HNORFOLK, Va. (WVEC) -- A ribbon cutting ceremony was held Friday morning to celebrate the completion of the Elizabeth River Tunnels Project.
The $2.1 billion dollar project created a new two lane tunnel under the Elizabeth River, upgraded the Midtown and Downtown tunnels and extended the MLK Expressway.
“It’s fantastic,” said Transportation Secretary Aubrey Lane. “It brings needed congestion relief to the citizens here. It also helps our military and all the economy, the port of Virginia.”
But not everyone is celebrating the project. In Portsmouth, many are still angry over high tunnel tolls.
“I think it’s just been frustrating,” said Neve Loehr. “I know people that have moved from this side back over to the other side because just because they don’t want to pay the toll.”
For Courtland Marriner, who runs Fit Bar Express in Portsmouth, the tolls have negatively affected business.
“We don’t see a lot of people from the other side as much like we used to,” said Marriner. “We used to see a lot more just like Norfolk traffic, people down here walking.”
In the past, the tolling system hasn’t been perfect. Drivers who did not pay their tolls were charged such exorbitant fees, even Governor Terry McAuliffe stepped in earlier this year.
However relief was provided and since then, around $1 million dollars in refunds were given out, according to Elizabeth River Crossings CEO, Philip Shucet.
“The old late fees are behind us those can never come back,” said Shucet. “We’re now issuing invoices on a 30 day cycle so no one is getting multiple invoices every week.”
VDOT is in charge of the next big tunnel project, expanding the HRBT. The $3 billion effort is on track to be one of the largest infrastructure projects in the country. Construction is expected to start in 2024.
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