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Frequently Asked Questions

About the Project

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

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.
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.

Toll gantries are located on the Portsmouth side of the Midtown and Downtown tunnels. Motorists will not pay a toll to use the new MLK Extension.
Signage exists at all ramps leading into these facilities per Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Manual on Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) requirements denoting that both the Midtown and Downtown Tunnels are tolled facilities. Toll gantries are located above the roadway on the Portsmouth side of the tunnels and collect tolls electronically, meaning there are no tollbooths. Roadway signage indicates the tunnels are all-electronically tolled via E-ZPass or Pay by Plate and that there is “no cash option.” There is also signage that shows toll rates for peak and off-peak travel with E-ZPass and that “Pay by Plate = toll + processing fee.” Additionally, there is signage indicating “Last Exit Before Tunnel/Toll.”

Toll Rates

Under the Comprehensive Agreement, tolls for the Elizabeth River Tunnels Project began February 1, 2014 and will continue through April 13, 2070.
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. View current toll rates.
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.
The rates increase in accordance with the 2011 Comprehensive Agreement between the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and Elizabeth River Crossings (ERC). The tolls can escalate annually by a factor equal to the greater of changes to the Consumer Price Index or 3.5 percent. Attachment 1 to Exhibit J of the 2011 Comprehensive Agreement includes a 2% annual differential for peak-hour base rates between the years of 2017 and 2026.
The following holidays are considered off-peak:

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

Failure to pay tolls results in escalating fines including the possibility of being sent to collections and/or court in order to collect the unpaid toll. Fees, fines and toll collection processes are imposed in direct accordance with the Code of Virginia 46-2.819.3:1. More information regarding the toll violation process can be found here.
ERC has announced plans for a First Time Offenders Program, limiting civil penalties to $2,200 for individuals who are taken to Court for unpaid tolls and/or administrative fees. At this time, ERC has not yet sought Court action or civil penalties for unpaid tolls. Currently, ERC assesses administrative fees for unpaid tolls levied in accordance with Code of Virginia 46-2.819.3:1. The limit on civil penalties is in addition to these administrative fees, which would take effect upon further escalation of the account to court.
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.
In the event of a hurricane, or other emergency events, tolls are waived at the direction of VDOT in accordance with the Comprehensive Agreement.
Free use of tolled facilities in the Commonwealth of Virginia is regulated by Virginia Code 33.1-252 (for the 2015 Virginia Code see § 33.2-613). 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.

In the Comprehensive Agreement, VDOT has the ability to waive tolls during emergency evacuations.
If you are renting a car and plan on using or have used the Midtown and/or Downtown tunnels, please speak to your rental car company regarding their assessments of toll payments.
Please contact the ERT Customer Service Center for questions regarding tolls incurred at the Midtown and Downtown tunnels at customerservice@DriveERT.biz, via our local number at 757-837-0840 or toll-free at 855-ERT-ROAD.
Please complete the contact form at ERT Customer Service Center and be sure to fill out all fields in order to get the quickest response. For all questions regarding tolls incurred at the Midtown and Downtown tunnels, contact Customer Service at customerservice@DriveERT.biz, via our local number at 757-837-0840 or toll-free at 855-ERT-ROAD.
If you were directed to turn around or were detoured after passing through the gantry system because of a crash or maintenance issue, you will not be assessed a toll. If you have been assessed a toll during this type of situation, please contact our customer service center at customerservice@driveert.biz or 855-ERT-ROAD.

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. View current toll rates for E-ZPass. Vehicles that do not have E-ZPass transponders associated with them will be mailed an invoice for the toll due. In addition to the Elizabeth River Tunnels Project, it is used on toll facilities in 14 other states. For general E-ZPass information or account assistance, visit www.ezpassva.com.
E-ZPass can be obtained over the phone, in person, and online. For more information, visit www.ezpassva.com.
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.

If an E-ZPass transponder has insufficient funds to cover tolls incurred, ERT continues to attempt to post the transaction to the account up to ten days to allow for account replenishment. If after ten days the account is still rejected because of insufficient funds, then the transaction(s) will be processed as unregistered Pay by Plate tolls and an invoice is generated. The invoice includes a processing fee per toll incurred. Failure to pay tolls results in escalating fines including the possibility of being sent to collections and/or court in order to collect the unpaid toll. Fees, fines and toll collection processes are imposed in direct accordance with the Code of Virginia 46-2.819.3:1.
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.
It is important to keep your E-ZPass account information current. Simply login to your account at www.ezpassva.com to make any changes to your address, vehicle information or to update your credit card.

