Frequently Asked Questions

About the Project

What is ERC's role under the Comprehensive Agreement?
ERC will finance, design, construct, operate and maintain the Elizabeth River Tunnels Project for a term of 58 years. The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) maintains ownership and oversight of the Project and corresponding facilities. The Comprehensive Agreement is the contractual framework for the Project. For more information, view our Cost and Funding Fact Sheet.

All-Electronic Tolling

What is all-electronic tolling? How does it work?
All-electronic tolling is a mechanism by which the collection of tolls is performed electronically. By eliminating the need for physical toll booths, traffic can be sustained at a free flow pace, which reduces vehicle idle times, thus reducing any negative impacts on the environment. Tolls are collected via overhead electronic gantries instead of toll booths to allow for the free-flow of traffic. Vehicles may pass through the toll point at the posted speeds with no need to slow down, stop or find correct change. Each vehicle is identified either by an E-ZPASS transponder or license plate. A wide variety of options for payment will be offered. 
Why aren’t there any toll booths at the Elizabeth River Tunnels Project?
From the outset, the Elizabeth River Tunnels Project was always envisioned as all-electronic tolling due to the unique aspects of these tunnels:

  • The tight configuration of on and off ramps do not allow space for a conventional toll plaza.
  • The I-264 West Downtown Tunnel entrance has ramps right up until the mouth of the tunnel and the approach has huge concrete walls; the Portsmouth side has an immediate exit into downtown Portsmouth.
  • The I-264 East Downtown Tunnel is similar with several ramps merging together on the Portsmouth side just before the entrance, then the same issue of the concrete walls on the Norfolk side.
  • Additionally, there is no room for toll booths at US 58 Midtown Tunnel on the Norfolk side due to Brambleton Interchange.
  • Even if it could be done, a toll plaza would significantly impact the flow of traffic and reduce speeds, causing additional dangerous merges and increasing congestion at the tunnels on both sides.

The Elizabeth River Tunnels Project offers a cash payment option for both Pay by Plate and E-ZPass customers at the Customer Service Centers conveniently located in Norfolk and Portsmouth. The VDOT Customer Service Center in Norfolk is at 1701 Church Street, and VDOT also has one in Portsmouth at the Victory Crossing Shopping Center. Additionally, the Elizabeth River Tunnels Customer Service Center is in Portsmouth at 700 Port Centre Parkway. All accept cash payment for replenishment of E-ZPass or Pay By Plate accounts. 

Where are tolls collected? Can I drive within Portsmouth and not pay a toll?

Toll gantries are located on the Portsmouth side of the Midtown and Downtown Tunnels, as well as access points to the MLK Extension (once complete). A vehicle taking a local trip in Portsmouth entering or exiting the MLK Extension from the High St. or Portsmouth London Blvd. ramps will not pay a toll. Existing portions of the MLK in Portsmouth will not be tolled. 

Toll Rates

When did tolling begin at the Downtown and Midtown tunnels?
Under the Comprehensive Agreement, tolls for the Elizabeth River Tunnels Project began February 1, 2014 and will continue through April 13, 2070. 
What is the current toll rate?
Different toll rates apply to light vehicles and heavy vehicles. Light vehicles are classified as vehicles with up to two axles, including passenger cars, motorcycles, buses, and two-axle trucks (four and six tires). Heavy vehicles are classified as vehicles with three or more axles. Toll rates for light vehicles using either the Downtown or Midtown tunnels will be $.75 (off-peak) and $1.00 (peak). Toll rates for heavy vehicles are $2.25 (off-peak) and $4.00 (peak). All vehicles that use the MLK Extension and one of the tunnels as part of a single trip will pay $0.50 to use the MLK extension. All vehicles that use only the MLK Extension will pay $1.00.

2014ERTtollrates_web

What hours are considered peak and off-peak?
Peak Period is Monday through Friday from 5:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. All other times, including weekends and select holidays are considered off-peak. See Toll Rate page for more information. 
When will toll rates increase?
From Feb. 1, 2014 through the end of the year, the off-peak rate for passenger vehicles is $.75, down from $1.59; and the peak-hour toll rate is $1, down from $1.84.

  • In 2015, the off-peak toll rate will go up to $1, and the peak-hour rate will be $1.25.
  • In 2016, the off-peak toll rate will be $1.25, and the peak-hour rate will be $1.50.
  • In 2017 or upon substantial completion of the new Midtown Tunnel, the rates will be in accordance with the Comprehensive Agreement between the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and Elizabeth River Crossings (ERC).

The tolls will escalate annually by a factor equal to the greater of changes to Consumer Price Index or 3.5 percent. 

Which holidays are considered for off-peak toll rates?

