Toll relief program important

Published 7:02 pm Friday, February 11, 2022

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With rapid expansion of inflation this year, people’s paychecks aren’t going as far as they used to. For people with lower income, the effect of inflation is magnified as they try to make their paychecks stretch into rent, utilities, food, childcare and other necessary expenses.

If these folks commute through the Downtown or Midtown Tunnels for work, there’s one more expense to pay for — tolls.

For a daily commuter who is able to commute during off-peak hours, they will be paying just over $1,000 per year just for tolls. For those who must commute during peak hours, it’s even more expensive — more than $1,300 of their annual income just for tolls.

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Thankfully, there’s a toll relief program, but it sorely needs to be expanded to assist more people who are burdened by these tolls.

Currently, people who are Norfolk or Portsmouth residents and make less than $30,000 are eligible. Some lawmakers this year proposed to expand the eligibility to those who make $45,000 or less.

Sen. L. Louise Lucas, a Democratic legislator from Portsmouth, hit the nail on the head recently when she noted that the preferable action would be to permanently eliminate these tolls. However, in lieu of that, helping our area’s lower-income residents would be nice.

The bill is somewhat stalled in the General Assembly, though, while lawmakers evaluate funding options. We would like to see it picked back up and passed as soon as possible, and also to see it include all local residents, as those living in Norfolk and Portsmouth are not the only ones that must use these tunnels.

For those who were unaware of this program and are eligible under the current guidelines, you can visit one of the E-ZPass Customer Service Centers to apply and provide proof of income and residency at the time of application. The 2022 application process ends Feb. 15, so you must act soon.