What is toll relief?
The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has developed a Toll Relief Program to administer funds intended to help ease the financial burden of tolls on Norfolk and Portsmouth residents hardest hit by tolls on the Elizabeth River Tunnels (ERT). The program is designed to provide meaningful relief to qualified residents who travel the Downtown and Midtown tunnels regularly.
How is the Toll Relief program funded?
The Commonwealth of Virginia reached an agreement with ERT operators, Elizabeth River Crossings LLC (ERC) and put into place a program that sets aside $500,000 a year for 10 years to help offset the cost of tolls to those who are the most financially stressed. Unused funds will roll over and be available for use the following year. The agreement supports a broader effort by then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe to decrease the financial impact of major construction improvements on motorists in Hampton Roads.
Why not remove or reduce the tolls altogether on ERT instead of creating this program?
The ERT Comprehensive Agreement between VDOT and ERC was signed for a value of $2.1 billion. This includes total project costs such as financing, designing, building, maintaining and operating the tunnels and the MLK extension. Tolls at the Downtown and Midtown tunnels go toward the maintenance and upkeep of the existing tunnels. They also paid for the construction of the new Midtown Tunnel, which created an additional two lanes of roadway connecting Norfolk and Portsmouth. ERT sets the toll rates as part of their agreement. While VDOT is not able to reduce or remove the tolls, it has partnered with ERC to create the Toll Relief Program in order to offer some financial relief to those most impacted by frequent toll use.