for North Carolina is available at

FHWA Rejects Applications from Other States Including Arizona & Rhode Island

Mendez notified other state DOTs that their tolling applications could not be accepted. Arizona Transportation Director John Halikowski said in a statement last Friday that FHWA determined Interstate 15 will not be considered for the tolling program.

The Arizona Department of Transportation looked at tolling its small slice of I-15 as one option for funding $250 million in improvements to that interstate. Despite investing $15 million over the past decade, and approving another $15 million project at last Friday’s meeting of the State Transportation Board, the pavement and bridges on I-15 are nearing the end of their designed service life, placing pressure on ADOT to identify a funding source to rehabilitate the 29-mile-long corridor in the northwest corner of the state.

“ADOT has been vigilant and consistent in its maintenance of I-15, but the time has come for major investments to be made in this corridor,” Halikowski said. “Funding to keep highways and bridges in good repair is an issue in the long-term as we look at the transportation infrastructure around the state. These issues are most pressing on the I-15 corridor, which is such an important link for the nation, even if most Arizonans don’t use it.”

Other states turned down this week include Rhode island, which hoped to toll I-95 at the Connecticut border. Missouri holds conditional approval to toll existing Interstate 70 lanes, and Virginia has been permitted by FHWA to continue develop tolling plans for its section of I-95. (see Sept. 23 AASHTO Journal story)

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