Monday, November 25, 2013

"Hampton Roads" Takes One Giant Leap Backward

Doesn't it make you reach for the spot just above your heart when you hear Neil Armstrong's majestic proclamation "that's one small step for a man, and one giant leap for mankind?" It was a spot much lower, where my lunch was settling, that I clutched when the Supreme Court of Virginia approved Governor Robert McDonnell's giant leap backward for the region we have known as Hampton Roads. Unlike the west-bound lanes of the Midtown Tunnel which will be newly built and thus subject to user fees, the hardly-changed east-bound lanes and the entire Downtown Tunnel will be arbitrarily taxed as well just because the Supreme Court says the state is big and bad and "rough" enough to do it.  How fitting that this announcement came on Halloween--Devil's Day--as it is known in quarters like Downtown Detroit, where criminals use the occasion to torch large swaths of the city in celebration!

True friends of Hampton Roads removed tolls from all major tunnels in the 1970s and 1980s. They nixed long distance phone charges and erased tolls from the Virginia Beach expressway in the 1990s. These regional heroes even managed a Monitor-Merrimac Bridge tunnel that has never seen a user fee. These deeds brought our region of 1.5 million people closer and closer by the decade. How do you refer to people who bring a wrecking ball to a region though?

Every toll between two ends of a road is a barrier between them as much or more than it is a user fee. Each of them proposed in our area stands in the way of movies at the Commodore or Naro, dinner in Olde Town or Ghent, and ultimately excursions through these impediments on the way to work. On February 1st., Williamsburg becomes more accessible to Suffolk than Norfolk is. Portsmouth soon will be closer to Yorktown than to Virginia Beach. And all of us will have to rethink what the political map of our neighborhood looks like--Republican or Democrat--when those who operate the regional wrecking ball are ready to decide on whom to arbitrarily impose the next user fees. You are trivializing what is happening here if you do not consider the possibility that that the area might simply implode economically, i.e. break apart, if you will.

All of this has me thinking about a great new You Tube idea: Rough people with weapons, chains, and the like can stand in the middle of a road. As rich people, poor people, old people, young people and desperate people try to pass, these community leaders can demand money as a user fee for accessing the road. If they're paid, they can smile and let the person pass. If not, they can rattle the chain, shoot the weapon or otherwise terrorize the user while continuing their blockade. This can be videoed and uploaded, exemplifying a great new approach to "working" on the part of the roughnecks. You can call it the "efficiency" of not raising taxes when it's done by politicians or bureaucrats and assessed arbitrarily on travelers though.



22 comments:

Whitney Nicholson said...

The toll rates for the tunnels are set to begin Feb. 1 2012. Anyone using them will be charged 1.84 a car and up to 7.36 for larger trucks each way. They will take a picture of you tags when you go through and send you a bill in the mail which will cost more than the price listed above. They only way you get that price is if you get a ezpass which is a device that goes in your car and you have to pay a monthly fee on that to. They are also allowed to raise these tolls by at least 3.5% in 2016. That means anyone working on one side and leaving on the other will pay a average of 4 dollars a day for something they used to get for free. I find this very unfair especially for people like me that don’t know any other way to get back and forth. I use the tunnel a lot and knowing about this makes me rethink about where I live, work and even go to school. I feel that when a new road, bridge, tunnel is built for convenience that it can be tolled like the Jordan bridge but I feel that it is like taxing a road when they choose to do this to the tunnels because that is the main route of travel from Portsmouth to Norfolk. We pay taxes on everything now the roads to!!!!!! I feel that this will make people rethink working and living in different places and not use the tunnel as much if possible. I strongly agree that this is a horrible Idea!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Kristi Aderhold said...

