Removing tolls tops board’s legislative agenda

Quinton Sheppard - Posted on Oct 04, 2017 - 02:34 PM

The eventual elimination of tolls on the Coleman Bridge tops Gloucester County’s legislative agenda, which the county’s board of supervisors is expected to adopt Oct. 17 and send to Richmond for the 2018 Virginia General Assembly session. 

The tolls, along with other major issues of local importance, were discussed during the board of supervisors’ regular meeting Tuesday night in the colonial courthouse.

The issue of tolls has garnered the attention of the federal government, as Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Montross) included language in the National Defense Authorization Act asking the Navy to assess its use of the bridge and the operations and maintenance costs associated, in the hope that it could lead to a cost-sharing agreement. Now, the county hopes to receive similar attention from the state.

“Mr. (Phillip) Bazzani and I have spent a lot of time and effort trying to get traction on this,” said Gloucester’s county administrator Brent Fedors. 

It was announced in July that Bazzani, the York district representative on the board of supervisors, and Fedors were making strides with Witt-

man to find a way to alleviate the burden Middle Peninsula residents have borne in tolls for maintaining the span of the bridge. 

Noting the matter as a legislative priority for the General Assembly, the county is asserting that, upon retirement of the bond used to pay for the bridge, operation and maintenance of the Coleman Bridge should be funded under VDOT’s “State of Good Repair” program. This, according to Fedors, is the case for nearly all other state-owned bridges, reserving toll revenues exclusively for toll facility operation and Toll Facility Revolving Fund pay-down.

The language in the legislative agenda goes on to state, “Further, Gloucester County requests full transparency and a cooperative approach from VDOT, and a seat at the table when matters concerning the Coleman Bridge are contemplated, as Gloucester County residents pay approximately 70 percent of all toll revenues.”

On the federal approach, Wittman said in July, “We can’t dictate what the state does with the tolls. But we can underwrite the costs associated with the maintenance of the bridge.” The matter will go before the U.S. Armed Services Committee in March 2018. “There’s lots of speculation there, so don’t hold your breath,” Fedors said.

At-large supervisor John Meyer Jr. said Wittman, being a member of the House Armed Services Committee and chairman of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, is “the most influential congressman” as far as the Navy is concerned. “I think it’ll be a matter of crossing some T’s and dotting some I’s,” Meyer added.

Virginia’s Commonwealth Transportation Board will have the final say on what to do with the tolls, according to Wittman.