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Tolls for Downtown, Midtown tunnels will jump in the new year

Courtesy of the Virginia Department of Transportation. The Portsmouth side of the Downtown Tunnel.
Courtesy of the Virginia Department of Transportation. The Portsmouth side of the Downtown Tunnel.

Starting January 1st, trips across the Downtown and Midtown tunnels will cost somewhere between 8 and 11 percent more.

What that means in dollars and cents varies widely based on what you’re driving, what time you’re crossing the bridge and whether you’re paying with an EZ Pass.

Regular passenger cars with an E-ZPass will pay $2.77 during peak drive times in the morning and evening. Those without an E-ZPass will pay $6.95 during rush hours.

Elizabeth River Crossings holds the contract from the state to run the tunnels and the tolls.

That contract lets the company increase toll rates every year, either by 3.5% or by an amount equal to the inflation rate.

In 2022, we saw 7% inflation. That’s where most of the 2023 increase is coming from.

But if the contract limits how much ERC can hike the tolls, why are they going up more than 7%?

Carley Brierre from ERC says the company agreed to defer a planned cost hike in 2021 due to Covid-19.

“In order to make up for that deferral, we actually have spread it equally across three years, instead of just doing it all in 2022, that wouldn't have been fair to our customers,” Brierre said.

The price hike comes after the expansion of a toll relief program this fall.

Previously, only drivers living in Portsmouth or Norfolk who made less than $30,000 per year were eligible for the program.

Now, any resident of Hampton Roads who makes less than $50,000 a year will qualify for the relief package, which amounts to a 50% discount on up to 10 trips per week with an E-ZPass.

More than 5,000 people signed up for the relief program by the end of November, ERC said.

Ryan is WHRO’s business and growth reporter. He joined the newsroom in 2021 after eight years at local newspapers, the Daily Press and Virginian-Pilot. Ryan is a Chesapeake native and still tries to hold his breath every time he drives through the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel.

The world changes fast.

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