Secretary of Transportation reacts to ERT improvement plan

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – The transportation official demanding improvements from Elizabeth River Crossings said he expects monthly updates on the company’s corrective action plan.

“We’ve been telling them to do this for over two years, so the proof will be whether they actually do it,” said Virginia Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne.

Last month, Layne wrote a letter to Elizabeth River Tunnels CEO Greg Woodsmall about “unacceptable deficiencies” with its tolling system that created “unnecessary burdens” on customers.

In the letter, Layne suggested the company hire a third party to monitor quality control, and requested a plan of action by the end of October.

Document: ERC Toll System Action Plan

The plan, delivered Friday, shows the company complied by launching data sampling of its toll transactions in September.

ERT also plans to hire a third party to review its customer service center, and provide additional training.

The company will also hire a tolling software engineer, system administrator and business analyst, three new positions that will provide more “robust oversight” of its toll system, according to the plan.

Separate from the plan, ERT spokesperson Leila Rice said the company began offering payment plans on a “limited, case-by-case basis.”

A team of customer account specialists are now authorized to work out payment plans based on customers’ financial need, Rice said. She again encouraged all drivers who utilize the downtown and midtown tunnels to sign up for E-ZPass to take advantage of the lowest possible tolls.

Since 10 On Your Side’s investigation into ERT’s billing and customer service practices aired Thursday, viewers have continued to email about insurmountable bills, and invoices they say they never received.

Only a drop in those kinds of complaints will prove ERT’s plan is working, Layne said.

“I’m hopeful that finally what we’ve been suggesting for several years, they actually do it,” he said. “It will only be when customers see a difference.”

Layne said he asked VDOT to deliver a monthly report on whether ERT showed improvements.

Customers experiencing billing discrepancies should first try contacting ERT’s customer service center by email or phone: 757-821-2659.

The CEO has also created an email address to take complaints about customer service issues.

VDOT cannot resolve billing issues for customers, but Layne suggested reporting ongoing issues to the department. If you have complaints about tolling operations, you can call 1-800-For-Road (1-800-367-7623) or submit a form here.