Governor Terry McAuliffe said he would lower tolls at the Downtown and Midtown tunnels–and just days after his inauguration, he is taking action, releasing his plan Wednesday in Richmond.
Transportation leaders say tolls will be as low as 75 cents in 2014, and rise about a quarter each year through 2017.
Once construction of the new Midtown tunnel is complete, the toll rates would return to $1.84 at peak hours, and $1.59 at non-peak hours.
“My view is he is bringing us a Christmas present a week or two late. It might not be the best present, but it’s still a Christmas present, and we ought to be happy about that. He is doing what he can do,” said Shep Miller, the Hampton Roads representative to the Commonwealth Transportation Board.
Miller expects the Governor to ask him and his colleagues to approve the use of $80 million for the temporary toll buy-down at their meeting Wednesday.
“I don’t think it’s going to be a panacea. I don’t think it will be forever, but whatever help we get , we appreciate,” said Miller.
Portsmouth city leaders had been pushing the state to take over operations and maintenance of the two tunnels from Elizabeth River Crossings, potentially saving $700 million in the process.
CTB board members say the burden would then fall on the state to pay.
“Finding an extra $700 million in the budget? The money is not there,” said Miller.
Miller thinks the will is there, though, for the Commonwealth Transportation Board to approve the governor’s plan, because it will use leftover money from past projects, and will not affect any future road projects already planned.
“The members I’m familiar with and have known for years, they are going to be interested in doing what the Governor wants them to do, and what we want in Hampton Roads,” said Miller.
Elizabeth River Crossings says they are prepared to accept any toll rate change, as long as it doesn’t change the terms of their contract.
Terry McAuliffe will speak at the Commonwealth Transportation Board meeting at 1pm Wednesday, and a vote is expected shortly after that.
NewsChannel 3 will bring you the latest developments live from Richmond First at Four.