The highway is a key route for commuters in northern Virginia to the nation’s capital. Currently, that stretch of road is restricted during rush hour to carpools of two or more.
Under the plan approved unanimously Wednesday, solo drivers could use the highway if they pay a variable toll estimated to average about $6 each way. Carpools can still drive for free.
Revenue from the tolls will pay for road and transit improvements in the area and could eventually pay to widen the narrow interstate eastbound between the Dulles Connector Road and Ballston.
Construction of the electronic gantries is expected to begin this summer.
A separate plan would add two new express lanes in each direction on I-66 between the Beltway and Gainesville.
Virginia transportation officials announced Tuesday that the western project would likely move forward as a private-public partnership much like the 95 Express Lanes. That means a private company would design, build and operate the new lanes, which are expected to also toll motorists that aren’t carpooling.
Opponents have begun to come forward, decrying the vote.
Virginia Del. Jim LeMunyon, a Republican who represents portions of Fairfax and Loudoun counties, said in an emailed statement that the decision “does little to solve a big congestion problem.”
He referred to the measure as an “unneeded toll” and said that steering toll money to the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission — and not the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority — created a “redundant, overlapping and unnecessary bureaucracy.”
Greg Scott, founder of the 66 Alliance, said the vote “simply defies logic.” The 66 Alliance was formed in opposition to some of VDOT’s plans to convert I-66 into toll lanes, according to the group’s website.
On Wednesday, Scott accused the transportation board of ignoring the wishes of commuters and elected officials.
“We can only hope that the Virginia General Assembly, when it convenes next month, can apply the brakes to VDOT’s plans impose essentially a commuter tax on the privilege to travel through Arlington County on [Interstate 66] — and in the process extract millions of dollars in tolls from Northern Virginia commuters and voters who use [Interstate 66] on a daily basis,” Scott said in a statement.