HRBT expansion could take away from tolls, cost taxpayers millions

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) — The expansion of the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel is moving forward. But, could the project cause conflict?

The Commonwealth Transportation Board approved a recommended plan for the Hampton Roads Crossing in early December. It will cost $4 billion.

However, the project could clash with the state’s contract for the Downtown and Midtown tunnels. If that becomes a problem, it could cost taxpayers millions of dollars.

An alternative facilities clause in the contract essentially says that any crossing built that could affect toll revenue for the next 58 years would leave the Commonwealth to pay it back.

Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne says it has been an ongoing battle to make the Downtown and Midtown tunnels affordable.

“We’ve bought so many tolls down and now this. It was a heavy price paid,” Layne said. “If we build anything over the next 58 years and it impacts their tolling revenues, then they have a right to claim compensation against the Commonwealth.”

The agreement refers to projects like the HRBT expansion, which could take away revenue from Elizabeth River Crossing tolls.

According to Secretary Layne, Virginia never did a study on the HRBT expansions impact to toll revenue. However, ERC did in 2012.

“This could be as much as $300 million of impact,” Layne said.

That was based on an eight lane expansion for the HRBT, not the six lane expansion that the Commonwealth has approved.

In a statement, a spokesperson for ERC told 10 On Your Side they don’t have a figure or plan at this point.

Any response to questions related to possible compensation and pursuit of such would be speculative and premature at this time.”