Low-income commuters can save half on tolls thanks to relief program

NORFOLK, Va. - Low-income commuters can apply for a program to save $1 off each trip they take using the Downtown or Midtown tunnels. It's part of the Toll Relief Program sponsored by the Virginia Department of Transportation.

People who live in Norfolk or Portsmouth who earn $30,000 or less a year are eligible.

"It's not complete relief but it certainly is a benefit," said Paula Miller, a spokeswoman for VDOT.

The program kicked off last March with 2,100 applicants. Elizabeth River Crossings, which oversees the tunnels, has pledged to give $500,000 every year for 10 years. Whatever amount isn't used that year will roll over to the next.

To sign up, applicants must go to an E-ZPass Customer Service Location. There are two: 1701 Church St in Norfolk and 4010 Victory Boulevard in Portsmouth. They are both open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Applicants must provide proof of residency and proof of income. The deadline to apply is Feb. 15.

"Every little bit helps and I think that's how people have responded they know it's not absolute relief but it helps and every little bit helps," said Miller. Commuters will pay the regular rate at first. After their eighth trip, they will get an $8 credit on their E-ZPass, then $1 will be taken off each trip for the rest of the month for an unlimited amount.

So far, more than 1,000 people have applied for this year's program.

"It's very important those who are already enrolled in the program know they have to reapply," said Miller.