The following holidays are considered off-peak:

  • New Year’s Day
  • Memorial Day
  • Independence Day – 4th of July
  • Labor Day
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Christmas Day

How much is the toll if I tow a boat or trailer behind my vehicle?

Toll rates are charged by time of day (off-peak and peak) and vehicle classification. Light vehicles are classified as vehicles with up to two-axles. Heavy vehicles are classified as vehicles with three or more axles.

If a light vehicle tows a trailer, for example, the vehicle classification would change to a heavy vehicle with the addition of axles. 

Are there fines for not paying the toll?
Fines could be applied for non-payment by the Pay by Plate invoice due date. Fines are established in Virginia Code 46.2-819.3:1. More information regarding the toll violation process can be found here
Are there free alternative routes?
Yes. Alternate water-crossing routes include Route 13 Military Highway Gilmerton Bridge and the Interstate 64 (I-64) High Rise Bridge. Additionally, riders on public transportation, such as buses and the ferry service will not be charged toll fees. For more information on public transit options, visit www.gohrt.com
Will tolls be collected during emergency evacuations?
In the event of a hurricane, or other emergency events, tolls are waived at the direction of VDOT in accordance with the Comprehensive Agreement
What vehicles are exempt from paying a toll on the Elizabeth River Tunnels Project?

Free use of tolled facilities in the Commonwealth of Virginia is regulated by Virginia Code 33.1-252. Tolling on the Elizabeth River Tunnels Project falls under Virginia Code § 33.1-252 D, which states:
Notwithstanding the provisions of subsections A and B, only the following persons may use the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, facilities of the Richmond Metropolitan Authority, or facilities of an operator authorized to operate a toll facility pursuant to the Public-Private Transportation Act of 1995 (§ 56-556 et seq.) without the payment of toll when necessary and incidental to the conduct of official business:

  • The Commissioner of Highways;
  • Members of the Commonwealth Transportation Board;
  • Employees of the Department of Transportation;
  • The Superintendent of the Department of State Police;
  • Officers and employees of the Department of State Police;
  • The Commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles;
  • Employees of the Department of Motor Vehicles; and
  • Sheriffs and deputy sheriffs.

In addition, Amendment 4 of the Comprehensive Agreement provides free passage to the following:

  • Local police officers while on duty and traveling in official vehicles;
  • Persons operating school buses being used to transport pupils to or from school or for other official school business;
  • Persons operating firefighting equipment and ambulances owned by a political subdivision of the State, a nonprofit association or corporation, or the United States military;
  • Persons operating commuter buses and support vehicles for such buses operated by Hampton Roads Transit that service Hampton Roads Transit routes 44, 45, and 47 in and between the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth or equivalent Hampton Roads Transit bus routes;
  • Employees of the Concessionaire while on duty and while commuting to and from the Concessionaire’s offices for work; and
  • At the Concessionaire’s discretion, subcontractors that have contracts directly with the Concessionaire for the performance of the Work, when use of the Project by such contractors is necessary and incidental to the performance of the Work.

All other vehicles are required to pay a toll on the Elizabeth River Tunnels Project, which includes the Downtown and Midtown tunnels and the future Martin Luther King Freeway Extension. 

What happens during a hurricane or other weather event?
In the Comprehensive Agreement, VDOT has the ability to waive tolls during emergency evacuations.  
I drove through the tunnel in a rental vehicle that is not mine. Is there a way to pay the toll right away?
If you have recently traveled through the Elizabeth River Tunnels (Downtown and Midtown tunnels) and do not want to receive an invoice or need to pay your toll sooner, you can pay your toll via the Missed a Toll page.
Who do I contact with questions about tolls incurred at the Midtown and Downtown tunnels?
Please contact the ERT Customer Service Center for questions regarding tolls incurred at the Midtown and Downtown tunnels at customerservice@DriveERT.biz or toll-free at 855-ERT-ROAD. 

E-ZPass

What is E-ZPass?
E-ZPass is a toll payment system managed by VDOT. A transponder is mounted inside a vehicle and fees are electronically collected when the vehicle passes through a toll gantry. In addition to the Elizabeth River Tunnels Project, it is used on toll facilities in 14 other states. For more information, visit www.ezpassva.com. E-ZPass rates for the tunnels are: Auto off-peak: $.75; Peak: $1.00. Truck off-peak: $2.25; Peak: $4.00. For the MLK Extension: $0.50 for tunnel users; $1.00 for non-tunnel users. Vehicles that do not have E-ZPass transponders will be mailed an invoice for the toll due.

