Midtown Tunnel (Virginia)

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For the tunnel under the East River in New York City, see Queens Midtown Tunnel.

The Midtown Tunnel crosses the main channel of the Elizabeth River in the South Hampton Roads area of Virginia where it is one of two tunnels that link the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth. It carries U.S. Highway 58 and operated without tolls until February 1, 2014.

History[edit]

The two-lane Midtown Tunnel was completed September 6, 1962, supplementing the Downtown Tunnel and the Berkley Bridge. It was the second fixed crossing directly between Portsmouth and Norfolk across the Elizabeth River. It was financed and built by the Elizabeth River Tunnel Commission with toll revenue bonds. In 1988 and 1989, during an expansion of I-264, the Downtown Tunnel and the Berkley Bridge were rebuilt and expanded. Tolls were also removed from the Midtown and Downtown tunnels at that time. Prior to 2007, the westbound lane of US Route 58, right before the tunnel's entry, had an HOV lane that spaned a total of 25 yards. Until its removal during construction in 2007, this lane allowed HOV traffic to merge in right at the tunnel entrance. There is some speculation that this might have been the shortest HOV lane in the United States, and possibly the world.

2003: Hurricane Isabel[edit]

In September, 2003, the Midtown Tunnel was flooded and seriously damaged by Hurricane Isabel. The facility is equipped with floodgates designed for closure to protect it from flooding during extreme weather conditions such as East Coast hurricanes. As flood waters were rising during the storm, workers were unable to remove plates that were both bolted and tack-welded to the roadbed. As a result, the flood gates could not be completely closed and the tunnel filled with an estimated 44 million gallons of water. The tunnel suffered substantial electrical and mechanical damage, but was not damaged structurally. It was closed for nearly four weeks as water and sediment was pumped out, systems inspected, and essential repairs were completed.[1]

It was later determined that managers of the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) had failed to adequately test the floodgates. VDOT revamped its operating procedures at all of its tunnels in the wake of the incident. Studies of additional harbor crossings have also gained additional attention since then.

Expansion Plans[edit]

An announcement was made in the Summer of 2010 from the Virginia Department of Transportation [2] that a new two-lane tunnel will be constructed parallel to the existing Midtown Tunnel.[3] This project, which is expected to begin in mid-2011, will be jointly managed with the safety revisions of the Downtown Tunnel in Norfolk and the expansion of the Martin Luther King Jr. Expressway in Portsmouth. Tolls will be used to help pay for the project however; currently, in 2013, no tolls have been implemented due to a Portsmouth, Virginia judge ruling that the tolls would be a tax and that the Virginia Department of Transportation does not have the legal authority to impose a tax. Due to the legal proceedings, the soonest that tolls could be implemented at the tunnel would be February 1, 2014.[4] Construction is expected to be complete in 2016.

Map of the construction plans[5] including the Midtown Tunnel expansion and the MLK Jr. Expressway

Toll Structure[edit]

Tolls will be collected at the Midtown Tunnel effective February 1, 2014. There will be no toll booths and no cash option for paying in person, with all tolls being collected electronically. The toll structure will have several tiers, based on peak/non-peak hours, use/non-use of EZ-Pass, and class of vehicle. Drivers who do not have an EZ-Pass account can be billed using a Pay By Plate process for an additional $0.75. Drivers have the option to register their plates with a prepaid account; otherwise, they will be billed based on the license plate of the vehicle and the registered owner, which includes a $0.75 processing fee in addition to the toll and Pay By Plate fee.

Peak hours are between 5:30 AM – 9:00 AM, and 2:30 PM – 7:00 PM. All other hours are non-peak.

Passenger Vehicles[edit]

Peak with EZ-Pass: $1.00

Non-Peak with EZ-Pass: $0.75

Peak with Pay By Plate: $1.75

Non-Peak with Pay By Plate: $1.50

Heavy Vehicles[edit]

Peak with EZ-Pass: $4.00

Non-Peak with EZ-Pass: $2.25

Peak with Pay By Plate: $4.75

Non-Peak with Pay By Plate: $3.00

References[edit]

  1. ^ Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) (February 2007). "Elizabeth River Tunnels - Fact Sheet". Retrieved 27 December 2012. 
  2. ^ http://www.virginiadot.org
  3. ^ http://www.midtowntunnel.org
  4. ^ Fox, Andy (25 October 2011). "Tunnels' tolls will fund tube project | WAVY.com | Chesapeake". WAVY. Archived from the original on 5 November 2011. Retrieved 2011-11-07. 
  5. ^ "Downtown Tunnel / Midtown Tunnel / MLK Extension - Maps". virginiadot.org. December 8, 2011. Archived from the original on December 8, 2011. Retrieved April 13, 2014. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 36°51′31″N 76°18′48″W / 36.85861°N 76.31333°W / 36.85861; -76.31333