NORFOLK, Va. — Certain Portsmouth and Norfolk residents can get relief from a few Hampton Roads tolls under an expansion of a state program.
"A toll is like a regressive tax," said 80th District Delegate Don Scott.
Driving through one is stressful for many in Hampton Roads.
"This is so important to the citizens of Portsmouth," Portsmouth Mayor Shannon Glover said. "I get approached every day in every situation, 'When are you going to reduce the tolls?'"
On Monday morning, Gov. Ralph Northam sent out details about the new scope of the Toll Relief Program.
His office said people in Portsmouth and Norfolk who earn less than $30,000 a year could be eligible to get discounts on tolls in the Downtown and Midtown tunnels.
People who want to get the discounts will have to apply, and that window opens from Dec. 1, 2021, to Feb. 15, 2022. If you're accepted to the program, those discounts kick in on March 1.
Here's what the expansion is supposed to do:
- Give participants 50% off tolls on up to five round-trips per week
- Offer eligibility to twice the number of people as before: 4,300
- Get rid of the "minimum number of trips" before the discounts kick in
- Give the discount daily instead of monthly
"We expect each person enrolled to save up to $650 a year," Northam said.
The program can do this because it's supposed to be getting more funding every year.
"This is our commitment to easing the financial burden that we know our tolls have on income restrained residents,” wrote Elizabeth River Crossings CEO David Sullivan. “We feel it’s our duty to connect them to relief that they can count on. This $2.7 million increase in toll reduction funding is the most significant commitment our company has ever made to the community. We’re excited to see how the program will improve and the impact it will have on those who need it most.”
It's timed well since the toll rates are slated to increase over the next three years. That increase was supposed to happen in 2021, but because of the pandemic, was pushed to a gradual increase over 2021, 2022 and 2023.
Northam said this is just a start in reducing toll costs. He said he will work with governor-elect Glenn Youngkin to ensure the program continues to reduce costs.
"I'm planning on meeting with him again this week and we will probably dig a little deeper into policy -- and certainly being from Hampton Roads and knowing the importance of these tolls, it's a topic that will come up I'm sure," he said.
If you already participate in the program, you must re-enroll for the new benefits. The enrollment period starts Dec. 1 and ends Feb. 15, 2022. Reimbursements begin March 1.