10 On Your Side answers viewer questions about toll increases

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — When you drive through the Midtown or Downtown tunnel on January 1, 2017, you’ll be hit with a higher rate.

Prices will shoot up $.40 per trip during off-peak hours from $1.25 to $1.65. During peak hours, or weekday commuter times, the price will jump $.45 per trip, up to $1.95.

Midtown and Downtown Tunnel tolls to increase January 1

Elizabeth River Tunnels Spokesperson, Leila Rice told 10 On Your Side Tuesday, “Well with the contract, we are allowed to increase tolls by 3.5 percent or consumer price index — whichever one is greater.”

But that doesn’t add up. The toll hike we’re looking at is a 32 percent increase.

Several viewers contacted 10 On Your Side about the price hike. One of them said, “I’m pretty sure the consumer price index did NOT increase by that percentage this year… A 30 percent increase on ANYTHING is an OUTRAGE!!!”

The governor agrees. WAVY.com reached out to Terry McAuliffe’s office. A spokesperson said there’s nothing more the governor can do.

McAuliffe helped Hampton Roads in 2014 when drivers were supposed to pay $1.84 during peak hours. He agreed to pay down the tolls during the construction phase, but when that’s complete, the deal is done.

Another viewer’s email reads: “Sounds like they decided to recover all tolls they would have collected during the construction and then some. I would like to know how they arrived at the new amount.”

Here’s what 10 On Your Side found out: With construction ending, the tolls revert to the original contract rates. Then ERT tacked the 3.5 percent increase on to those.

“Keep in mind, we operate and maintain these facilities and we incur cost increases to maintain facilities,” Rice said. “Tunnels are more expensive to maintain than open roadway.”

If you did the math, you’re probably thinking, “OK, but that increase during peak hours is more than 3.5 percent.” You’re right.

Rice said in an email the contract states that ERT can raise that peak rate $.04 every year for 10 years then add to that the 3.5 percent or consumer price index, whichever one is higher.

The bottom line: If you commute through the tunnel five days a week, you’ll be shelling out about $80 a month just to work.