Chesapeake City in SE Virginia has new plans for tolls as Dominion Blvd project advances

May 23, 2012

2012-05-23: The new Dominion Boulevard US17 tolls in Chesapeake VA will be $1.00 for cars with  an E-ZPass transponder and $3.00 for those without who therefore need to have their license plates read and be 'video tolled' by mail. 3 axle-trucks will pay $1.50 and $3.50 and 5-axle tractor trailers $2.50 and $4.50.

First video bills will bill the smaller E-ZPass toll if users sign up for a transponder account.

The toll facility will be operated as a City enterprise but under agreements with VDOT and the FHWA. Borrowings will have the tolls of both the Boulevard and the Chesapeake Expressway pledged to debt service as part of a growing City toll system.

And toll rates are being spelled out years into the future.

This is on the advice of consultants: BB&T's Sean Ekiert, Steer Davies Gleave's Dave Cuneo, PFM's David Miller and Kirk Claussen, Citi's Ron Maino, Kirsten Krug, and Evan Levine,  and Philip Shucet.

A presentation Tuesday to the City Council by toll staff stressed:

"(F)or the Dominion Boulevard Project to be successfully financed, the ability of the Chesapeake (Toll) System to meet its financial obligations in the future must be demonstrated to a number of constituents:
- rating agencies
- investors for the Senior Toll Revenue Bonds
- Virginia Department of Transportation
- Virginia Resources Authority (VTIB Manager)
- Federal Highway Administration"

The presentation said adoption of long-range toll rate schedules for the system will improve transparency and demonstrate the City's commitment to meeting the system's financial obligations.

Rating agencies and bond investors would view adoption of long-range toll rate schedule positively. Higher bond ratings mean investors will accept a lower interest rate on the bonds and thus enable toll rates to remain lower.

The City would "retain the authority to adjust toll rates in the future" - an apparent qualifier to the assurances of longterm toll rate commitments. Except the commitment is to limit such deviations as still comply with bond covenants and other financing agreements.

The Dominion Boulevard project is a radial - US17 - heading southwest and involves widening of the highway to 2x2 lanes and construction of a modern fixed 4 lane bridge to replace a clapped out 2 lane lift bridge over the Elizabeth River which here is designated the Intra Coastal Waterway and maintained for barge traffic.

Design is complete and right-of-way acquisition 2/3 done.  Construction will be advertised July with the aim to begin construction early 2013, and complete by early 2017.

Toll schedules are laid out t2017 to 2035 and involve an annual 5% increase in toll rates with the $2.00 video toll premium of $2.00 kept constant.

So E-ZPass transponder tolls go to from $1.00 in 2017 to $1.63 in 2027 and to $2.41 in 2035 with the extra-axle toll half those rates.

Chesapeake Expressway toll increases

The City is also laying out longterm toll schedules for the established Chesapeake Expressway tollroad that goes south - VA168 - to the North Carolina Outer Banks. 2x2 lanes it has a large peak premium times toll to encourage motorists to move their time of travel from busy times to less busy times. The peak toll is presently $6.00 and off-peak $3.00 for a car with a discount of 75c for locals enrolled in a City frequent user plan.

Peak tolls apply Saturdays and Sundays May 19 to September 9.

Cash is till collected on the Chesapeake Expressway and there is no difference in transponder/cash toll rates.

The differential will grow to $8 peak/$3 off-peak in 2016. See table nearby.

A survey of travelers on both routes showed over half users of the Chesapeake Expressway are from North Carolina but only 20% of Dominion Blvd motorists. The Expressway is leisure oriented and seasonal whereas the Boulevard is heavily commuters.

The Boulevard's revenue is projected to start at $9m in 2017, grow to $20m by 2027 and be around $34m in 2037 with an upward sweeping curve after that to over $90m in 2053.

The Expressway's revenue about $10m this year is supposed to grow to $20m by 2027 and about $30m in 2037, then taking a steepening upward curve to $60m by 2054.

Dominion Boulevard is forecast to "capture" between 40%  and 65% of travelers between US17 at the North Carolina border and I-464 near Norfolk. Traffic volumes expected to increase 1.5% annually.

Some diversion is expected to untolled parallel routes from the toll on the Boulevard - notably to Battlefield Blvd and Geo Washington Highway.

Project costs of the Boulevard are $412m.

Much of this comes from:

TOLLROADSnews 2012-05-23

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