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SC gets green light to toll I-95...could I-26 be next?

South Carolina has recently received approval from the federal government to add tolls to Interstate 95 and appears to be considering the same for Interstate 26. However, the state has no current plans to go forward with the tolling on either highway.

The approval which comes after an August request by SCDOT to gain permission to toll the Interstate. The request was part of the "Corridors to the Future" program. South Carolina was not the only state to request tolling Interstate 95. It appears that Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida made similar requests as well.

Rumors of when, how, and where Interstate 95 will be tolled seem to be widespread throughout the state. A November 15th story in the Greenville News said that the tolling of I-95 could begin in the Spring of 2008. Quoting SC Secretary of Transportation Buck Limehouse the article stated that the tolls would be placed on newly constructed 'hot lanes', which are added tolled express lanes. Motorists willing to pay a toll would use the new highway lanes.

To my knowledge, there are no plans for new 'express lanes' on I-95. My guess is that "Spring 2008" means SCDOT will take a more detailed look at a toll option then.

Pete Poore, who is SCDOT's communications director, said that the tolls would go to "refurbishment and maintenance" and that the tolling option is another "tool in the box" of funding options for SCDOT.

One other story came out of the Greenville News article, the state seems to be looking at tolling I-26...or at least applying for permission. In that article, Limehouse said, "We're looking at I-26 for the same thing because that's where all the truck traffic comes up to Greenville. It's a parking lot right now and it's dangerous."

It was later clarified that the possible tolls would be between Columbia and Charleston.

In the case of I-26, the state has no federal permission to toll Interstate 26.

Stories:
I-95 gets OK for tolls -South Carolina Now
State gets federal OK to charge tolls on I-95; I-26 next -Greenville News

Commentary:
So the state, which may toll Interstate 73, has the OK to toll I-95 and may start this spring, but has no plans to toll the highway nor the 'express lanes' to even charge tolls. Then they may toll I-26 but they don't have federal approval. They need it to Greenville but now only Columbia to Charleston.

Confused yet? It's ok, I had to read both stories a few time to make sense of it too!

What does all this mean - nothing. The state got an OK to toll I-95 but they are also competing with other states to be part of a pilot program to toll previously free interstates. They don't have the ability to toll the highway at this time. Nor do they have the 'express/hot lanes' for the tolls to be placed on either.

Don't forget you'd have to go through right of way acquisition for an over 180 mile highway and everything else that goes along with it.

Interstate 26 - I think Limehouse didn't think first as it appears that SCDOT had to scramble to explain what he meant. SCDOT has no approval to even consider tolling Interstate 26 and even more they haven't submitted an application to do it.

So, in short, the facts are this. SCDOT is looking at tolling various interstates as a funding option to improve and expand their highway system. They are only in the beginning stages of this even becoming a reality and there are a lot of hurdles not only within the federal and state bureaucracy but everything else from private citizen's land to environmental groups to anti-tolling groups to whatever else you want to name.

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