A new transportation reality

Published 9:15 pm Monday, February 3, 2014

Sunday’s amateur-night football game and boring commercials gave me the opportunity to contemplate the new reality I would face Monday morning.

As a resident of Norfolk and an employee in Suffolk, I have used the Downtown Tunnel since 2008 on my daily commute to work. But with tolls now placed on the tunnel, I have no desire to line the pockets of executives who made a sweetheart deal with the Virginia Department of Transportation — while our governor looked the other way, into the pockets of a different executive — with more than $30 of my hard-earned money every month.

Moving isn’t an option right now, for a variety of reasons.

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So I hopped on Mapquest a while back and started checking out my options. After all, VDOT tells us, there are so many free alternatives to the tolled tunnels that drivers should be falling all over themselves to use them.

High-rise bridge? Nope. That adds eight miles to my commute each way and takes me along a five-lane (in just one direction) interstate that’s littered with potholes and bad drivers. Not worth it to save 75 cents.

Using the Gilmerton Bridge takes me all the way down Military Highway, with its massive amount of stoplights and traffic, and still adds mileage to my commute.

Interstate 464 also adds mileage. And don’t even talk to me about crossing the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel and then coming back across the water via the Monitor-Merrimac. That route almost adds more mileage than the other options combined, but I was desperate enough to try it out on Mapquest anyway.

It turns out the options VDOT speaks of really aren’t options at all for most drivers, including me. My only option is to cough up the money.

I guess I should just be grateful that my work schedule puts me home well after the evening peak hours and usually takes me to work during off-peak hours, as well. That will save me 25 cents each way.

But it’s hard to feel grateful when my taxes are already supposed to pay for maintenance and upgrades on roads, and now I’m paying an additional tax to use the tunnels, only one of which will see an increase in capacity in the next three years.

It makes you wonder what the state has done with all the money we’ve paid in taxes all these years.