Posted by Terry Alexander - email
RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The slumping economy is taking a toll on Richmond's toll roads. Travel on the Downtown Expressway, Powhite Parkway and Nickel Bridge is down nine percent.
City leaders were expecting a drop in travel after the toll increase last fall, but not to this extent. Richmond resident Tyrell Wallace and his fiance just had a baby. In these tough times they are looking for ways to cut back. And travel is the first to go, including intentionally avoiding the toll roads.
"I have to provide for my family. I have to go to work. I have to go to school. You know it's too much," said Wallace.
And they are not just driving the long way either. They are cutting back on trips and gas.
"We actually got a smaller car too you know because it was so expensive. Gas mileage and everything," said resident Kenisha Simms.
Apparently this family is not alone. More drivers are steering clear of Richmond's toll roads to save money.
"Three dollars a day is at least between $15 and $21 a week that's almost a hundred bucks a month. You know that's car insurance payment," said resident Joshua McKinney.
The Richmond Metropolitan Authority maintains the expressways. Leaders say the downturn is directly tied to the economy.
"I think with the number of jobs lost. Unemployment is having a definite impact on the volume of our traffic," said Mike Barry of the Richmond Metropolitan Authority.
Even with the drop in travelers the roads are generating more money than projected. That's because of the fall toll hike. And not everyone can afford to pinch pennies.
"I have to use it. I work at Stony Point Fashion Park and if I don't go that way, the other way is just very, very, very long. It's just one of those things where I just have to pay. I just pay," said Richmond resident Dallas Roquemore.
Some RMA board members are tossing around ideas to help people in this economy like lowering the rate of the tolls roads on weekends. But RMA leaders say that may be too costly to implement.