The Midtown & Downtown Tunnel rates will vary due to peak & off peak times of day. During peak hours a light vehicle will be charged $1.84 where a heavy duty vehicle will be charged $7.36. During off-peak hours a light vehicle will be charged $1.59 where a heavy duty vehicle will be charge $4.77. Plus, there is also a charge for using the MLK Extension and that charge varies depending on if you plan to use only one tunnel or no tunnel at all and the fee is either $0.50 of $1.00. Fees will be collected via a toll booth or EZ Pass.

Unfortunately, the Hampton Roads area has some of the worse roads in the state and we lack the funding to provide the needed maintenance for the roads to be in good driving condition. Have you driven through the Downtown and/or Midtown Tunnels and really paid attention to the condition of the structure? If you have you would realize that these tunnels are not structurally sound. Repairs would not fix these tunnels, replacements were required. With the the current price to replace the tunnel and the lack of funding by the state, a public-private partnership was required. This public-private partnership is what ultimately caused the tolls.

As for the tolls being a tax or a user fee; the tolls are definately a user fee. This project is a public-private partnership that is being funded by Elizabeth River Crossings. Had this project been funded by the state and tolls been assessed, I would feel that the the tolls are a tax.

Charges on roads make it difficult for people to live on one side and work or shop on the other, especially charges of this magnitude. There are other ways you could travel without having to use the Downtown/Midtown Tunnels; however, all of those methods will still cost money. How much gas would it cost a driver to go around using I64 through Chesapeake? Or how about using public transportation such as HRT, lightrail or the ferry system? By the time you pay for the additional gas or other methods of transportation you might as well pay the tolls. In the long run, the tolls are probably cheaper.

The tolls are going to affect everyone. Think about the heavy duty truck drivers who can only use one lane of the of the Midtown Tunnel. On their return trip they will have to use the Downtown Tunnel. And what about the restaurants & retails shops? Those stores are going to suffer as well since customers from outside of the area will not be willing to pay the toll to visit their businesses.

I do not agree wth the amount of the tolls, but considering the condition of the tunnels & knowing that the project is being managed by a public-private partnership I believe there is no other choice.

WendyB said...

I believe the Supreme Court’s decision to add on tolls to the tunnel is unfair to the citizens of the Hampton Roads area. According to Hamptonroads.com the cost to drivers would be $1.84 for passenger vehicles and $7.36 for trucks during peak travel times, with Elizabeth River Crossings able to increase the amount by at least 3.5 percent a year beginning in 2016. The fees will be higher for motorists who decline to sign up for an E-ZPass account. The fact that we’ve been able to travel back and forth between towns without paying tolls has been a unique feature amongst many other things about Virginia. I have family who live in Norfolk, Portsmouth, and etc. This toll will now act as a barrier blocking me from them. From now on I must 2nd guess my decision to use the convenience of the tunnel. I will now rethink where I look for work, or even rethink where my daughter goes to school since I now have to budget how often I utilize this tunnel. I strongly agree with you professor Conner and many others when we say this addition of the toll will bring people further apart and is not fair.

Jacob Reed said...

Jacob Reed ACC 211 Tu-Th 11:00AM

The supreme court has really begun to show this area how they have control of how we travel from city to city everyday, by passing a bill allowing tolls to put up on the midtown and downtown tunnels. These tolls will charge each driver for every time they go thru the tunnels. This will be executed by a machine that will scan each drivers license plate and then send a bill to your house to be paid. For people that live in this area it will be very important we purchase an E-ZPass this will allow the price of every time a vehicle goes thru the tunnel to be much reduced. During peak travel times the costs will be $1.84 for smaller passenger vehicles and anywhere up to $7.36 for bigger trucks. However if you do not have an E-ZPass the cost will be greatly increased. The bill also states that the government is allowed to raise the tolls at least 3.5% in 2016. These tolls are extremely unfair for citizens of this city that have been traveling thru these tunnels free for the last 30-40 years. Now people that drive thru this tunnel everyday for work will have to calculate the total amount it will cost them and add it in to their budget like another bill. These set of driver Fees the supreme court has put in place makes it much harder for the average driver to travel city to city. Instead of going thru the short tunnel people will now have to drive all the way around to get city to city. This means more traffic, slower lanes to scan cars, and just a mess.

