Friday, the torch officially passed from VDOT to Elizabeth River Crossings.
ERC will now be in charge of all operations of the Downtown and Midtown Tunnels, in addition to 51 miles of roadways that connect two crossings.
For drivers, that means they will see new trucks with the logo “Elizabeth River Tunnels” handling all emergency response and maintenance instead of VDOT.
VDOT Commissioner Greg Whirley says all of this will continue, regardless of the lawsuit filed Thursday against the tolls.
“Clearly, we’ve researched this issue. We feel strongly we are in a solid position, that this project will continue, and there will be no stop-work orders,” said Whirley.
At the Midtown Tunnel, there will be expanded capacity for drivers because of the new tube, but many have wondered why they are paying the tolls at the Downtown Tunnel when the same thing is not happening there. We finally got answers from the head of Elizabeth River Crossings.
“With the completion of the Martin Luther King, Jr. extension, folks coming in from I-264 would have the option to take either the Midtown or Downtown Tunnel, so there will be some relief to the Downtown Tunnel,” said Greg Woodsmall, the CEO of ERC.
Woodsmall also cited big improvements including better drainage, cleaner tunnels, and improved ventilation in the Downtown Tunnel, but it’s hard to convince opponents of the project all that is worth the $1.84 toll.
Plaintiffs in that lawsuit say the toll violates state law as well as their federal due process rights.
“I cannot respond to that at this point,” said Whirley. “We will clearly have that debate in the court, and I’m certain the facts will come forward at that time and we will be able to make a decision.”
Work on the new Midtown tube and the MLK extension will start this fall, and the Downtown Tunnel improvements will start at the end of 2013.