Source: State to eliminate toll on MLK Freeway Extension, at a cost to taxpayers of $78 million

Source: Dave Forster, The Virginian-Pilot, July 10, 2015

The state has an agreement with the private operator of the Midtown and Downtown tunnels to eliminate tolls from a future portion of the project – the Martin Luther King Freeway Extension – at a cost to taxpayers of $78 million, according to a source with knowledge of the deal. The agreement also includes a provision in which Elizabeth River Crossings, the private tunnel operator, will transfer $5 million over 10 years into a yet-to-be created nonprofit organization that will provide rebates on tunnel tolls for low-income motorists, according to the source. The criteria for eligibility for those rebates must still be worked out…Elizabeth River Crossings has a contract to build a second Midtown Tunnel tube and the freeway extension, renovate the existing tunnels, and maintain and operate the roads until 2070. All-electronic tolling on the tunnels began in February 2014 and was slated to begin on the MLK Extension upon its completion.

Gov. McAuliffe Announces Deal Ensuring No Tolls on the MLK Freeway Extension in Portsmouth, Plans under way to ease tolling impacts on the Midtown and Downtown
Source: Virginia Department of Transportation, July 10, 2015

Gov. Terry McAuliffe today announced an agreement that ensures no tolls will be collected on the Martin Luther King (MLK) Freeway extension project, a key achievement in his work to reduce the financial impact of major construction improvements on motorists in Hampton Roads…“After a great deal of work, we now have a plan in place to ease the financial pressure of tolling, particularly for Portsmouth residents,” said Gov. McAuliffe. “The Elizabeth River Tunnels project must be built to reduce congestion, increase safety and improve the economy. This is the right project, but a bad deal reached under the prior administration. Since I took office, toll rates on the tunnels have been lowered during construction. We have worked with our private sector partner to ensure there will be no tolls on the MLK extension. Imposing a toll to finance the improvements would have placed an unfair burden on the citizens of Portsmouth. It is not good policy for Portsmouth to bear the cost of this project when it is also sharing the tolling burden with other motorists in the region who travel the Midtown and Downtown tunnels.”…“Regarding the Midtown and Downtown tunnels, there will be some relief to ease the tolling burden on those residents who are the most financially impacted,” added Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne. “Our contractor, Elizabeth River Crossings (ERC), has agreed to pay $500,000 a year for 10 years to help offset the cost of tolls to those toll users who are the most financially stressed.”

“Tunnel toll suit to be heard by state court on Sept. 11
Source: Julian Walker, Virginian-Pilot, August 29, 2013

In two weeks, Hampton Roads opponents of tunnel tolls are scheduled to have their day in Virginia Supreme Court.

A Sept. 11 hearing has been set for arguments on the legality of proposed tolls on the Downtown and Midtown tunnels favored by the state but vehemently opposed by locals. Peak-hour tolls of $1.84 for passenger vehicles with E-ZPass transponders are to start Feb. 1 under a long-term deal between the state and its private partner to upgrade and operate the tunnels…. The litigation’s central dispute revolves around General Assembly authority to broadly confer to the state highway department the power to set toll rates. In his May 1 ruling, Cales concluded that is beyond the legislature’s scope under the Public-Private Transportation Act of 1995….

…Elizabeth River Crossings is Virginia’s private partner on the $2.1 billion project to renovate the existing tunnels, build a second Midtown tube by July 2016 and extend the Martin Luther King Freeway to Interstate 264. Its pact with the state to operate the tunnels spans 58 years and allows Elizabeth River Crossings to earn a 13.5 percent annualized rate of return on its investment. The deal allows for rate increases of at least 3.5 percent per year, or based on an inflation factor. To start, peak morning and afternoon rates for trucks will be $7.36. Initial off-hour rates are $4.77 for trucks and $1.59 for cars….