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Issues


 

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In The News

Published: 08:12 AM, Wed Apr 25, 2012

Cumberland County officials want locals to get discount on proposed Interstate 95 tolls

Staff writer

If tolls are imposed along Interstate 95, the Cumberland County commissioners want the people and companies who live and work along the corridor to get a discount.

The state Department of Transportation has said its plans to widen and resurface I-95 throughout the state will attract businesses to nearby communities and improve their economies.

"That's the perception," Commissioner Jimmy Keefe said during a meeting Tuesday with the county's delegation of state legislators. "The reality is, we know it's going to cost our citizens money."

Tolls were proposed because other available funding meets only 10 percent of the $4.4 billion cost of upgrades DOT says the road needs.

Several counties the interstate passes through have voiced opposition to the tolls.

Keefe said he couldn't see how charging residents of other counties money to use I-95 to come to work here would help the economy. DOT has proposed placing as many as 20 tolling points along I-95. Cumberland is the most populous county on I-95's 180-mile route through the state. DOT estimates about 55 percent of traffic on the interstate is passing through.

"If they're local, they ought to be able to buy a card at a reduced rate," he said.

Keefe also argued that money that's now allotted to maintain I-95 should be spent on U.S. 301 and other nearby rural routes, rather than elsewhere in the state, because tolls would drive more traffic to local secondary roads. State lawmakers at the meeting agreed.

"It makes inordinately good sense, for all kinds of reasons, that locals should get a discount," said Rep. Rick Glazier of Cumberland County.

Rep. Elmer Floyd of Cumberland County said there should be fewer tolling stations and the cost could be cut by keeping I-95 six lanes throughout the state. DOT plans to make the road eight lanes from I-40 through Fayetteville to Lumberton.

Rep. William Brisson of Bladen County agreed.

"We have other things that are more important to this state than putting eight lines on I-95," he said.

It's unclear how much influence the lawmakers can have on the outcome.

Commissioner Jeannette Council said she said she is more concerned that the state could push responsibility for secondary road maintenance to counties that have no money to handle it.

"That's what I see," she said, "and that's what I'm afraid of."

Staff writer Gregory Phillips can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 486-3596.