Toll patrol: VDOT, push back that bridge lift

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — 10 On Your Side is still on toll patrol, looking for more ways to reduce the money you pay at the Downtown Tunnel.

There was a 9:15 bridge lift Wednesday morning at the Berkley Bridge. It was delayed from the 9 a.m. opening, following a special request. It got us thinking — what if the lift was always at 9:15 a.m.? It would allow drivers to get across the bridge and pay the lower toll — lower by a quarter — before getting caught in bridge-lift traffic.

Photos: Bridge lifts affect toll costs

Art student Edward Chartier loves the idea: “I think that is a very good idea. I don’t like the tolls at all, and anything that saves me money is good …  that’s right when you are going to work, too.”

Over the years, 10 On Your Side has worked with the Virginia Department of Transportation to establish scheduled lifts at Berkley and Dominion Blvd.

“You’ve helped us with the Berkley Bridge, getting that on a schedule and getting the public to reach out to the Coast Guard to express their opinion, and it helped a lot,” said Dwayne Cook, VDOT’s Regional Operations Director.

The decision to change the lift time is VDOT’s alone, but VDOT consults the Coast Guard and Maritime Industry.

“If VDOT did that … it would help us a little bit, I guess,” said David Keffer, who has lived in Portsmouth 65 years.

“I have been thinking about this, but I don’t know if my voice will count,” said shipyard worker Aaron Grimes. “VDOT, push it back to 9:15 a.m. — that’s coming from Aaron Grimes and the rest of Portsmouth.”

The sign under the Berkley Bridge reads, “Bridge closed to marine traffic between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m.” But, making that 9:15 a.m. could help hundreds of drivers save money and get to work on time.

VDOT spokesperson Marshall Herman emailed us about the idea: “The current schedule is based on congestion periods to minimize traffic jams caused by lifts. Any changes to the lift schedule would need to be in collaboration with the Coast Guard and the Maritime Industry. VDOT will work with the Coast Guard and Maritime Industry to evaluate the feasibility of changes to the lift schedule.”

WAVY.com has not heard back from Elizabeth River Tunnels about their thoughts on our idea, but we’ll keep you posted.

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