Small businesses cope with tunnel tolls’ effect

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The first week of tolls at the Downtown and Midtown tunnels continues, and many small businesses say the tolls will hurt their bottom line.

The Sunflower Florist in Norfolk will load up for Valentine’s Day two weeks after the tolls will have been in place. Last year they made 75 deliveries to Portsmouth for the holiday. This year, those trips across the Elizabeth River will be more expensive.

“I feel like we’re being taxed to death,” said owner Rosemary Causey. “You gotta do what you got to do to get them out, so we’ll probably make 10 or 15 trips Valentine’s Day.”

But the rest of the year, Causey will have to cut back.

“Right now we go twice a day, but when the toll comes into effect, we’re going to cut it down to like 1:00 in the afternoon, one time a day because it adds up,” Causey told nearly a week before tolls began.

Taxi driver Aru Mong said in his business, sometimes you make enough money to make your lease and some days you don’t. And the new tolls will have a noticeable effect on his daily life.

“So, the little money you make, if you’re going [through the tunnel] twice, or three times, you’re going to end up paying the money out of your lease,” Mong said.

The ride from the airport to Portsmouth is about $30. Now Mong will charge customers for the toll through the tunnels, but he’ll eat the cost of the toll on his trip back.

“It’s annoying, but am I going to sit in the house because of the toll? I’m not going to sit in the house. I got to be economic, survival,” he said.

At Changes Hair Styling and City Spa, owner Norma Dorey will pay back customers who come to her salon through the tunnels.

“As a small business, I think it’s going to hurt me more if I don’t try to help buffer those costs a little bit,” Dorey said. “With the presentation of their ID, showing that they’re residents of Portsmouth or Suffolk, we will give them a credit of that day on their service.”

Dorey has no idea how much it will cost her, but she thinks it’s worth it.

“We’re going to try to make that a little less painful, so that’s what we can do in our small way,” she said.

Dorey told she hopes other area businesses will follow suit and help out everyone affected by the tunnel tolls.

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