Teresa Smith said...

I've lived in this area for many years, even when tolls were ten cents and eventually they did away with them. Tolls create massive traffic congestion s well as a financial hardship on the people. What was the true puropse of doing away with tolls,just to bring them back. The tax payers pay the expense of repair and building and paying taxes. They should create more rails or skyways to release some congestion not to create more. The average person if asked about the toll is seeking alternate routes as of today.

Courtney Eiban said...

The Midtown and Downtown tunnel rates are said to change depending on whether we are in peak or off peak. Drivers using the tunnels during the peak will be charged $1.84 and off peak will be charged $1.59 per car as for truckers they will be charged anywhere up to $7.36 during the peak and $4.77 off peak. The toll rates are absolutely absurd! We have people struggling to get to work now as it is and to tack on an addition almost $2.00 each way could really make an impact on some people. There are people on fixed budgets and adding in this almost $14.00 a week, about $55.00 a month and $662.00 a year could really put a strain on them. According to the Supreme Court it is constitutional to charge user fees. This battle can go on endlessly and I feel as though the state has won. Do I think it’s far to charge for tolls? I pay taxes each year and at that they continue to rise. Those tax dollars should be used for the roads rather than paying for politician’s health care after their term. If the idea of raising money for roads comes to either taxes or user fees, I feel as though the drivers using the roads should pay the user fees. Why should I pay taxes for a road I would never use?! I am not driving my car wearing down the pavement, so if it came down to this decision I would definitely rather those who use it pay it. I believe tolls are user fees rather than taxes. You are only charged when you use this option. There are alternate ways of traveling however this serves as a convenience to some. People will start to reverse their routes and drive longer on other roads to avoid paying the fees, by doing this they now are adding up gas cost. Business’s will also start to suffer due to customers not wanting to pay the toll and travel just to get a haircut or go across the bridge to get something to eat. People will start to rethink their home buying and renting areas, some areas will see a big hit due to the people wanting to move on the side they work on. This could possibly have an impact on our economy within Hampton roads. Americans are taxed here taxed there, when will it stop! Have you ever stopped to think how much our dollar is really after it is all taxed? A dollar is taxed approx 37%, making every dollar we earn only about 63 cents!!!

Courtney Eiban said...

The Midtown and Downtown tunnel rates are said to change depending on whether we are in peak or off peak. Drivers using the tunnels during the peak will be charged $1.84 and off peak will be charged $1.59 per car as for truckers they will be charged anywhere up to $7.36 during the peak and $4.77 off peak. The toll rates are absolutely absurd! We have people struggling to get to work now as it is and to tack on an addition almost $2.00 each way could really make an impact on some people. There are people on fixed budgets and adding in this almost $14.00 a week, about $55.00 a month and $662.00 a year could really put a strain on them. According to the Supreme Court it is constitutional to charge user fees. This battle can go on endlessly and I feel as though the state has won. Do I think it’s far to charge for tolls? I pay taxes each year and at that they continue to rise. Those tax dollars should be used for the roads rather than paying for politician’s health care after their term. If the idea of raising money for roads comes to either taxes or user fees, I feel as though the drivers using the roads should pay the user fees. Why should I pay taxes for a road I would never use?! I am not driving my car wearing down the pavement, so if it came down to this decision I would definitely rather those who use it pay it. I believe tolls are user fees rather than taxes. You are only charged when you use this option. There are alternate ways of traveling however this serves as a convenience to some. People will start to reverse their routes and drive longer on other roads to avoid paying the fees, by doing this they now are adding up gas cost. Business’s will also start to suffer due to customers not wanting to pay the toll and travel just to get a haircut or go across the bridge to get something to eat. People will start to rethink their home buying and renting areas, some areas will see a big hit due to the people wanting to move on the side they work on. This could possibly have an impact on our economy within Hampton roads. Americans are taxed here taxed there, when will it stop! Have you ever stopped to think how much our dollar is really after it is all taxed? A dollar is taxed approx 37%, making every dollar we earn only about 63 cents!!!

