HAMPTON, Va. — Big changes are coming that could save some drivers money at the Downtown and Downtown Tunnel tolls.
Emmanuel Ferguson has lived in Portsmouth all his life.
He has a low income, so when he travels to Norfolk he says he bypasses the tunnels avoiding the tolls to cut costs.
“The toll is so high,” Ferguson said. “Then you go further, you have to spend more gas. You already have food that goes high. The cost of living and housing is skyrocketing. So everything really, go up high.
The Virginia Department of Transportation is trying to ease the financial burden.
VDOT and Elizabeth River Crossings (ERC) are making changes to their Toll Relief Program for the Downtown and Midtown Tunnels.
They are now opening it up to include anyone living in the Hampton Roads area who might be eligible.
Over the past five years, only people living in Portsmouth and Norfolk have been able to realize savings, which total around $0.75 to $1.00 per trip.
This discount now increases to $0.97 or $1.25.
Portsmouth Mayor and ERC Task Force Chairman Shannon Glover said it was a good start.
“We are a region,” he said. “We intend to work together to improve the quality of life for all roadside citizens of Hampton and our respective cities.”
Income eligibility also changes.
Those currently in the relief program must earn $30,000 or less per year to qualify. Now, a driver earning up to $50,000 can apply in person.
Ferguson hopes this updated plan will attract more visitors to the area.
“There’s activity in Norfolk, people in Portsmouth want to go there,” Ferguson said. “There are activities in Portsmouth that people from Norfolk want to take part in. Even Virginia Beach wants to come here.
Also, there will no longer be a deadline to see if you qualify. Instead, you can enroll year-round starting November 1, 2022. Participants should start seeing savings immediately.
The toll relief program will be reassessed next summer.