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Portsmouth council wants more drivers to be eligible for toll relief program

Council members want to raise the income cap for the toll relief program from $30,000 to $45,000 for eligible Norfolk and Portsmouth drivers.

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — Could more drivers get relief from rising tunnel tolls?

Portsmouth City Council wants the state to increase the income cap for the toll relief program.

Right now, VDOT offers a toll relief program to Norfolk and Portsmouth residents who make less than $30,000 a year.

Portsmouth council members want to bump the cap up to $45,000.

"I think it’ll be beneficial to us all, anything that can help financially is a great thing," said Portsmouth resident Tionne White.

White laughed and said he knows someone who could use the help.

"Yeah, me, I don't make that much," he said.

The toll relief program is managed by VDOT but funded by Elizabeth River Crossings – the company that manages the Downtown and Midtown tunnels.

Two weeks ago, state leaders announced an expansion of the program - which would give commuters half-off on tolls on up to five round trips per week.

ERC also is adding millions of dollars to the pot, hoping more people apply.

"It’s designed to be spent every year, but in the last couple of years the full amount hasn’t been tapped," said ERC CEO David Sullivan during an interview in October. "We would like to see it all get spent every year, we would like to see everyone that is entitled to that program take advantage of it."

Portsmouth leaders are asking the General Assembly to use federal COVID-19 relief funds to expand the program’s income cap and make up the difference.

ERC CEO David Sullivan told 13News Now that ERC is committed to helping people who may have difficulty paying tunnels tolls.

"If you do owe us tolls, call us, we’ll work with you, we’re committed to helping you solve that issue."

Eligible Portsmouth and Norfolk residents can find out more about the toll relief program on VDOT’s website. The process begins with an in-person application process which runs from December 1, 2021 and ends on February 15, 2022. The discounts would kick in on March 1, 2022.