FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) - An amendment to the state budget to create four tolls along Interstate 95 is causing quite a stir.
Senator Kevin Johnson of Clarendon County, one of the sponsors of the amendment, said the money from the tolls will go toward much needed improvements like widening the highway to three lanes and bridge repairs.
Johnson said the South Carolina Department of Transportation estimates it would take $1 to $1.5 billion to completely improve the highway over several decades.
“Traffic is at a standstill and the traffic accident rate is high and those types of things, so it’s in need of some major repairing,” Johnson said.
“Out of South Carolina like in Georgia they’re immaculate... all three lanes even in Florida… a little rough in Florida, but I mean the whole two lanes in South Carolina, I just can’t stand it,” Jamie Weber, a local driver, said.
One of the proposed toll sites would be in Clarendon County, where I-95 crosses Lake Marion, and another proposed site is in the Jasper area.
The toll location in the Pee Dee hasn’t been decided yet.
WMBF News asked viewers on our WMBF News Facebook page whether they would support the proposal to add tolls to Interstate 95. A majority of them said no.
WMBF news spoke with several people Wednesday in the Pee Dee about the proposed tolls. With I-95 being one of the major routes through the area, some people said they’re all for improving travel, while others said they don’t think they should pay tolls to do it.
According to I-95exitguide.com, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and several other states already have tolls along I-95. Georgia and Florida along with South Carolina are a few that don’t.
Johnson said those who live near a toll and would have to pass through to travel back and worth to work wouldn't have to pay a daily fee, but may have to buy an annual pass for a small fee.
Florence County Council Chairman Waymon Mumford said he’s leaning toward the “no” crowd and thinks it’s not the right time to propose tolls with the recent gas tax, which was passed to fund road improvements.
“I don’t think we’ve had it long enough to see what effect is has and if there’s a great need for tolls on I-95,” Mumford said. "You’re trying to do a double taxation. You’re taxing them already with the gas tax and now you come back with another tax, really for tolls, and I think that’s going to be detrimental to the bill.”
Johnson said the majority of travelers on the interstate are from out of state, which would lift some of the burden of funding improvements from locals.
Julie Norman, Economic Development Director for Marion County, said she supports the plan.
“Because we have such a big tourism population, I believe 18 million people visit Myrtle Beach, most from out of state, I wouldn’t mind if the out of state tourists help pay for that road,” Norman said.
The amendment was passed in the Senate version of the state budget, but Johnson said there's still a few steps it has to make it through before becoming law.