Bills to fix I-81 make it out of committee, have no mention of tolls

Published: Feb. 1, 2019 at 11:41 PM EST
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Legislation for the Interstate 81 Corridor Improvement Fund reported out of committee in both the House of Delegates and the Senate yesterday. However, neither bill has any mention of tolls as a funding source for improvements.

Earlier this week, Frank Tamberrino, president and CEO of the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Chamber of Commerce sent out a call to action.

They asked people to contact their legislators to share their thoughts about the proposed legislation, even if they did not support the tolls. Even though tolls are not on the table for now, Tamberrino says it's still important.

"I think the call to action stays in effect that something needs to be done," he said, "and that's really what we've been saying pretty much since December, if not before."

Tamberrino hopes that something can still be done to improve the interstate, and he says it seems like many groups were aligned to come together this year, which has not always been the case before.

State Senator Mark Obenshain, R-26th District, who introduced the bill into the senate, says he is disappointed with the outcome of the bill.

"We're going to come up with it, I'm disappointed with the setback, but we'll get there," Obenshain said. "I'm going to continue to fight for it."

He added that he hopes people who opposed the tolls will come forward with other funding solutions that could be used to fix the interstate. Obenshain says he is not a fan of the fuel tax because it would tax people who do not use the interstate.

Delegate Steve Landes introduced a similar I-81 bill in the House of Delegates. Landes said he was also disappointed about the bill, but said it did not have the support it needed.

Landes said that the bill sets up the committee they envisioned with the original bill. They will come back with a recommendation about what the funding source should be.

"This will allow the discussion of tolls, or any other option out there for funding," Landes said. "It will allow us to really talk to some of the groups that opposed this and really put them on the spot and say 'what's your alternative?'"

The bills still have not been considered by either the full Senate or House of Delegates.

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