After Years Of Planning, Kvetching, I-66 Tolls Are Open Inside Beltway

Steve Burns

Update 10:00 a.m. — Toll rates were soaring on the I-66 Monday morning. An image of the estimated rate of one-way travel from the Beltway to Washington before 8 a.m. showed a price of $28.50, and at about 8:40 a.m., the toll was $34.50. It was not immediately clear what caused the rates to spike during the Monday morning commute.

WASHINGTON – (WMAL) After years of negotiations and planning, today’s the day for drivers on I-66 inside the Beltway. Tolling is set to begin for single drivers looking to use the highway in the peak direction during rush hour. Cars with two or more inside can still ride free, but they need an EZ-Pass Flex to do it.

The new tolling rules open the road up to single-occupant cars during rush hours. Previously, the highway was only open to cars with two or more inside during rush hours, though it was widely believed a significant number of drivers, a third to half as estimated by AAA Mid-Atlantic, were ignoring the rule. The new toll gantries along the route mean drivers flouting the rules will have a license plate picture taken and a violation notice sent home. Repeat offenders can face fines from $50 to $500.

Tolls for single drivers will be dynamically priced, based on the current number of cars on the highway, with a goal of maintaining an average speed of 45 mph, officials say.

“There is no set rate,” Deputy Transportation Secretary Nick Donohue told reporters recently. “It will vary, just like it does on 95 and 495. We anticipate that you’ll see similar types of tolls.”

The new rules only apply in the peak direction during the hours that the Virginia Department of Transportation has defined as “rush hour,” expanded from the previous rules: 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. headed toward Rosslyn, and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. going to the Beltway. The road remains free and open to all cars at all other times. There is no tolling on holidays, either.

Officials say they will be monitoring the impact on side roads as well, including Arlington Boulevard, Lee Highway, and Leesburg Pike, ready to make signal adjustments as needed.

As part of the compromise to allow tolling, lawmakers agreed to add a lane to I-66 eastbound between the Dulles Connector Road and Fairfax Drive. State officials expect construction to begin this spring and finish by 2020.

Under the agreement, toll revenue will be funding other transportation options, including express buses and bikeshare stations. The state rolled out the first new express bus routes in September, with participation from Arlington, Fairfax, and Loudoun counties. Planners expect many commuters to try out different options as a result of the new tolls.

“For 30 years, they tried to get a deal done on 66 inside the Beltway. Arlington was always against it,” Governor Terry McAuliffe told reporters last week. “I’m very proud we finally got a deal done.”

Ground was broken on a separate project last month to add Express Lanes to I-66 outside the Beltway to Gainesville, similar to the current configuration on the Beltway with free lanes adjacent to toll lanes. Officials expect those new lanes to open in 2022.

Copyright 2017 by All Rights Reserved. (PHOTO: VDOT via Twitter)

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