NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) - In an exclusive interview with 10 On Your Side, Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton said he is working to get the proposed tolls for the Downtown and Midtown Tunnels delayed. Thursday, Governor Bob McDonnell expressed the same sentiment.
McDonnell wants to re-allocate up to $125 million, which would allow the state to pay tolls until January 2014.
"I am certainly sensitive to some of the concerns that have been raised in the community," McDonnell said.
McDonnell knows the current toll deal does not sit well with thousands of residents.
"We are going to see if there are some resources that we can move around to help with the toll issue," McDonnell added. "I want to make sure people are comfortable that this is a good deal, which this is, and to make sure people can afford it, particularly the regular commuters."
The toll delay plan was a budget amendment submitted by Portsmouth Senator Louise Lucas. The amendment passed in the Virginia Senate. WAVY.com asked the governor if he gets the amendment as part of the budget, would he veto it.
"No, we suggested these things to her through Secretary Connaughton," McDonnell answered.
Connaughton said Thursday, the idea of delayed tolls is reasonable, adding, "... Actually it's something we've been working with them on, and we have had a very productive dialogue with members of the Senate."
Lucas added, "I like what's coming from the administration. I am very hopeful, and I am encouraged, and I am grateful also."
Lucas confirmed that she asked Connaughton whether tolls could be delayed, and he suggested a budget amendment
McDonnell said, "I am open to ideas to get these projects built. What I am tired of is delays and excuses in Hampton Roads about why we can't get projects done."
McDonnell has also proposed raising the amount of state sales tax going to transportation from half a cent to 3/4 of a cent, and that was defeated in the Senate. However, the hike is still under consideration in the House of Delegates budget.
"It's just a matter of setting priorities. Transportation is a priority. I lived here for 21 years. They should have passed it in the Senate, but they didn't. They killed it, and now they want to know why they don't have enough money for transportation," McDonnell explained.
Lucas said the Senate defeated McDonnell's plan because it took too much money from the general fund, which also goes to education, health and other priorities.
Lucas said she will submit a bill next Jan. that will raise the state sales tax one cent on the dollar for transportation only. The plan would raise billions of dollars and provide the revenue stream Virginia is looking for, for road projects.
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