For a Better Commute. For a Better Prince William County.

Traffic
An investigation into new tolls on I-66? There’s now a call for one.

A Prince William County leader is calling for an investigation into new tolls that took affect on Interstate 66 on Monday.

Gainesville District Supervisor Peter Candland, like many drivers, was apparently shocked when tolls to use the nine-mile stretch of highway between Dunn Loring and Washington, D.C. shot above $34 on Monday.

Many Prince William County commuters use I-66 to get to work at job centers in Washington and Arlington.

Candland’s office penned this press release:

When the enacted tolling proposal was presented to the Legislature and the public the proposal stated the highest price a commuter would expect to pay for a round-trip commute would be $17. This has already proven to be false as the peak fare in the first day of tolling topped $69 round trip. The following day tolls topped $40 for a one-way trip — for a total of as much as $80 for a round-trip commute.

We believe that the information circulated by the McAuliffe Administration, VDOT, and regional transportation officials has proven to be grossly and wildly incorrect, and calls into question the integrity of the current approval for this project.

Supervisor Candland urges an investigation into the now-discredited public relations campaign that secured the approval of this tolling plan, and a serious review be conducted on placing caps on the daily round-trip tolling to protect commuters when the tolling is restarted.

In 2015, the now outgoing Delegate Bob Marshall was ringing warning bells about the plan to toll I-66 inside the beltway, warning that the toll rates could be as high as $17 a day. 

The newly converted toll lanes are the actual, only lanes of I-66 inside Beltway. The tolls are in effect weekdays from 5:30 to 9:30 a.m. and 3 to 7 p.m.

Drivers must have an E-ZPass or E-ZPass Flex to use I-66 during these times. Vehicles with two or more occupants, with an E-ZPass Flex may ride free.

It’s a departure from the old system where anyone on the lanes during the morning or afternoon rush hour must have two occupants in their car and no E-ZPass. 

While it is too early to tell how the new tolled lanes on I-66 inside the Beltway will affect businesses, similar E-ZPass Express Lanes on I-95 and 495 have helped some companies that operate fleets of vehicles.

“We’ve seen decreased travel times on Interstate 95 because of the lanes,” said Brendon Shaw, with the Prince William Chamber of Commerce. “Some businesses require their truck drivers travel in the express lanes and pay the toll rather than sit in traffic.” 

For some, paying the toll is cheaper than paying overtime to workers who are stuck in traffic, and risk a late delivery if travel conditions on the highway are slow.

We’ve asked the Virginia Department of Transportation, the operators of I-66 inside the Beltway, to respond. We’ll post any comment here once received. 

Tolls inside on I-66 inside the Beltway are just the beginning. Last month, Gov. Terry McAuliffe broke ground on the $3.5 billion “I-66 Outside the Beltway” project that will bring two new toll lanes in each direction on I-66 between Gainesville and Dunn Loring. 

The project includes new money for commuter parking with the idea of introducing “slugging” or carpooling to the corridor. It will also bring the reconstruction of the I-66 / Route 123 interchange, and a new diverging diamond interchange at Nutley Street. 

The “outside” project is being paid for and maintained by I-66 Mobility Partners, a consortium of Meridiam, a French firm, and Cintra, of Spain.

Update

From Virginia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Michelle Holland:

“As you’ll see in the release, there have been a range of toll prices throughout each rush hour period. Throughout the project’s development and initial period of operations, we have worked to inform the public and stakeholders about the new rules of the road on I-66 Inside the Beltway during rush hour. This includes a new choice that single-occupant drivers can make to travel the lanes by paying a toll. Solo drivers could not use the lanes previously during rush hours, so this is a new choice that is being provided. 

The congestion-based tolling is dynamic and is designed to move more people by making carpools and bus service more reliable, and giving drivers a choice to pay for the reliable trip. Prices will change based on real-time traffic volumes in order to manage demand for the lanes and keep traffic moving.

Throughout all stages of the project, we have consistently worked to inform the public and stakeholders that toll prices will fluctuate and will increase as congestion increases. This is necessary to keep too many people from using the lanes, so that the toll-paying drivers, carpools and buses who are on the lanes, have a reliable and faster trip. Again, paying the tolls is a choice that some drivers are making in order to be assured they will have a better and more reliable trip. As you will see below, drivers and carpools alike have already experienced improved trips in the two days the express lanes have been in effect.”

From Delegate Tim Hugo (R-Fairfax, Prince William): 

“After several months of discussions, an agreement was reached with Governor Terry McAuliffe that allowed tolling to proceed in exchange for widening I-66 inside the beltway. It wasn’t a perfect deal, and many of us across the region were skeptical, but we moved forward in hopes that this would offer a better commute for our constituents and Northern Virginia drivers.

Throughout those discussions, Governor McAuliffe and Transportation Secretary Layne made repeated assurances and commitments, in both public and private, that the toll rates would be reasonable. Numerous public documents advertised $6 to $7 tolls on average. We worked in good faith with this administration and trusted their assurances, but what we’ve seen over the last couple of days is unacceptable.

Working with my colleagues in the House, we will begin looking for a realistic public policy solution that helps lower the cost of commuting for single-occupancy vehicles on I-66.”

 

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  • Midimagic

    Express lane tolls are just more environmentalist democrap.

    No facility that is already built should ever have a toll. And once the bonds are paid off, all toll facilities should become free.

    • Allen Muchnick

      Sounds like socialism for motorists.



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