WASHINGTON – There could be some idea by the end of May where new toll facilities will be placed on Interstate 95 in Virginia, as well as an estimate on how much they might cost.
I-95 is one of the most congested highways in the country, and 45 percent of Virginia’s population lives near it. The Virginia Department of Transportation is moving ahead with plans to put at least two toll booths on the highway south of already-planned High Occupancy Toll (HOT) Lanes.
VDOT’s Michael Estes says the most likely plan calls for placing a toll facility south of Fredericksburg and another south of Richmond. Estes says the current top option would be to construct towers across the roadway at the toll facilities to handle E-ZPass so vehicles using the pass would not have to stop. Cash-taking toll booths also would be built.
Estes says officials also are studying whether drivers will take some other route when the tolls go up.
“We’re looking at diversion as a big part of our analysis — how much traffic would be diverted onto local streets because of tolls,” he says.
Seventy-two percent of I-95 in Virginia needs to be repaved. The toll money is supposed to go only to maintenance of the existing highway, which has been neglected because of a lack of money over the last decade.
Still, Estes says officials are looking to see if some of that money can also be used to add capacity to the highway, as in new traffic lanes.
“We’re working through trying to define exactly what ‘capacity’ may or may not mean,” he says.
The federal government has to sign on to the construction of toll facilities on an interstate highway. VDOT expects to have an agreement with the federal government on the tolls by next winter.