Good citizens of Hampton Roads, do any of you remember the small toll that was being used on the bridge connecting Chesapeake to Portsmouth? That old drawbridge that looked dangerous that you were afraid to be on if someones car stalled in front of you? That bridge had a toll, and collected enough money to pay city employees but did not generate enough revenue to pay for another bridge when the cities decided to take that bridge out of commission. I will ask a really dumb question and expect a really dumb answer; if tolls are put into place, will you pay to go across the existing infrastructure or find an alternate route. Let me propose another question; if all routes have a toll, would you waste your time going into Portsmouth or to Hampton and Newport News, or would you just forget about it.
I would imagine that unless there was some pressing need to go from one city to the other, or you were actually trying to leave this overgrown metropolis there would not be any need for you to pay for the toll. Tolls are not a question of “if” in this area, but a matter of “when”. A few questions need to be answered before anyone remotely considers using that route. The first is whether or not a commuter is getting what they are paying for. In other words, is this route cleaner, are there less potholes (or none at all), is anything easier to access off of this road, will it save time, can I save money?
The answer to that first question is probably no. Those roads will be wide open in the beginning, but when I-64 starts to backup, everyone and their grandmother is going to get onto 460. People will hate the tolls, but they may put up with them if they can see the advantage. But history has shown us that collecting tolls does not necessarily translate into better roads. Anyone that uses the Turnpike that goes from Ohio into Pennsylvania can testify to this.
The second question is whether or not the money from the tolls are actually being put to good use. We have no real way of knowing this for years. This third question I would ask, is whether I need to go into the city that I have to pay the toll to get into. I have no reason to go into Portsmouth, at all, ever. I didn’t like using that old drawbridge and I would not like having to shell out a few bucks to go through another tunnel. If you work in one city and live in another, then you may use tolls. But if you are going into that other city for “pleasure” as opposed to “business” the toll is a deal breaker.
It is hard enough to get people to pay $200 for a dress shirt in this region, so why would these people pay money for tolls? It simply does not make any sense, if people cannot even afford to buy some of the finer luxuries in life why would they pay to go from one city into another. The problem with Hampton Roads, is that you have a lot of roads that carry a lot of cars, sometimes. Unlike cities like Washington DC if you get out on the road at 1 am on the weekend you pretty much have that road to yourself. We have a low population density, and horrible public transportation, which are some of the reasons that we have the problems with roads that we do have, when we do have issues. But at the same time, it is questionable if people will feel as free to shoot in and out of the seven cities if they do not have to.
If I am going to pay a toll in Hampton Roads I want 4 lanes going in each direction at a minimum. I do not care if the road is built to an adjacent road, or if the money is not there we have enough roads that go 2 lanes in each direction around here to waste money on yet another one. Some of the side streets in this area are two lane split divided roads, so why would anyone pay a toll to go across another one? If the tax revenue is not there to build and maintain the infrastructure that we already have, there is no logical reason to believe the citizens of this region are going to spend money to go into areas that they do necessarily need to go. Each city has everything that you need (or can relatively afford), so why would I spend money to go anywhere else?