North Carolina has secured the third and final slot in a pilot program allowing states to pursue tolling on existing interstates. The N.C. Department of Transportation
applied for the Federal Highway Administration Interstate System Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Pilot Program as a way to fund necessary improvements to Interstate 95 throughout North Carolina."NCDOT has taken a data-driven and conscientious approach to the repair, enhancement and expansion of I-95," said Transportation Secretary Gene Conti. "We are pleased to be moving forward in securing new funding to help us make I-95 a 21st century interstate."North Carolina took a unique approach to determining what improvements would be necessary for I-95 by initiating the I-95 Corridor Planning and Finance Study in 2009. The study was a comprehensive evaluation of the interstate determining how to improve the safety, connectivity and efficiency of all 182 miles of I-95 in North Carolina. FHWA approved the study's Environmental Assessment (EA) in January and the department has begun a second round of public hearings to let citizens along the corridor know what the results of the study are and enable them to provide input. The EA 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 for interstates. The total cost for making these improvements to I-95 is $4.4 billion. Current funding only covers about 10 percent of the costs of these improvements. The next steps include completing the standard environmental and permitting process. NCDOT will then submit a tolling plan for I-95 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 then review these items and determine if NCDOT meets all federal guidelines. If approved, FHWA and NCDOT will then enter into a toll agreement. For more information on plans to improve I-95 and public meeting locations, as well as to submit comments, visit www.driving95.com.Editor's Note: a copy of the letter from FHWA to NCDOT giving conditional approval is attached.