PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — The Elizabeth River Crossings toll relief program will not expand this year.
Virginia Sen. L. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth) voted with the rest of the Virginia Senate Committee on Finance and Appropriations Tuesday to continue her bill proposing expanding the toll relief program to 2023.
They also voted to send a letter to the Virginia Department of Transportation asking if the department can come up with funding for the program.
In November, Portsmouth City Council voted to ask the General Assembly to partially fund the toll relief program so it could be expanded to all people who make $45,000 or less each year.
The current program allows a 50% discount on tolls for commuters who make less than $30,000 a year and who make five round trips to and from work each week via ERC Crossings. That could impact about 4,300 people and save some up to $650 a year.
The enrollment period for the current toll relief program closes on Feb. 15. Toll reimbursements will begin on March 1.
As Portsmouth voted to ask the General Assembly for help expanding the toll relief program, Lucas announced she also would introduce a bill that would have a similar impact.
Tolls recently rose for the Elizabeth River Crossings on Jan. 1 due to an ongoing agreement between Elizabeth River Crossings OpCo, LLC (ERC) and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).
Those driving passenger vehicles with an E-ZPass saw an increase of 9¢ during normal hours, as well as a 17¢ increase during peak times. Those driving heavy vehicles with an E-ZPass saw a 26¢ increase during normal hours and a 69¢ increase during peak times.
In a 2011 deal, Elizabeth River Crossings (ERC) was given the sole right to set and collect tolls on the Downtown and Midtown crossings for 58 years.
A study done by Old Dominion University in 2018 indicated Portsmouth took the biggest hit from the tolls — losing roughly $2.2 million per quarter in tax revenue because of the tolls.