WASHINGTON (WAVY) - Residents in Hampton Roads are one step closer to having to pay tolls at the Downtown and Midtown tunnels by the end of 2012.
The U.S. Department of Transportation announced approval of a $422 million loan on April 13 that would aid in the construction of a new Midtown Tunnel and rehabilitation to existing tunnels.
"This much-needed transportation investment will provide jobs in the immediate future to help make the area more productive and contribute to economic growth," Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez said. "In addition, the project will bring congestion relief and help businesses provide better service to their customers."
This may be the news Governor Bob McDonnell was waiting for to close the deal with Elizabeth River Crossings. Unless money is found to pay down the project until 2014, tolls could be in place by the end of 2012. Gov. McDonnell told Suffolk Delegate Chris Jones that he's trying to find that money, but so far the money hasn't been available.
The Virginia Department of Transportation will work with Elizabeth River Crossings in a public-private partnership, and tolling is expect to last more that 58 years. Throughout the project, VDOT will maintain ownership.
The entire project is expected to cost an estimated $2.1 billion and includes the construction of another Midtown Tunnel, rehabilitation of the current Midtown tunnel, repairs to the Downtown tunnel and the extension of the Martin Luther King Freeway.
According to a press release from the U.S. Department of Transportation, this federal loan, is expected to keep toll rates down by lowering the financing costs of the project. The release states that Elizabeth River Crossings will receive the loan to advance the project and use the toll revenue to pay it back.
WAVY.com has been following this story daily and has interviewed the Portsmouth city mayor , Gov. Bob McDonnell , Va. Secretary of Transportation , State Senator Louise Lucas , and former governor Tim Kaine .
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