PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Drivers in Hampton Roads will soon be paying more money to travel through the tunnels between Norfolk and Portsmouth.
Elizabeth Rivers Tunnels announced on Wednesday that the tolls at the Downtown and Midtown tunnels will increase starting January 1, 2022. Officials say the increase is part of the ongoing agreement between Elizabeth River Crossings OpCo, LLC (ERC) and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).
Those driving passenger vehicles with an E-ZPass can expect an increase of 9¢ during normal hours, as well as a 17¢ increase during peak times. Those driving heavy vehicles with an E-ZPass will see a 26¢ increase during normal hours and a 69¢ increase during peak times.
Drivers who pay by plate will, meanwhile, pay an average of 31¢ more for passenger vehicles and 66¢ more for heavy vehicles.
These increases will actually be the first in two years. Tolls were not increased at the start of 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Tolls previously went up from $2.20 to $2.33 for passenger vehicles during peak hours in 2020.
Earlier this week, Governor Ralph Northam announced that commuters who make less than $30,000 a year and who make five round trips to and from work each week will get a 50% discount, saving them up to about $650 per year. The discount is part of the Toll Relief Program.
In July 2021, Portsmouth’s mayor suggest that Commonwealth could use federal coronavirus relief funds to — at the very least — reduce the tolls of the Downtown and Midtown Tunnels between Portsmouth and Norfolk.
“We will be there to voice those concerns and hopefully take away some of those dollars to reduce the tolls for the citizens for the city of Portsmouth and our region,” Mayor Shannon Glover said. “We must continue to advocate and take this forward.”
Through an agreement under former Governor Bob McDonnell in 2011, ERC was given exclusive rights to set and collect tolls on the Downtown and Midtown tunnels for 58 years. Tolls began in 2014, and have impacted the region heavily — particularly Portsmouth.
The tolls are used to help pay for the upkeep and operations of the two tunnels, as well as the MLK
Expressway and approximately 51 lane miles of associated roads. Revenue from the tolls is used to help repay the debt from almost $2 billion in improvements and rehabilitations that were completed in 2017.