2014ERTtollrates_web

How do I get an E-ZPass?
E-ZPass can be obtained over the phone, in person, and online. For more information, visit www.ezpassva.com.
How can I pay the toll if I don’t have E-ZPass?
Pay By Plate, an electronic system whereby video cameras are used to capture license plate data, is used on the Project.

If a driver does not have E-ZPass, an invoice will be mailed to them. Invoiced customers are charged for cost recovery, which by Virginia law is capped at two times the base toll rate.

Payment options include paying in person, by mail, by telephone or online. For more information on Pay by Plate processing fees, view our toll rates

What happens if I don't have enough money in my E-ZPass account when I use the tunnels?
If an E-ZPass transponder has insufficient funds on it, our system will continue to check the E-ZPass file for five consecutive days to see if the account has been brought into good standing. This allows the customer an opportunity to replenish the account and allows us to process the transaction against the customer’s replenished E-ZPass account.  If after five days the tag is still rejected because of insufficient funds, then the transaction(s) will be processed as unregistered Pay by Plate. The customer will receive an invoice which will include the $1.50 processing fee per toll incurred. 
Do I need a separate E-ZPass for towing a trailer?
At the Elizabeth River Tunnels, you do not need an additional transponder for trailers, since the toll gantries determine the toll rate by the number of axles on the vehicle passing through. This may not be the case at other tolled facilities, so please check with those facilities prior to travel.

Pay by Plate

What is Pay by Plate?
Pay by Plate is an alternate way to pay for tolls at the Elizabeth River Tunnels Project (without an E-ZPass). Pay by Plate uses your license plate to identify use of the tolled facilities. 
How does Pay by Plate work?
Drivers without an E-ZPass transponder will Pay by Plate. This process uses license plate recognition on the toll gantries above the roadway to identify and invoice customers who have used the tolled facilities. 
What is the difference between Registered and Unregistered Pay by Plate account holders?
Without an E-ZPass, there are two ways to pay the toll: as an Unregistered user or as a Registered Pre-Paid Pay by Plate user. Unregistered Pay by Plate users of the Downtown or Midtown tunnels (without an E-ZPass) will pay an additional $1.50 processing fee per trip (in addition to the toll), for a total of $2.25 off-peak and $2.50 peak. Registered Pre-Paid Pay by Plate customers using the tunnels (without an E-ZPass) will pay a reduced processing fee of $0.75 per trip (in addition to the toll), for a total of $1.50 off-peak and $1.75 peak. With the unregistered Pay by Plate options, you would receive an invoice in the mail requesting payment.

2014ERTtollrates_web

When should I expect to receive my invoice?
Invoices are mailed every 10 days, or when your Pay by Plate account reaches $20 owed, whichever comes first. 
How do I pay my Pay by Plate invoice?
Pay by Plate customers may pay their invoice in person at the ERT Customer Service Center, online at www.DriveERT.com, or via phone at 855-ERT-ROAD.
Who do I contact with questions about my Pay by Plate invoice or account?
Please contact the ERT Customer Service Center for questions regarding Pay by Plate invoices or accounts at customerservice@DriveERT.biz or toll-free at 855-ERT-ROAD. 

About Public-Private Partnerships

What is a public-private partnership or P3?
A P3 transportation project is one in which a public agency (VDOT) partners with a private entity (ERC) to develop, construct and operate transportation facilities in order to offset the need for public allocations to fund the work. 

How will the Commonwealth and VDOT ensure that the public’s interests are protected in this Project?

A detailed Comprehensive Agreement gives the commonwealth clear powers and responsibilities for public oversight, which includes setting performance standards for ERC. The toll rate and escalation are set in the agreement, which has been negotiated by both VDOT and ERC. The agreement requirements ensure that the facility is developed in accordance with all state and federal design and safety standards and is well maintained throughout the term of the agreement.

ERC-VDOT_web

How will ERC be monitored? What is VDOT or the Commonwealth’s role?
VDOT will continue to maintain ownership of the Project “infrastructure” (i.e. roadways, bridges, tunnels) and right-of-way, and will have oversight of ERC’s activities. As part of the procurement process, VDOT has established performance measures that must be met by ERC throughout the life of the agreement. 
Will ERC receive additional compensation related to other transportation improvements in Hampton Roads?
The Project will not prohibit the future development of any other projects in the Hampton Roads region. If the Commonwealth opens a competing facility during the term of the Midtown Tunnel agreement, ERC may make a claim if the revenues needed to pay back the financing for the Midtown Tunnel Project decreases because of that facility. ERC must comply with strict notice requirements in order to make a claim and ERC bears the burden of proof in demonstrating revenue impacts. There is no guaranteed compensation. 

Learn More

Where can I get additional information about the Project?
If you don’t find the information you are looking for here on our website, feel free to ask us a question at info@driveERT.com and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.