Roshell said...

The Midtown and Downtown toll rates will start at $1.84 for passenger vehicles and $7.36 for trucks during peak travel times, with Elizabeth River Crossings able to increase the amount by at least 3.5 percent a year beginning in 2016. The fees will be higher for motorists who decline to sign up for an E-Z Pass account. A picture of your tags will be taken when you go through the tunnel and a bill will be sent to you in the mail which will cost more than the price listed above.
I do not believe that the tolls are fair because people already struggle to get back and forth to work, as well as putting food on the table for their families. The tolls aren’t helping them but hurting them when the bill needs to be paid for. The tolls might minimize traffic congestion, but honestly I’m sure individuals rather wait in traffic than have to pay $1.84 to $7.36 just to get back and forth from home to work.
The charges on drivers are considered user fees to me because you are paying for a road that you travel on that once was practically free and now it’s a charge to just travel back and forth on it.
I believe that if the tolls continue there will be more people working closer to where they live. People who are working already get money deducted from their paychecks every pay day and some struggle to live off of what they do have. As people look at their finances they look at mortgage/rent, food, gas, clothing, personal necessities, electricity and water bills, and now on top of all of that paying for a road that they must travel on just to make their earnings. People are more willing to save $1.84 to $7.36 because there will be an extra $1.84 to $7.36 in their pockets and by the tolls taking that money away the extra money will not exist.

Richard Romious said...

Tolls in the hamptonroads area an inefficient, backwards approach to providing transit infrastructure repairs public highways, plus the rates are a little excessive. During peak hours a light vehicle will be charged $1.84 where a heavy duty vehicle will be charged $7.36. During off-peak hours a light vehicle will be charged $1.59 where a heavy duty vehicle will be charge $4.77. Worse, they foster corruption, political patronage, and discourage needed improvements on the rest of the highway system. More importantly, supporters are found referring to the project as a legal and legitimate way of funding “new money" that will flow to the tunnel project. That new money comes from the same tired old wallets that pay existing highway-user fees. The difference is the tunnel users like myself will pay twice; once in taxes and again in user fees. Ideas like these makes it more difficult for commuters who are barely making ends meet.

Kimi said...

I am not in favor of the tolls to the tunnels. I feel that the toll charges are excessive. The cost for a car will be $1.84 per trip and the cost for a tractor trailer/commercial truck will be an astounding $7.36 per trip. For a car driver that needs to utilize that route daily for 5 days a week for a year, it will cost $1,000 and truck driver will pay $3, 827 for a year. This will be an added financial expense and a burden to those who already could barely get by. Start up costs for an E-Z Pass is an additional $35 expense. I live in Chesapeake near the downtown tunnel and with the tolls becoming effective February 1, 2014, I will no longer be utilizing the tunnels to get to Norfolk and the Virginia Beach area. What this boils down to, is the tunnel tolls will become a user fee to those who have to make that trip, since you only pay when you use them. I am thankful that I live and go to school in a location that does not warrant me having to use the tunnels at all for business or pleasure. I will be happy to keep my money in businesses in downtown Portsmouth. My alternates will be to use the High Rise Bridge or the Gilmerton Bridge to get to the other side. I also am not in favor of the private company Elizabeth River Crossings (ERC) being able to set the toll prices. The Supreme Court and ERC must be conspiring together for financial gain of their own, as it will not benefit any of us that want to connect to other cities. I agree with Bill when he says, "Every toll between two ends of road is a barrier." Not wanting to pay the tolls will keep some of us separated. This will definitely have an impact on the economy in a negative way since most people will do whatever they can to avoid having to pay tolls. Also the next issue will be more traffic congestion at the High Rise Bridge and other alternates which in turn, will lead to costly road repairs that will also need to be funded somehow. I feel that VDOT and the government should look into other ways of funding the additions/repairs. I know that we do need more ways to get around Hampton Roads. Use of the taxes we already pay might be a start.

