FAIRFAX, Va. — Rush-hour only tolls on Interstate 66 inside the Beltway will begin Dec. 4, weather permitting, Virginia transportation officials confirmed Thursday.
Although WTOP had reported that target date before, Thursday’s announcement to a group of Northern Virginia legislative and county staffers makes the start of new tolling and HOV hours more concrete.
Beginning Dec. 4, the HOV hours will expand from 2.5 hours to 4 hours each way every weekday from 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. toward D.C. and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. toward the Beltway.
Drivers with at least one other person in the car and an E-ZPass Flex switched to HOV mode will ride free, all other drivers in the peak direction will pay a toll that rises and falls based on the amount of traffic on the road. Drivers without an E-ZPass will be violating the law.
“This is the nation’s first all-lane peak-period tolling facility, so we’re going to be monitoring this facility, we’re going to be taking a look for unintended consequences, and we’re going to really have a crack team of folks working on this to adjust any of the tolling algorithms or other things as needed, to make sure this really works as intended and helps us move more people through this corridor,” Virginia Deputy Secretary of Transportation Nick Donohue said.
Previous VDOT traffic studies have found a number of drivers are likely to use other parallel roads rather than pay a toll. VDOT Commissioner Charles Kilpatrick said his team and separate crews in Arlington County plan to monitor roads near I-66 and adjust traffic light timing as needed.
If there is severe weather like a snowstorm, the Dec. 4 launch could be slightly pushed back, Kilpatrick said
On the road during the tolling hours, motorcycles will be permitted to ride free without an E-ZPass, but all cars must have an E-ZPass or E-ZPass Flex to avoid a violation. More than 40 percent of drivers using the road are not prepared for that.
“You pay the toll by using your transponder. No toll booths, no cash,” Deputy Transportation Secretary Grindly Johnson said.
There will no longer be exemptions for travelers to and from Dulles Airport or for hybrid drivers.
“Hybrid drivers should have received notification in the last week or so that they will no longer be able to travel for free,” Johnson said.
Toll money supports tolling operations and maintenance and some new commuter bus options among other projects.
Virginia is due to break ground within a few weeks on separate 24/7 HOV or toll lanes outside the Beltway on I-66. Final public hearings on the designs for the two lanes in each direction between the Beltway and Gainesville are scheduled Nov. 13, 14 and 16.