Is it worth it to you? What drivers are paying on new I-66 Express Lanes

Morning and evening commuters want to get where they’re going quickly, but for many, cost is part of the equation.

At about 6:30 a.m., Tuesday, drivers contemplating the use of the 9-mile stretch of newly-opened express lanes on Interstate 66 from Gainesville to Centreville, Virginia, saw the cost was $6.50.

That figure matches up with numbers from Monday’s first day of weekday commutes released by I-66 Express Mobility Partners, the consortium of partners that maintains and operates the toll lanes.

Tolling began Saturday on the stretch of I-66 outside the Capital Beltway, after two weeks of free trips. During the first Monday morning commute, the average cost was $6.10, for the entire western section, from the entrance over Route 29 in Gainesville to Route 28 in Centreville.

Drivers on I-66 can see signs with the current toll price, about two miles before deciding whether to pay to drive on the new toll lanes, or continue along I-66.

Tolls on the new I-66 Express Lanes outside the Beltway, similar to those on I-95, I-395 and I-495, vary, depending on traffic volume. The tolling system changes the price, in an attempt to ensure vehicles can maintain an average speed of 55 mph.

During the initial days of tolling, the price will fluctuate less, as the system becomes familiar with live traffic. Each posted toll price is expected to last for at least 30 minutes before changing, according to Nancy Smith, a spokeswoman for the toll lane operator.

At 4:30 a.m. Monday, the cost going toward the Beltway and Washington was $3.50, and at the peak of the morning rush, around 6 a.m., the toll reached $6.50.

For morning drivers doing a “reverse commute,” from Centreville west to Prince William County, the average was $3.

During the midday period, the average tolls for the entire 9-mile stretch in both directions was approximately $2.75, according to the operator.

“We are monitoring the 66 Express Lane’s usage and highway congestion closely. We will continually enhance our pricing algorithm to reflect congestion and travel patterns and to ensure that 66 Express Lane users are getting a faster and more reliable travel experience,” Smith said.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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