Cars exit the Downtown Tunnel into Portsmouth on Saturday. Tolls begin at both the Downtown and Midtown tunnels on Feb. 1, and officials are encouraging people to obtain their E-ZPass early to avoid the last-minute rush.
Cars exit the Downtown Tunnel into Portsmouth on Saturday. Tolls begin at both the Downtown and Midtown tunnels on Feb. 1, and officials are encouraging people to obtain their E-ZPass early to avoid the last-minute rush.

Officials press E-ZPass

Published 9:37pm Saturday, December 28, 2013

Like it or not, tolls on the Midtown and Downtown tunnels between Portsmouth and Norfolk and on the MLK Extension are set to begin Feb. 1.

Officials are encouraging motorists to obtain their E-ZPass devices early. Tolls will be collected electronically using gantries on the Portsmouth side of the tunnels, and those without E-ZPass will pay more for processing fees.

“We highly recommend going with E-ZPass,” Elizabeth River Crossings public affairs manager Leila Rice said. “It’s much more economical to use, because with pay-by-plate there is the processing fee.”

Elizabeth River Crossings has partnered with the Virginia Department of Transportation to expand the Midtown Tunnel and extend the MLK Extension from London Boulevard to Interstate 264, as well as providing maintenance and safety improvements.

In exchange, the company will collect tolls that start at $1.59 during off-peak hours and $1.84 during peak hours for regular vehicles using the tunnels. MLK Extension users will pay $1, or 50 cents if used in combination with one of the tunnels. The company can increase tolls yearly after the Midtown Tunnel addition reaches substantial completion, a milestone set for 2016.

Peak hours are 5:30 to 9 a.m. and 2:30 to 7 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays. All other times, including state holidays, are considered off peak.

As an incentive to avoid the last-minute rush, those who obtain an E-ZPass before Jan. 3 will receive five free trips through the tunnels, regardless of whether they make those trips during peak or off-peak hours.

The processing fees for those who pay by plate are so steep — twice the toll each way — that even those who only travel through the tunnels occasionally will save money using E-ZPass, Rice said.

“If you make a round trip through the tunnel, you’re going to pay more in processing fees than you would pay E-ZPass for an entire year,” she said.

The E-ZPass also is accepted at other toll roads in Virginia, including the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, and in 14 other states — North Carolina, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maine, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois.

The E-ZPass can be obtained online at www.ezpassva.com, by phone at 877-762-7824, or at one of the following service centers:

  • 4010 Victory Blvd., Portsmouth
  • 700 Port Centre Parkway Suite 2B, Portsmouth
  • 813 Greenbrier Parkway, Chesapeake
  • 1701 Church St., Norfolk

For more information, visit www.driveert.com and www.ezpassva.com.

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