Morning commuters on Interstate 66 in Virginia on Tuesday saw tolls reach as much as $40 during the second day of operation for new express lanes from the Capitol Beltway into the District.
The high tolls, which hit the $40 mark shortly after 8 a.m. Tuesday, drew the ire of some drivers, but Virginia transportation officials said the system worked the way it is designed.
“I actually think it’s fair to everyone, because everyone has a choice,” said Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Lane, during a meeting Tuesday of the Virginia Commonwealth Transportation Board. “And that is why we did this, to change behavior, because we don’t have the resources to continue to lay asphalt and add congestion to roads. If we were to limit the tolls, that’s what would happen.”
Drivers sounded off on social media, noting that officials had indicated tolls would average between $7 and $9. They topped out at $34.50 on Monday and went even higher Tuesday morning.
“If someone is forced to pay $40 each way on I-66 every day, they could spend upwards of $20,000 a year just driving to work!!! This is awful,” wrote Twitter user @JaynesRita.
Some drivers also noted that there was an uptick in traffic on surrounding roads, including the George Washington Parkway, during peak times.
The stated goal of the express lanes is to keep traffic moving at a steady 55 miles per hour during the morning and evening rush hour. Between 5:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. eastbound and from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. westbound on weekdays, tolls are adjusted every six minutes based on traffic volume. Officials said that through the first two days, the system succeeded in keeping traffic moving and also allowed commuter buses to run on time. Layne noted that the tolls only impacted single drivers; those who carpool can use the express lanes for free.
“I’ll start off by saying that if you’re an HOV user, you see no change,” Layne said. “In fact, you’ll see this as a tremendous benefit, because your travel times have been reduced significantly.”
“No one had to pay a toll,” he added. “There are actions that could have been taken. You simply could have put another person in your car.”
Question for readers: Do you think the I-66 Express Lane tolls are unfair? What is the most you’d be willing to pay? Answer in comments.
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