RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) — Lawmakers want to expand income eligibility for a program that eases the financial burden of paying Elizabeth River Crossing tolls at Hampton Roads.
The legislation would provide financial assistance to residents of Portsmouth and Norfolk who use the inner city or city center tunnels and earn $45,000 or less. Commuters who earn less than $30,000 per year are currently eligible for the toll relief program.
Senator L. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, introduced a bill that is at the finance committee. An identical bill, introduced by Del. Don Scott, D-Portsmouth, was sued until next year.
“While the preferable action would be to eliminate tolls altogether, instead of this approval and funding, this additional toll relief program brings this issue closer to the goal of who can least afford it” , Lucas said at a recent panel. Encounter.
Families whose income is above the federal poverty level but below the basic cost of living threshold are called asset-limited, income-limited, employed, or ALICE households. More than one in three households in South Hampton Roads are considered ALICE households, according to the Greater Hampton Roads Community Indicators Dashboard.
Alexander Fella, research director at the Urban Renewal Center and resident of Norfolk, studied the impact of tolls on residents of Virginia. He studies the interactions between urbanization and sacred lands.
“Norfolk is in a housing crisis, and it’s running into an infrastructure crisis,” Fella said.
A solution to the financial crisis would be “to invest in fast, affordable and reliable public transport that breaks the dependence of working classes and the poor on toll roads”, according to Fella.
Senate committee members are unsure how to fund the measure and whether they can use American Rescue Plan Act funding.
“I’m going to take it any way I can,” Lucas said, referring to general budget or ARPA funds.
There was a motion to postpone the bill until next year to assess options for potential funding sources.
Lucas asked for a shorter period to do internal research on funding, saying other members of the chair anticipate a high amount of funding needed.
The bill was passed for the week after it was discovered that there was no proposed funding in the outgoing governor’s budget and the general consensus that ARPA funding cannot be used for the rescue.
The Virginia Department of Transportation oversees and accepts applications for the program. Elizabeth River Crossings, which operates the Downtown and Midtown tunnels, is funding the relief program. The organization contributes $500,000 annually to the VDOT Toll Relief Program and has increased its funding to $3.2 million this year. Funding will then increase by 3.5% annually.
Revenue from tolls is allocated to project costs such as financing, design, construction, roads, and the ongoing preservation of the tunnels and Martin Luther King Jr. Expressway expansion.
VDOT and Elizabeth River Crossing have joined forces to help ease the financial hardship of tolls for residents of Norfolk and Portsmouth, according to VDOT. Eligible commuters receive credit for 10 rides per week.
Residents must visit one of the E-ZPass Customer Service Centers to apply and provide proof of income and residency at the time of application.
The application process for 2022 began on December 1, 2021 and closes on February 15. This year’s program benefits will apply to transactions made on or after March 1.
Program funds are renewed annually and participants must re-verify their income and residency annually.
Scott and Lucas did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
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