Sharon Nobles said...

The toll rates for the Downtown and Midtown tunnels are based on time of use as well as the type of vehicle used. Peak hours are Monday through Friday from 5:30 am to 9 am and 2:30 pm to 7:00 pm. Rates will vary from $1.59 to $1.84 for 2 axle vehicles and $4.77 to $7.36 for heavy duty vehicles. If users do not have an EZPass or set-up pay by plate options the costs will be higher. Escalation is built into the approval at a rate of 3.5% or the Greater of the Consumer Price Index.

The tolls are going to adversely affect families and businesses. I lived in Norfolk for 49 years before moving to the other side. Starting in February our trips to Norfolk and Virginia Beach take on a whole new aspect. I've never given a lot of thought to jumping in the car to go to McArthur Mall, take the grandkids to the oceanfront, shop at Annabelle's and bring my mother back to Norfolk for doctor appointments and to visit friends. Since the toll announcement I have been working to get her physicians out our way. My son and daughter-in-law are working in Norfolk and will have to figure EZpasses into their budget. The tolls will be an additional deterrent to trips from Suffolk to Norfolk, Norfolk to Portsmouth. There hasn't been a whole lot of talk about it but I remember hearing that the same thing is going to happen to the High Rise because it also needs to be replaced.

The principle driving the fees is not unfair, if you use the road you help pay for the road. Northern Va, Richmond, the Chesapeake Expressway, PA, NY they all have them. The amount of the fees are unfair and a symptom of poor planning and no vision. Case in point is the South Norfolk Jordan Bridge, tolls were put on the bridge as soon as it was built (1928) and remained on the bridge until it closed (2008?). Where did the money go, the new bridge is a private project (the city could not afford to build a new one). Why wasn't the money collected all those years managed for maintenance or replacement. They had to know when they built it it was not going to last forever. This project is going to be the same. Initially the tolls will be used to pay for construction but what is going to happen in 40 more years when one of the original tunnels needs to be replaced? Who is going to manage the money to make sure there is enough to maintain the tunnels? Where will the rates stop at? Too late now but the previous tolls should have remained in place and after resolving the debt the future funds should have been earmarked for projects like this. If this had been in place we would not be suffering such a financial shock now.

Ashley Zorman said...

My understanding of how this tolling process is going to work for the Hampton Roads area is that there will be a fee of $1.84 charged each way. When I heard that there would be an EZ Pass offered I assumed that the fees would be less, but apparently that is the charge for pass holders and those who do not have one will be charged an additional fee, I believe upwards of $3. They are planning on charging people by capturing plate images and then sending a bill in the mail. I am already confused as to how this is going to work considering that there probably are a substantial amount of people who do not have updated address information with DMV.

I do believe this fee is fair however. I have traveled all over and have come across many tolls in many different states. One thing I have to acknowledge is how atrocious the roads and traffic in our area really are. I think it is great that they are finally making not just improvements but additions to improve the quality and mobility of our roadways. This has to come at a price, however, and to be honest I think we have skirted by and avoided this long enough. Even the people that I have spoken to that will be impacted by this change agree that although they dont want to pay it the improvements are a necessity.

I do not really care how they choose to label it. User fee, service fee, or tax, it is still a charge. I do know that there was some debate as to what it should be called because any tolls that raise revenue used to construct a public facility has to be considered a tax, and taxes can only be issued by legislation. That sounds pretty legit to me.

