Downtown, Midtown tunnel operator Elizabeth River Crossings bought for more than $2 billion

Tolls

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The operator of the Downtown and Midtown tunnels has been sold for more than $2 billion.

Privately-held Elizabeth River Crossings was purchased by Albertis Infraestructuras in consortium with investment firm John Hancock. Albertis is a Spanish subsidiary of Italian-based Atlantia, a multi-national tolling firm. Atlantia announced the acquisition on Monday in a press release.

The $2.3 billion acquisition includes $1.2 billion in equity and $1.1 billion in debt, and is subject to approval by Virginia through VDOT’s regulatory review.

Albertis is seeking a maximum 68% stake in ERC, which may be reduced to 51%, the company said in a release. It’s the second major acquisition of the year for Albertis, which bought Mexican toll road operator Red de Carreteras de Occidente (RCO) for nearly $6 billion.

10 On Your Side’s Andy Fox reported earlier this year that the Macquarie Group was looking to sell, and a local delegate hopes it could help ease some financial stress for the more than 100,000 people who take the tolls daily. But whether that will happen is still unclear, and again the deal still has to be approved by the state.

In the meantime, it’s business as usual for the tunnels between Norfolk and Portsmouth, with tolls scheduled to continue to increase.

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 crossings for 58 years. Tolls began in 2014, and have impacted the region heavily — particularly Portsmouth. Tolls went up from $2.20 to $2.33 for passenger vehicles during peak hours in 2020.

A taskforce established in 2019 estimated it would take about $1 billion to buy down the tolls, but no money is expected to come from local cities or the state, especially during the pandemic.

This is a breaking article and will be updated.

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