Going out-of-state may save on E-ZPass fees

Posted at 11:12 PM, Nov 18, 2013
and last updated 2013-11-18 23:12:02-05

Portsmouth, Va. (WTKR) – Like it or not, tolls are coming to the Downtown and Midtown Tunnels next year and the price you pay to cross will be more than just the toll if you go through Virginia's system.

Tolling will start on the Elizabeth River Tunnels Project on February  1, 2014.

Drivers using passenger cars will pay $1.59 to cross the Downtown or Midtown tunnels during off peak times and $1.84 during peak periods.

However, there won’t be any tollbooths or attendants to collect that money. Toll collection will be entirely electronic, using either Pay by Plate or E-ZPass.

Either option through Virginia will cost drivers extra fees on top of the tolls.

Pay by Plate comes with a $3.18 processing fee per trip for folks who don’t register their plates.

Those who register their license plates with a Pay by Plate account will get a discount of $1.59 per trip for the processing fee.

That means the cheapest Pay by Plate option comes out to $3.18 for a one-way trip.

It has some drivers, like William Sheppard of Portsmouth, turning to the E-ZPass option.

“If you go through the tunnel several times a week and you start having to pay a couple dollars extra for the processing fee without the E-ZPass, it’s going to cost you a lot of money,” Sheppard commented.  “So I’m trying to get through as cheap as I can.”

However, Sheppard is not getting out of fees all together going with the Virginia E-ZPass.

Virginia’s E-ZPass comes with a $0.50 monthly maintenance fee attached to each transponder.

V-DOT says it’s an administrative fee, however, other states with the E-ZPass system offer the transponders without the fee.

Massachusetts and Maine both offer the E-ZPass without the maintenance fee.

Those transponders work through the EZ-Pass network of 15 states, including Virginia.

Karen Meyers, a spokeswoman for V-DOT, says the downside to out-of-state E-ZPass comes down to service.

“The advantage of getting a transponder in Virginia is if you have any service issues with your transponder, you’ll have to deal with the state where you acquired your transponder so we wouldn’t be able to assist in any service issues,” Meyers said.

Right now, people who live in Hampton Roads and register for a new EZ-Pass Virginia account by January 3, 2014 will get 5 free trips to use through the tunnels.

You can compare EZ-Pass systems in different states by clicking here.

To find out more about Pay by Plate, click here.