I think once this is issued it will be much more challenging for commuters to make this trip back and forth. My mother in law for example has already purchased her EZ pass and anticipates having to spend at least $75 a month just for work. Those that travel these roads recreationally will probably avoid doing so for fear of being charged which will negatively impact businesses on both sides of the water. Since they are using the funds earned towards a $2.1 billion project, I am curious is they will continue charging afterwards or if they will find some way of keeping it and increasing it indefinitely. We shall see.

Ciara Grimes said...

A lot of people in the HR use the mid-town and downtown tunnel to get to and from work and school or etc. If they do decided to toll the Hampton Roads area its going to start getting pricey just to get to where we need to go. We will have no other chose but to pay the fee. For normal size cars it will $1.84 and anywhere from $5-8 for bigger vehicles.

I don't think is fair that will start tolling us to get to another city after this long time. I work, shop, visit family, and other activities in Norfolk and with gas the price that it is now I am already having a hard time as it is. So these tolls prices are not in my favor. I am hoping before Feb they will have a change of heart about the tolls. I wont be able to do some of the things i would like if the tolls take place.

I believe this is just another way to make the city money. They use our taxes for this and charge use additional fees to use the bridges/tunnel. It does not make any sense to me. Nobody is winning here but the court system (Supreme)!!

The charges on the roads will make it EXTREMELY difficult on working people and local businesses in the area. Not everybody will be able to afford to pay the toll everyday. Some of us will have to cut back on what and where we go. I will be one of them! Luckily I dont live on that side of the water but I do work and shop as I stated before on that side. There will be a lot more of online shopping or people going shopping at other places. IF they lower the fee I wouldnt mind paying the toll prices but right now it is just to high!!!!

Anonymous said...

The tunnel tolls of $1.84 during peak hours and $1.59 during non peak hours are too much.I feel that the tolls are unfair and should be $1 during peak and 50 cents during non peak. I say this because we have to meet in the middle, we do need new tunnels and times are tight. I feel as though the charges are user fees, another way for coorporate political gangsters to charge a driver. It will be harder for a person to live on one side and work on another. Mark S.

Jasmine Boone said...

I both agree and disagree with the states's decision to implement tolls at the tunnels, because lets face it, they have to get the extra money from somewhere to pay for improvements that this area needs. Its a no-win situation. If you tax this or that people get upset no matter what it is. The fact is something has to be taxed, whether it's the tunnels, food, ciggarettes etc. Seeing as how we've had tolls at the tunnels before it shouldn't be that much of a surprise, this is the commonwealth. I understand how people would feel, it seems like they nickel and dimes us all the time,just when you think you're getting ahead "boom" there's a setback. Just gotta keep a little extra change in the car that's all.

Tia Whitfield said...

I was always taught to follow the Money. With that being said although it may seem like the Supreme Courts feel like they are helping the people, they are actually hurting the people. The toll is a bad decision because it forcing people to pay for something that once was a public good. Many Portsmouth’s business will be very hurt by this because people will stop going to Portsmouth. To quote Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli,” Those projects are needed to decrease congestion on our roads, which is critical to keeping business and commuters moving throughout the commonwealth." This sounds like a weak excuse to make money and pay off some debt. They are going to make more than enough money to help build the Elizabeth River Tunnels. Where’s the rest of this money going or should I say who pockets is it going into? I guess there is always a way to get around something. They want to decrease the congesting, by placing it elsewhere. Either way it goes there is going to be congestion on roads. This will make it more difficult for people who make a living on one side and live on the other. With people already not getting paid what their worth, let’s add pain to misery. According to the pilot, “The all-electronic tolls will start at $1.84 for passenger vehicles and $7.36 for trucks during peak travel times, with Elizabeth River Crossings able to increase the amount by at least 3.5 percent a year beginning in 2016. The fees will be higher for motorists who decline to sign up for an E-ZPass account.” I think that “user fee” is a cute way to not say taxes. Instead of tax them because we can’t we will bully them into paying for something they really don’t need. It’s the American Way!

Michelle W said...

