PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Elizabeth River Crossings is surveying drivers about its tunnel system between Norfolk and Portsmouth — and in particular, a possible change to its tolling prices.
The survey questions drivers about their uses of the Interstate 264/Downtown Tunnel and the U.S. Route 58/Midtown Tunnel, and how they pay for tolls.
It introduces the idea of a 100 percent discount for High Occupancy Vehicles (HOV).
If you drive through the downtown or the midtown tunnel to and from work or school five days a week, you’re spending about $1,000 a year. The survey asks: If there was an HOV lane, would you be willing to carpool with someone and go through for free?
“Yes, definitely,” Cheryl Freeland told WAVY.com.
Freeland lives and works in Old Town Portsmouth. Instead of cutting into her budget, the tolls have cut out visits with family.
“I wait until she has a job here or I have a reason over there. It’s not just a spontaneous, ‘Oh I think I’ll run to my sister’s.'”
Hearing even the question raised of a free HOV — or HOT lane — through the tunnel is music to her ears and to the ears of somewhat skeptical business owners along High Street.
Max Greenhood with Olde Towne Business Association said, “I was like, ‘Wow, how are they going to offer this for free?’ Because that’s a big chunk of revenue they’re giving up, so I’m wondering on that side how it’s all going to pan out,”
It may not pan out. 10 On Your Side learned there are no policy changes anticipated because of the survey.
ERC CEO Phillip Shucet told WAVY.com that the questions on the survey are just so they can understand as much as possible about driving behaviors. He didn’t think the question about free tunnel lanes would create expectations. In fact, he’s really not sure what the answers will mean to ERC.
However, for commuters and business owners it could mean more money in their pockets and so they are holding out hope and pointing out all the pluses.
“I think its smart though. It reduces the cost for drivers, commuters, people visiting Old Town, reduces the road maintenance, reduces emissions. All around it’s a win-win,” Greenhood said.
To take the survey, head to this link (Note: the code for the survey is “HOV”). The survey will be wrapping up within the next 24 to 48 hours. Shucet expects we will see the results in October.
Stay with WAVY.com for the latest updates on traffic and tolling.