Portsmouth mayor wants to spend thousands to prevent tunnel toll

Posted at 8:22 PM, Feb 13, 2013
and last updated 2013-02-14 06:24:53-05

Portsmouth, Va. - It's a costly legal battle that has the people of Portsmouth fighting against the Midtown and Downtown tunnel tolls.

"What's going to tear this region apart from our perspective. We've been struggling for years to become a region," said Portsmouth Mayor, Kenny Wright.

And now, Mayor Wright and City Council are taking action against them, too.

The mayor hopes to give $50,000 of the city's general fund to the legal battle between the state and Elizabeth Rver Cossings against Portsmouth people and businesses.

"It is unconstitutional  what the Governor and the secretary of transportation have done. We feel we have a very good case, and so all we're doing now as a city is putting financial horsepower behind what our actions have been up to this point," Mayor Wright said.

The tolls were supposed to start this summer, but they were delayed a year because of public outcry.

It would be $1.84 one way to use the tunnels, which would come out to around $1,000 a year for the daily driver. And they'd be in place for the next 58 years, all to help build a new tube with two extra lanes for the midtown tunnel, along with other projects

The mayor says the toll would ruin Portsmouth's economy and put an unnecessary cost on traveling to Norfolk, as thousands drive to and from each day for work.

As for those whose tax dollars will help fund the legal battle under mayor wright's plan, they say:

"I'm completely against the tolls. I applaud Mayor Wright for looking for ways to resist the efforts, and I think the money is well spent. I think we in Portsmouth need to do everything to resist the tolls because they would just turn us into an island," said Ben Cowgill, who lives in Portsmouth.

But for others, not so much.

"I think our government comes up with more and more creative ways to waste our money. I think government, at all levels, is irresponsible with our money. I just don't think they care," said Andrew Hulton, who uses the tunnels daily.

Mayor Wright also told us that city council still needs to vote on this. He says he's also asking other cities in Hampton Roads to make donations.


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