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Commissioners agree not to support tolls

November 03, 2004|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

The Washington County Commissioners on Tuesday agreed not to support a state proposal to place toll booths along Interstate 81, claiming tolls would hurt economic development in the county.

"I don't think that any of us are interested in tolls at this point in time," County Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said.

The commissioners also want a proposed truck weigh station kept out of the county, preferring that it be built in Berkeley County, W.Va.

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The State Highway Administration, as part of planned improvements to I-81, has proposed placing tolls along the highway in Washington County near the West Virginia and Pennsylvania borders.

State officials said charging tolls ranging from 50 cents to $2 would generate money for safety improvements to the busy I-81. Those improvements might include widening the highway and adding to acceleration and deceleration lanes.

The commissioners on Tuesday also agreed to support improvements to interchanges along the highway before I-81 is widened.

With tolls, improvements would begin within the next 10 years. Without tolls, the project might be phased in over 20 to 30 years, according to the State Highway Administration.

"It's going to hurt economic development," Commissioner John C. Munson said of tolls. "We don't need them."

At a public hearing earlier this month, residents opposed to the toll booths said they would divert traffic from the highway and jam local streets with traffic.

The Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce said in a statement issued on the day of the hearing that it opposed tolls, saying it would slow the operations of area businesses that use I-81.

The Chamber said tolls also might cause companies to "reconsider locating, expanding or maintaining operations in Washington County."

As part of the I-81 improvements, the state has proposed building a truck weigh station on 10 acres along I-81 south between Halfway Boulevard and U.S. 40.

Some commissioners expressed concern about the weigh station, saying it would slow traffic on an already congested stretch of I-81.

Commissioner Doris J. Nipps said she thought the proposed improvements were supposed to relieve congestion on the highway.

"Now, we're talking about something that would slow traffic down and stop it," Nipps said.

Snook said he thought the rest area on I-81 in West Virginia just south of the Washington County border or an area south of the Spring Mills exit in West Virginia, might make better locations for a weigh station.

Commissioner James F. Kercheval said there was no suitable place along I-81 in Washington County for a weigh station.

"We just don't support a weigh station," he said.

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