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PORTSMOUTH With shovels in hand, state and regional transportation officials broke ground for the Elizabeth River Tunnels project.

Elizabeth River Crossings is partnering with the state to build a new Midtown Tunnel, rehabilitate the existing tunnel and the Downtown tunnels and extend the Martin Luther King Freeway.

Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean T. Connaughton said the projects aren't just good news for commuters, noting that there will be more than 500 project-direct jobs and more than 1,000 indirect jobs with related industries and suppliers. The project also creates about 200 permanent facilities, maintenance and operations jobs.

Officials say round-trip drivers will save about 30 minutes a day when the new Midtown Tunnel and the MLK extension open.

Drivers at the Midtown and Downtown tunnels and using the MLK extension, however, will face tolls beginning in January 2014.

TOLL RATES (one way):
Off peak: $1.59
Peak: $1.84
Cars that use the MLK Extension and one of the tunnels as part of a single trip will pay $0.50 to use the extension. Cars that use only the MLK Extension will pay $1.00.

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