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9 Dollar Tolls On 66 Coming Soon
Starting in 2017 Drivers inside of the Capital Beltway will be paying tolls for driving on Interstate 66, and the Virginia Department of Transportation has released the plans and timelines for this happening.
VDOT has said that beginning in 2017 they will charge a toll to solo drivers projected to be $7 during morning rush hour and $9 during the evening rush hour. Reverse commuters would pay between $1 and $2. Vehicles with at least 2 people inside would not be charged a toll for now.
By 2020, The plan is for VDOT to change I-66 from HOV-2 format to HOV-3, which means that vehicles with two passengers would also be subjected to a toll for using that 10 mile stretch of the road. Again at that point, any vehicles driving with 3 or more passengers would not be charged a toll. The State Transportation department projects tolls could be as high as $8 in the Morning and $3 in the evening, with the reverse commuters paying $1.
“We believe that the package of solutions proposed by VDOT is the most cost-effective and efficient approach to addressing I-66 congestion as soon as possible, and for maximizing the number of people who can commute through the corridor during rush hour, while also guaranteeing a much more reliable trip for everyone,” says Stewart Schwartz, CSG executive director, in a news release.
Schwartz adds: “We’ve checked comparable pricing for Metro in the corridor and the peak tolls on the privately controlled [Interstates] 495 and 95 HOT lanes. We found that the potential highest tolls on I-66 inside the Beltway are competitive and reasonable. They’re also a much better deal that the public is receiving with the 495 and 95 HOT lanes, because public ownership allows us to invest the revenues in express buses and other transit services that will further improve conditions for those who drive.”
Not everyone agrees of course, some have concerns about the cost and how it will effect the people in the Fairfax and Arlington areas.
“The toll rate looks high,” says Sharon Bulova, chairwoman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. “Tolls are not popular, but [they] unfortunately [are] a way of paying for transportation. It’s important that we have a conversation and continue to have a conversation with the community so that there is an understanding as to what options we have and what options we don’t have.”
Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne says that many people won’t be driving the entire 10-mile stretch, so they would not end up paying the entire toll. But Deputy Transportation Secretary Nick Donohue reminded Fairfax County lawmakers on Friday that these tolls would be dynamic, like the express lanes, and could be more or less than these estimates, based on real-time traffic conditions.
“Those are the costs for running the whole 10 miles of the corridor, which in some ways doesn’t seem too bad to me, considering how bad traffic can be at certain times of the day,” says Arlington County Board Chairwoman Mary Hynes.
There are many opponents to the projects on I-66, both inside and outside the Beltway. Groups such as the 66 Alliance are upset that VDOT will eliminate the clean hybrid vehicle plate exception in 2017, which is now standard procedure when HOV lanes are turned into toll lanes. The group is also against converting HOV-2 to HOV-3.
Groups like Transform 66 Wisely oppose the widening of I-66 because of the impact it could have on homeowners. The group wants the state to invest more in Metro, VRE and commuter buses.
Virginia’s transportation agency has delayed widening I-66 inside the Beltway because of pressure mounted by those in Arlington and Falls Church to exhaust all other alternatives to relieve congestion.
Other lawmakers are frustrated with VDOT and say that the department isn’t widening I-66 soon enough, calling the wait unacceptable. Donohue told lawmakers Friday that VDOT would re-evaluate traffic conditions in the 2020s in order to determine whether widening inside the Beltway is warranted.
“We’re adding tolls without adding capacity, we’re adding tolls without a free option, and we’re setting this thing up to never have I-66 inside the Beltway be widened,” says Fairfax County Supervisor Pat Herrity. “I think those are all very serious problems.”
He adds: “Under the current plan, VDOT can control the level of congestion through tolling to the point that they’ll show there is no reason to widen the interstate. Then all the traffic congestion gets put onto our local roads. I don’t think that is right.”
Fairfax County lawmakers sent a letter to Layne with some suggestions on how to improve the project. Lawmakers are expected to discuss the issue Sept. 22.
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