WASHINGTON — Virginia’s transportation secretary is defending the delay of rush-hour tolling on Interstate 66 inside the Beltway for further tests, after WTOP reported on the $2 million cost of pushing back the start of tolls into December.
Aubrey Layne told the Commonwealth Transportation Board that the additional testing is important for the first Virginia Department of Transportation-operated variable price toll systems on I-66 inside the Beltway and on a stretch of highway in the Hampton Roads area.
“It’s the first time VDOT has done variable pricing, and, particularly in Hampton Roads and a little bit in Northern Virginia, there was such a bad implementation of tolling [in the past] that we’ve got to make sure we get this right.,” Layne said. “So that’s why I ordered two to three more months of additional testing, and it’s going to cost a little bit of money, and so, you know what? That’s the best money we’ll ever spend, getting that open so the public understands that they’re going to be charged correctly for the use of these roads.”
When the I-66 tolls for solo-drivers during an expanded rush hour were approved in 2015, the changes were scheduled to begin in summer 2017. Now, VDOT plans to launch the all-electronic tolls in December. The delay for additional testing added $2 million to the project cost. The Commonwealth Transportation Board is due to approve the additional spending Wednesday.
The tolls will still launch before term-limited Gov. Terry McAuliffe leaves office in January. He has touted the project, but it has also led to some heated political debates.
The HOV or toll rules will apply eastbound between 5:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. and westbound between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Separate toll lanes between the Beltway and Gainesville are due to open in 2022. In those lanes, HOV or toll rules will always apply.
Those lanes, like the 95 Express Lanes, will be operated by private companies.
In order to ride free when the rules apply, drivers must meet HOV requirements and have an E-ZPass Flex switched to HOV mode.