Tolls, EZ Pass Coming to Elizabeth River Tunnels Feb. 1
Next month, new tolls associated with a major construction project at the Downtown and Midtown tunnels will impact the commutes of students, faculty and staff at Old Dominion University who traverse the Elizabeth River between Portsmouth and Norfolk.
An on-campus event on Jan. 13 will help ease the transition by offering the ODU community a convenient forum for commuters to purchase an EZ Pass for electronic toll payment. The "On the Go" event will be held in the Webb Center Potomac and York River rooms from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Representatives from construction consortium Elizabeth River Crossings (ERC), the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and ODU Transportation and Parking Services will attend to answer questions and facilitate EZ Pass purchases.
The tolls - which are expected to be in effect for nearly 60 years - are being implemented as part of a funding mechanism to pay for the construction project that will add a new tube to the Midtown Tunnel and provide improvements to the Downtown Tunnel and the Martin Luther King Freeway.
Beginning Feb. 1, light vehicles will pay $1.59 (off-peak hours) and $1.84 (peak hours) to cross the Elizabeth River using either the Midtown Tunnel or Downtown Tunnel. ERC, the company performing the construction through a public-private partnership with VDOT, classifies a light vehicle as having two axles and up to six wheels. The peak period runs Monday through Friday from 5:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. All other times are considered off-peak. Vehicles that use the MLK Freeway extension and one of the tunnels as part of a single trip will pay 50 cents to use the extension. All vehicles that use only the extension will pay $1, according to ERC.
Tolling stations will not be used to collect payments. Instead, gantries will use sensors to automatically log payment deductions from EZ Pass transponders or to identify license plates in order to charge drivers through mailed invoices. Drivers who use the invoice method will be charged additional administrative fees that will effectively double the base toll rate.
In addition to the ODU event, EZ Passes can be purchased online, by phone or at a number of retail locations throughout Hampton Roads and can be used on all Virginia toll roads as well as those in 14 other states.
Due to high demand, ERC has extended its introductory EZ Pass discount through Jan. 13. The offer, which is available only to Hampton Roads residents who acquire a new Virginia EZ Pass transponder (on a new or pre-existing EZ Pass account) by Jan. 13, provides five free trips through the Downtown or Midtown tunnels taken by June 30, 2014.