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Analyzing and Mitigating the Impact of Tolls at the Midtown and Downtown Tunnels Study Released

Analyzing and Mitigating the Impact of Tolls at the Midtown and Downtown Tunnels Study Released

HRTPO staff recently released the draft version of the Analyzing and Mitigating the Impact of Tolls at the Midtown and Downtown Tunnels report. 

On December 5, 2011, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) signed a comprehensive agreement with Elizabeth River Crossings (ERC) for construction of an additional two-lane tube at the Midtown Tunnel, rehabilitation of the Downtown Tunnel, and extension of the MLK Freeway.  As part of the agreement, ERC is permitted to collect tolls on these three facilities, and tolling began at the Midtown and Downtown Tunnels on February 1, 2014.

In response, HRTPO staff began a multi-year study in Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 comparing the “before” and “after” traffic conditions to discover the impact of tolling.  This report provides background information on the project and the comprehensive agreement, examines the projected traffic impacts using the travel demand model, analyzes traffic and transit conditions “before” and “after” toll implementation, and makes recommendations to mitigate these impacts.

Below is a summary of the major findings:

Traffic volumes - As expected, traffic volumes decreased at the Midtown and Downtown Tunnels after tolls were implemented.  Weekday volumes decreased by 8% at the Midtown Tunnel and 20% at the Downtown Tunnel.  Decreases in volumes during the peak travel periods, however, were much lower than those during the midday and weekend periods.

Parallel crossings of the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River – the South Norfolk Jordan Bridge, Gilmerton Bridge, and High Rise Bridge – saw increases in volumes once tolls were imposed at the Midtown and Downtown Tunnels.  Weekday volumes increased by 49% at the South Norfolk Jordan Bridge, 53% at the Gilmerton Bridge, and 7% at the High Rise Bridge.  The increases in volume at these three facilities were also much lower during the AM and PM peak travel periods than they were during the midday and weekend periods. 

Traffic Queues and Queue Clearance Times – Based on travel time runs collected by HRTPO staff (more information of which is available in this article), peak period traffic queues improved – but did not go away – for nearly all of the Midtown Tunnel and Downtown Tunnel approaches after tolls were implemented there.  Peak period traffic queues for alternate routes, such as the I-64 High Rise Bridge, Military Highway/Gilmerton Bridge, George Washington Highway, and South Norfolk Jordan Bridge, worsened after the tolls were implemented.

Total Delay – Overall, total peak period delay decreased at the tolled tunnels by 53% and increased at the non-tolled bridges by 16%.  Combined, total peak period delay at these four crossings decreased by nearly 1,600 vehicle-hours each weekday after tolls were imposed at the Midtown and Downtown Tunnels.

Transit Ridership – An analysis of average weekday transit ridership shows that most bus transit routes crossing the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River experienced a small increase in ridership during the first month “after” tolls were implemented, but returned to prior levels afterwards.  However, ridership for bus routes 45 and 47 increased significantly in July 2014, which coincided with HRT increasing service frequencies and hours of operation using funding provided under the ERC comprehensive agreement.

 

The draft report is available for public review and comment through April 22nd, 2015.  You may access the draft report by clicking on the following link:

Draft Analyzing and Mitigating the Impact of Tolls at the Midtown and Downtown Tunnels Study

All interested parties are encouraged to review the draft report and send comments to Keith Nichols at knichols@hrtpo.org.

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