Tale of two tolls: Comparing the South Norfolk Jordan Bridge to ERC tunnels

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) — 10 On Your Side has put together a cost comparison of local tolls and the late fees that can quickly mount up.

Governor Terry McAuliffe was clear last week when he said the thousands of dollars in late fees had to stop, but WAVY News was curious about how the South Norfolk Jordan Bridge stacks up against Downtown and Midtown Tunnels, operated by Elizabeth River Crossings (ERC).

This is the tale of two tolls — the best of fees and the worst of fees.

Toll coverage on WAVY.com

If you plan to use a tolled road or tunnel, you have to pay. The question: What is a fair price?

“All toll facilities don’t do things the same way, and  we have chosen to take a different approach,” said Kevin Crum, the general manager of the South Norfolk Jordan Bridge (SNJB).

Crum is closely watching the firestorm of criticism aimed at ERC’s tolling and fees.

The SNJB Director of Collections and Treasury Veronica Latonio explained how their tolls operate.

“The key difference is our fee structure,” Latonio said. “We only charge one fee for the invoice — for the entire invoice — whether it has 20 tolls or whether it has 40 tolls.”

This document shows a side-by-side comparison is for non E-ZPass tolls, during peak hours, in a standard vehicle, as well as a look at ERC compared to SNJB and how they toll:

The numbers were compiled by SNJB and confirmed by 10 On Your Side.

The invoice covers a standard month billing for 40 tolls. The initial invoice for both tolls is about the same — about $200.

Here’s where ERC starts to skyrocket:

After 30 days, for the first violation notice administrative fee, ERC charges $5 per toll, whereas SNJB charges only $25 total for all 40 tolls. ERC is now at $398 compared to $225 at the SNJB.

For the final notice after 60 days, ERC charges another $10 for each of the 40 tolls. The SNJB charges nothing extra. ERC is now at $798, while the SNJB is still at $225. ERC is now 354 percent higher than the SNJB.

After about 90 days, when transferring to a collection agency takes place, ERC charges $7.50 for each of the 40 tolls, while SNJB charges $75 total for all 40.

For the final balance, ERC is at $1,098, compared to the SNJB, which is at $300. ERC is 366 percent higher than SNJB — and that’s just for one month.

Portsmouth Delegate Stephen Heretick says,”Comparisons like this show us clearly that you have good actors (SNJB) doing positive business with commuters in Hampton Roads, and you have this company, that is a predator (ERC), and there is no other way to put it.”

Del. Heretick wants to look at even stronger protective legislation against unreasonable tolls and fees.

Thanks to new Virginia laws since the implementation of the ERC tolls on the Downtown and Midtown Tunnels, judges can reject fees that exceed the cost of actually collecting the tolls. Virginia code has also capped first offense fees at $2,200.

But for the SNJB General Manager Kevin Crum, it’s this simple: “This whole story goes back to fees, and these fees have put drivers in a bad place financially, and the fees have to be corrected.”

10 On Your Side reached out to ERC’s parent companies, Macquarie-Skanska, and have not yet received a response.