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Group against Senate Bill that proposes toll on I-81

ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR News) - A group is trying to hit the brakes on a proposed bill that would add tolls on Interstate 81 to fund improvements. 

The group Keep Tolls Off 81 is asking people to write the Governor or their local representatives to oppose the new Senate Bill 1716 by Mark Obenshain

"We absolutely don't agree with tolling 81. With that said, we absolutely agree that there's an issue and it does need to be addressed," said Walter Grigg.

Grigg is a Vice President with Lawrence Companies. They transport goods for companies and manufacturers.

"We have customers anywhere from northern Florida, to Atlanta, to Columbus, Ohio, to New Jersey and all parts in between. All of which utilize the I-81 corridor with a majority of the miles in 81," Grigg said.

He says tolls would be bad for his business and they wouldn't be fair.

"The proposal, by tolling and making it transportation heavy, significantly affects transportation businesses, and by proxy who they serve, manufacturing and other businesses in the area and it puts us at a serve disadvantage. "

According to the proposal, the initial toll rate on vehicles defined as Class 6 or higher shall not exceed 17 cents per mile. 

But Grigg says anything around 15 cents a mile would be more than they make in profit.

"So the toll that they are suggesting and imposing on us would be absolutely catastrophic. There's no way we could digest it."

He says they would have to pass the cost on to their customers, which could cause them to leave.

"This area is a transportation hub, that's really where Roanoke got its start. And we're a core to the I-81 corridor. If you disincentivize the cost of transportation, you're taking away the very thing that made Roanoke what it is."

He says instead of the tolls they should look at other ways to improve the interstate like taxes.

"As opposed to literally creating a new wheel to gain revenue to offset these expenses, use the existing taxation methods, because the existing methods were in place already to manage and deal with these kinds of challenges."

The current proposed bill says that no taxes would be in place as long as the tolls are in place.

The bill was presented to the Senate and referred to a committee on transportation. It's up to that committee what happens next.

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