McAuliffe calls Midtown, Downtown tunnel tolls "a burden" to drivers

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13News Now

Posted on January 14, 2014 at 7:13 AM

Updated Tuesday, Jan 14 at 7:13 AM

RICHMOND (AP) -- Gov. Terry McAuliffe wants to know if something can be done about tolls on the Downtown and Midtown tunnels and the MLK Highway in Portsmouth.

Read Gov. McAuliffe's speech here

In his speech to a joint session of the General Assembly Monday night, McAuliffe said tolls are too high for drivers.

"I have been very clear that I support Virginia's aggressive approach to public private partnerships on major road and transit construction projects. But in the cases where tolling is necessary, we must ensure that they are fair and equitable and make sense from a business standpoint. The tolls on the Midtown Tunnel Project do not meet this test – they are too high and place too great a burden on commuters who have to use that route to get to work and get home each day," he said.

McAuliffe said he's directed Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne to develop a plan to revise the tolling rate schedule, and present it in detail to the Commonwealth Transportation Board on Wednesday "for their immediate favorable action."

The meeting begins at 10:00 a.m. It's item six on the agenda called "Status of EZ-Pass Issuance in Hampton Roads" by David Caudill, Virginia Department of Transportation.

That's good news for people opposed to the tolls.

"Terry promised this, and we expected it, and we are happy to hear. I am happy to hear," said Terry Danaher with Citizens Against Unfair Tolls. "You know, we'd love to see the toll reduced drastically, or completely disappear because, actually, we think the whole contract should disappear, because the contract is the problem."

"If you look the applause that he got from the Assembly, okay, that did more for me than anything else, because for awhile, we thought we were here alone in Hampton Roads and in Portsmouth fighting this battle," said Portsmouth Mayor Kenny Wright. "More than half the Assembly applauded when he talked about correcting that wrong."

"We understand that there are a lot of people out there who think, 'Well, it's a user fee for you, and you need to pay for it,' and all that sort of thing, but what we're looking at is the way this was negotiated, and the reality that it may be lower right now, but are we gonna still be dealing with the 3.5 percent rise every year?" said Danaher. "Are we still going to be dealing with 58 years? Is it gonna extend the contract? What are the realities of what's being negotiated? We don't know."

Tolls begin February 1.

 

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