PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) - Budget negotiators spent the day hammering out a compromise that considers an amendment to delay the proposed tolls on the Downtown and Midtown Tunnels .
Monday, Delegate Chris Jones, (R) Suffolk, asked the McDonnell administration to cut back the $2.1 billion road project the tolls would fund. So, WAVY.com went to the neighborhood that would be heavily impacted by Jones' proposed cut.
Jones' plan would remove the Martin Luther King extension from the project, saving $194 million.
"It will be destroyed," resident Paula Boone said. Boone lives near the proposed expansion project which would connect the Midtown Tunnel to I-264 at Frederick Boulevard.
Boone's neighborhood, known as Arcadia Heights, was decimated 50 years ago when I-264 was built, dividing the neighborhood.
With the MLK extension, history would repeat itself.
"The original plan was taking five homes...this is my house, the one I grew up in," Boone said pointing to the homes that would be impacted by the interchange.
After neighbors cried foul, the Downtown-Midtown Tunnel toll plan was changed to take only two of the homes.
Boone was delighted when she heard Jones' request to the Governor's Office.
"I said, 'Great. That's going to be good.' At least I will have my home, and the neighbors will have their homes," Boone said.
Another local leader looking to find another answer for the toll dilemma is Portsmouth Senator Louise Lucas.
"We may be in violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act...they seem to think this deserves another look, and that is why they (local members of the ACLU and the NAACP) are going to the national level with it," Lucas explained.
She said the proposed tolls create a wall segregating Portsmouth, whose population is about 59 percent minority.
"Portsmouth is being segregated from Norfolk and Virginia Beach, which is where the jobs are, where medical care takes place, where education takes place at Norfolk State and ODU and places east," said Lucas.
There is also the question of whether acquiring an EZ Pass transponder, which requires credit cards or a checking account, could place an undue burden on Portsmouth's poor and underserved residents.
While how all this will play out is unknown, it is clear the end will not be the easy one Governor Bob McDonnell, Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton, VDOT and the Elizabeth River Crossings hoped for.
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