Exclusive: Gov. McAuliffe could let I-66 anti-toll bill become law

WASHINGTON — Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe would go along with a bill to ban tolls on Interstate 66 inside the Beltway if the General Assembly passes it with the support of the Northern Virginia delegation.

“I want to be very clear,” McAuliffe said in an interview with WTOP, “if both chambers and the Northern Virginia members of the General Assembly say ‘We don’t want it,’ I just want everybody to be clear, that’s their decision. And the ramifications are: You don’t do inside [the Beltway], you don’t do outside … we could be another 15 years until we deal with Northern Virginia’s problems.”

The McAuliffe administration advanced the plan that would allow solo drivers to use I-66 inside the Beltway at rush hour by paying a variable toll.

Currently, only vehicles with two or more passengers can use that stretch of I-66 during rush hour. The plan would also expand the rush-hour period from 2.5 hours to 4 hours in both morning and afternoon.

Virginia Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne and VDOT Commissioner Charlie Kilpatrick have said the private firms bidding to build two 24/7 HOV or toll lanes in each direction between the Beltway and Gainesville believe they would make more money, and therefore require less of a contribution from the state, if the inside-the-Beltway transformation proceeds as planned.

That is because solo drivers paying to use the lanes outside would be able to continue all the way to Arlington or D.C., instead of being forced off 66 at the Beltway during rush hour, as HOV rules require today.

“I think a lot of legislators are saying, ‘Oh, let’s vote against this and the governor will veto it, and we’ll all be happy.’ I don’t play those games,” McAuliffe says.

Even though he says he may not veto the anti-toll bill, he still opposes it. He warns that if money set to go toward the I-66 projects in Northern Virginia is not used, it would likely instead go to projects in the Hampton Roads area aimed at improving Interstate 64.

VDOT had planned public hearings this week on the design of the inside-the-Beltway toll system, but those have now all been postponed due to the blizzard.

New draft traffic projections released earlier this month showed a mixed impact on roads and intersections along the 66 corridor, while still projecting that more people would move through the corridor under the plan than are able to travel through the corridor today.

Editor’s Note: Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe will be in the Glass Enclosed Nerve Center 10 a.m. Wednesday for “Ask the Governor.” He’ll take your calls and questions about the blizzard recovery, transportation issues and more. Post a question or comment in the WTOP live blog or on the WTOP Facebook page.

Call toll free 877-336-1035 or use #AskThe on Twitter the day of the show. Don’t forget to listen live to “Ask the Governor” on 103.5 FM or online.

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