I agree that this toll is high and will cause many drivers to reconsider their routes or even place of employment, worship, schooling, etc. But I also see that the local infrastructure is in need of huge improvements and is sorely lacking the funding to proceed with the necessary construction. The purposed tolls will be all-electronic, cutting down on the additional congestion caused by more traditional tolls. They will start at $1.84 for passenger vehicles and $7.36 for trucks during peak travel times. The fees will be higher for motorists who decline to sign up for an EZ Pass account. I believe that the tolls are fair overall because the area is in dire need of improved roads and there is not enough funding to provide it otherwise. The money has to come from somewhere and as it has been determined that it is constitutional to proceed with this type of user fee, this is the best of all bad options on how to improve the local infrastructure. I do, however, believe that their needs to be limitations placed on the increases authorized as well as clear target goals set for project completion. Because all the funds that are collected from these tolls are intended to stay within this specific project, I do not think this type of toll is a tax but rather a user fee. I do believe that charges on the roads make it more difficult for people to live on one side and work or shop on the other because in this economy every penny counts and the thought of adding an additional $2 - $7 to your trip will surely cause most to pause and evaluate their options.

Anonymous said...

Crystal Lockhart
ACC 261 online

So this has been the talk of the towns so to speak ever since the “news” became public. The very whisper of the word that shall not be named gracing it presence on ANY of our main vein of travel was enough to raise hair on the back of your neck. Tolls? And on top of that, ones we didn’t get chance to vote on, let alone choose the price? Information has been jumbled at best. From what I understand, you can either choose to purchase an EZ Pass or pay the extra charges to have them just read your license plate instead (those extra charges are for the billing and reading of said license plate). As for pricing, I’ve heard the tolls will ranging from $1.59 to up to $3.18 with peaking time prices STILL being a mystery to me.
[[Registered pre-paid plate accounts will pay a premium of $1.59/trip and unregistered vehicles paying by plate will pay a $3.18 on top of the toll. The tolls were established by competitive procurement and negotiation as part of the concession contract with the state of Virginia.]]
Source: http://www.tollroadsnews.com/node/6819
I have heard many arguments both for and against these new user fees that are supposed to come into effect on Feb. 1. Those for it say BIG businesses will eventually start to cover the commuter cost, or the tourist will pay for most of it, or (my personal favorite) we said we didn’t want higher taxes so this is what we get.
I don’t ever remember being asked if I would be willing to take a rise in gas tax over the tolls…
Personally, I feel deceived and yes that is a strong word because this is a strong issue. We’ve already had years of lack luster performance from our federal government. This blow from our state government is far from improving that image. With so many people being affect by this change why wasn’t there a PUBLIC vote? Why assume we didn’t want a raise in gas tax or another form of tax as means of paying for this tunnel instead? There has been a loooong track record of road infrastructure funds growing legs and hoofing it to the more mountainous side of our state. Why not tackle this issue first before footing us with the bill for these tolls when we’re already paying for those lovely (scarcely used) roads in the Appalachians? The fairness of these tolls left the second the decision was made in that uniformed private board meeting.
Another issue is if the tolls are taxes or user fees. The fact the bridge WOULD have been paid for through taxes if given the chance, I see these tolls as taxes. BUT, the fact that the people who will be managing the collection of these tolls are directly connected with the builders of the tunnel makes the tolls seem like user fees. Also, by calling them user fees instead of taxes, the connection they have through “pay the government for a service” is lessened as anyone can collect a user fee. It is a government that taxes.
Either way, user fee or tax, these tolls WILL make life more difficult for ALL residences of Hampton Roads and not only the people living on either side of the tunnel. We live in a land of rivers. Travel is not easy. Furthermore, it is usually limited to the bridges we build across those rivers in order to connect each of our cities. People make the argument them other have done fine with tolls, yet others are not surround by water. They have other roads to travel if they choose not to take the toll road. Unless your car can grow a rudder and a propeller, there aren’t many other alternatives to biting the bullet and sacrificing your change to the toll gods.