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.
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.
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 processing fee per trip (in addition to the toll). Registered Pre-Paid Pay by Plate customers using the tunnels (without an E-ZPass) will pay a reduced processing fee per trip (in addition to the toll). With the unregistered Pay by Plate options, you would receive an invoice in the mail requesting payment. View current toll rates.
Statements are mailed every 30 days, or when your Pay by Plate account reaches $20 owed, whichever comes first.
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 our local number at 757-837-0840 or toll free at 855-ERT-ROAD.
If you’ve 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(s) with “Missed a Toll.” This option is available online, in person at the ERT Customer Service Center located at 700 Port Centre Parkway #2B, Portsmouth, VA 23704, or by calling our local number at 757-837-0840 or toll free at 855-ERT-ROAD and is only valid for 96 hours (4 days) after you use the Elizabeth River Tunnels. This feature is particularly useful for business travelers who may need a receipt for travel expense reimbursement and cannot wait for an invoice

Pay by Plate processing fees per toll also apply with this method of payment.

If you’ve 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(s) with “Missed a Toll.” This option is available online, in person at the ERT Customer Service Center located at 700 Port Centre Parkway #2B, Portsmouth, VA 23704, or by calling our local number at 757-837-0840 or toll free at 855-ERT-ROAD and is only valid for 96 hours (4 days) after you use the Elizabeth River Tunnels. This feature is particularly useful for business travelers who may need a receipt for travel expense reimbursement and cannot wait for an invoice

Pay by Plate processing fees per toll also apply with this method of payment.

It is important to keep your account information updated for accurate billing. If you are a registered Pay by Plate user, changes to your address can be made by logging in to your Pay by Plate account online. If you are an unregistered Pay by Plate user, you will need to update your address with the Department of Motor Vehicles. Virginia residents can update their address here: https://www.dmv.virginia.gov/general/#records/update_add.asp
Your vehicle traveled through one or more of the electronic toll gantries located on the Portsmouth side of the US 58 Midtown Tunnel and I-264 Downtown Tunnel, which connect the cities of Portsmouth and Norfolk in Hampton Roads, Virginia.
The all-electronic toll system uses a sensor above the roadway, which takes an image of a vehicle’s license plate when it crosses the toll gantries. Invoices are mailed to the vehicle’s registered owner.
If you have established a Registered pre-paid Pay by Plate account with Elizabeth River Tunnels and you received this invoice, something may be wrong with your account. It is possible that your account does not have money in it or there is a problem with your credit card or registered license plate number(s). Please contact the ERT Customer Service Center at 1-855-ERT-ROAD (378-7623) or at customerservice@driveert.biz. You must still pay the enclosed invoice by the deadline noted to avoid additional fees and penalties.
Pay by Plate, an electronic system whereby video cameras are used to capture license plate data, is used on the Elizabeth River Tunnels Project. Vehicles that do not have E-ZPass transponders will be mailed an invoice for the toll due along with processing fee per transaction. Invoiced customers are charged for cost recovery, which by Virginia law is capped at two-times the base toll rate.
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 our local number (757-837-0840) or toll free at 855-ERT-ROAD. You are strongly encouraged to switch to E-ZPass to avoid receiving additional invoices. Please contact the ERT Customer Service Center at 855-ERT-ROAD for questions regarding this program.
Pay by Plate customers may pay their invoice via cash*, check or credit card. If paying by mail, you may enclose your credit card information or check with the attached payment form.

*Cash payments must be made in person at the ERT Customer Service Center: 700 Port Centre Parkway, Suite 2B, Portsmouth, VA 23704.

Please contact the ERT Customer Service Center for questions regarding Pay by Plate invoices or accounts via the contact form, via email at customerservice@DriveERT.biz, or via our local number at 757-837-0840 or toll-free at 855-ERT-ROAD (855-378-7623).
If you received this invoice as an E-ZPass customer, your tag was not detected and the license plate of the vehicle pictured does not match an existing E-ZPass account. If you have an E-ZPass account with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) or another E-ZPass agency and have received this invoice, contact your toll agency’s customer service center. VDOT Customer Service Center: 1-877-762-7824 or at customerservice@ezpassva.com. You must still pay the enclosed invoice by the deadline noted to avoid additional fees and penalties.
Failure to pay tolls results in escalating fines including the possibility of being sent to collections and/or court in order to collect the unpaid toll. Fees, fines and toll collection processes are imposed in direct accordance with the Code of Virginia 46-2.819.3:1.

