When a sign failure led to free rides on Interstate 66 inside the Beltway the morning of July 18, solo drivers saved an average of $8.59 each.
While the state has declined to release overall tolling data and traffic impacts to WTOP for more than six months, the average paid on what would normally be a slow summer Thursday suggests toll prices paid could be ticking up somewhat compared to last year.
The total tolls waived July 18 added up to $51,619 for 6,008 trips by solo drivers or drivers without E-ZPasses between 5:30 a.m. and 8:15 a.m. that Thursday morning, according to data provided to WTOP by the Virginia Department of Transportation.
A problem with VDOT’s Open Traffic Management System that morning shut down digital signage until about 8 a.m., which meant there were no signs telling drivers what the current toll price was.
“Because it is unfair to charge drivers a toll if they cannot see the price to be charged before choosing to enter the toll road, drivers using the toll road during the outage were not charged a toll,” VDOT said in a statement.
Toll prices rise and fall based on the amount of traffic in the lanes.
The toll for a solo driver around 8 a.m. would have been $36 that day for a trip from the Beltway to Rosslyn or the District, according to the state’s historical toll records.
Drivers with at least one other person in the car and an E-ZPass Flex switched to HOV mode ride free on Interstate 66 inside the Beltway during the tolling hours of 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. eastbound and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. westbound.
Motorcycles also ride free, and buses with a proper E-ZPass travel for free. All other drivers must pay either with an E-ZPass or through a bill in the mail that includes additional charges.
Starting by the end of 2022 when toll lanes open on Interstate 66 between the Beltway and Gainesville, a free ride for carpoolers is due to start requiring at least three people in the car rather than a minimum of two.