Shannon Council said...

The Supreme court ruled that toll rates for the Downtown and Midtown tunnel will begin on Feb 1, 2014. With an E-Z Pass drivers will pay $1.84 on weekdays from 5:30 o 9 p.m., 2:30 to 7 p.m. and $1.59 all other times. Trucks drivers will have to pay $7.36 weekdays 5:30 to 7 p.m., 2:30 to 7 p.m., and $4.77 all other times. Drivers without an E-Z Pass will be mailed a bill for $3.18 along with the normal rate. I believe the tolls are unfair because people have to pay to come to Portsmouth but do not have to pay to go to Norfolk, and it may cause people to not want to come to Portsmouth at all. I believe the toll rates are user fees to help keep the roads maintained in good condition. It will be difficult for people who live in one city and work in another city because they will have to pay a toll everyday to go to work everyday, which could be a financial burden. People are already spending large amounts of money on gas and to have a toll rate will make it worse for people to travel to work everyday.

Virginia Corley said...

I believe the Supreme Court has opened a can of worm when they let the tolls pass. They will be starting on Feb.1, 2014, with a cost of $1.84 & up. They will be collected through E-Z Pass, but commuters who don't have the pass will be sent a bill at the end of the month at a higher, more costly rate. My opinion is that this is not fair to the many people of the area. This is going to increase expenses for daily commuters by $1,040.00 + per year. That is the average cost of this "user fee" per year. The tolls were taken off the tunnels decades ago and this is only going to make congestion worse on other routes. It would definitely be a factor in where I decide to work or shop.

Casey Livengood said...

The Virginia Supreme Court gave the Okay for the Virginia Department of Transportation and Elizabeth River Crossings to place tolls on the Midtown and Downtown Tunnels. The rates for these all-electronic tolls will start at $1.84 for passenger vehicles and rise to $7.36 for trucks. Motorists with an E-ZPass will get charged a discounted rate. The tolls are set to begin charging on February 1 of 2014. The high rate is put in place to help cover the $2.1 billion project by VDOT and Elizabeth River Crossings; a second Midtown Tunnel, rehab to the Downtown Tunnels and an extension and upgrade to Martin Luther King Freeway.
I do believe the it is fair to place tolls on these tunnels. People are constantly complaining about how bad the roads are in Hampton Roads. These tolls will give VDOT and Elizabeth River Crossings money to help cover such improvements. However, I do not agree with how much they are charging motorists.
I believe the charges on the drivers are user fees. However, the people who have to take the tunnels are basically getting charged twice. Our taxes are going toward this project, plus the amount DVOT and Elizabeth River Crossings are charging for the tolls.
I definitely believe that it will be more difficult for people to live on one side and work or shop on the other. This area is more water than land. It's almost impossible to go two cities over without crossing over water. We live in an area where most people do not live where they work. Locals struggle enough with the traffic traveling to and from work and the constant rising and lowering of gas prices. The last thing they need is to pay a toll twice a day traveling to and from work. I live in Isle of Wight and travel to Newport News on a daily basis. I cannot even begin to imagine what it would be like if they put a toll fee on the James River Bridge. I feel really sorry for the people who's lives are going to be effected by Congress ruling in favor of tolls. I also travel to Norfolk every once in a while. But after February 1, I don't believe I will be doing that anymore. With already having to pay for gas to drive there, the additional tolls fees are not going to be worth it.

Jessica R Jordan said...

The tolls for the tunnel will be $1.84 for cars, and 7.36 for trucks; its said purpose is to support the construction of a second midtown tunnel to ease traffic congestion.
I think are fair when they equally charging everyone the same low rate, and I mean every, plus they should only charge you once a day everytime you pass through. I think this is more related to user fees because of that consisently charging you every time you pass through. I believe it will make it hard for lower income residence, which is most of all of portsmouth and norfolk.