U.S. 58 East Midtown Tunnel Rehabilitation

Rehabilitation of the existing U.S. 58 East Midtown Tunnel began June 3, 2016 and will continue through Q2 2017. Learn more about Midtown Tunnel Rehabilitation.
From a safety standpoint, much of the work taking place is overhead and crosses the center line of traffic. A complete tunnel closure is necessary for the safety of motorists and workers. Complete nightly closures allow crews to get work done in a more efficient manner, allowing for more actual work to take place per closure. As the complexity of work being performed increases (installation of fireproofing and jet fans, for example), more time is required for installation, clean-up and inspection before the tunnel can reopen to the public. Full, uninterrupted nightly closures allow the time necessary for the work. Work will take place using single lane closures, when possible.
We empathize with the businesses that are impacted by any construction activity. This work is essential to extend the life of the facilities. We are working diligently to complete the required rehabilitation work in a safe, expedient manner with as little negative impact to the surrounding communities as possible.
  • VDOT’s Transportation Operations Center monitors traffic impacts and suggests detour routes and adjusts messaging as needed throughout the closures.
  • A detailed Maintenance of Traffic (MOT) plan was developed in coordination with adjacent cities and includes detour signs along the primary detour routes.
  • Messages are implemented on VDOT alert systems for each full tunnel closure, starting before the closure occurs.

Messages run on:

  • 511 phone system
  • 511 smartphone app
  • HAR 1680 AM, broadcast in Hampton Roads
  • The 1-800-FOR-ROAD Customer Service line VDOT Traffic Line, 757-361-3016

MLK Extension

The MLK Extension is being built to extending the MLK Freeway in Portsmouth from London Blvd. to I-264 with a partial interchange at High St.
Motorists will be able to enter and exit the MLK Extension via Route 164, I-264, or at London Blvd. and High St. interchanges.
No. Motorists will not pay a toll to use the new MLK Extension.
These permanent ramp closures were studied and approved by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and identified as necessary to make the new MLK Extension connector ramps function safely and efficiently. They were initially shared with the public during the May 2011 design public hearings held by VDOT.
Construction impacting I-264 includes:

  • Permanent closure of I-264 East Des Moines Ave. exit ramp in November 2013.
  • Temporary closure of the London Blvd. interchanges, for up to 12 months beginning February 2014.
  • Temporary closure of the Frederick Blvd. exit ramp from I-264 East for up to 18 months beginning April 2014.
  • Permanent closure of I-264 West South St. on ramp in April 2014.
  • Single lane closures on I-264 East beginning in November 2013 and I-264 West beginning in April 2014.
  • Temporary closure of I-264 Pedestrian Bridge near Frederick Blvd. for nine months in March 2014 for removal and replacement.
  • Short term I-264 closures at night for setting bridge beams over roadway.

About Public-Private Partnerships

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.
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

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.
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.

Other

The AM/FM rebroadcasting and Highway Advisory Radio system is being replaced as part of the rehabilitation work currently in progress. The system in the I-264 West Downtown Tunnel is up and running. The system will not be functioning in the I-264 East Downtown Tunnel until late summer 2015. This is because the conduit for the AM/FM radio goes up well above lights and cannot be placed until the Promat fireproofing, new LED lighting, and other necessary electrical work is all completed.
Website Information Security is a top priority for Elizabeth River Tunnels. The DriveERT.com website uses strong HTTPS encryption (also known as HTTP over TLS, or Transport Layer Security) by default in order to keep your internet experience safer while on our site. Our website requires that your browser be compatible with TLS 1.2. If you are having issues viewing or accessing the DriveERT.com website, please be sure to update Chrome, Internet Explorer or Firefox browsers to the most up-to-date version. Read more about Cyber Security here.
Elizabeth River Crossings (ERC), the private partner of the Virginia Department of Transportation for the design, construction, finance, operations and maintenance of the Elizabeth River Tunnels Project, provides an annual $2.1 million subsidy to Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) for life of the Concession to increase bus and ferry service between Norfolk and Portsmouth – providing improved interconnectivity and low-cost, convenient alternatives to driving. As a part of the expanded services, both HRT Ferries and Buses will benefit from the subsidy. View our HRT Partnership Fact Sheet.