Bill to block tolls on I-66 lacks Senate support

WASHINGTON — A bill that aims to block the collection of tolls on Interstate 66 inside the Capital Beltway, unless the road is widened, has been dealt a blow in Richmond.

A state Senate subcommittee on tolling on Monday voted not to support Senate Bill 234, introduced by Sen. Chapman “Chap” Petersen, D-Fairfax.

The senator’s bill is one of several seeking to delay or block Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s plan to add tolls to I-66 inside the Beltway during the morning and afternoon rush hours for solo drivers.  On the House side, Del. Jim LeMunyon, R-Oak Hill, has proposed a similar bill.

“We have a unique opportunity right now to open up I-66 and make it more friendly for drivers and commuters,” Petersen said.

The state does have plans to add two new toll lanes to the interstate outside the Beltway by 2021.

Petersen said that adding only new toll lanes outside the Beltway and no new improvements inside will lead to a “nightmare scenario.”

“You’ll have tolls inside the Beltway which will add a lot of extra cars paying high dollar amounts, which will of course squeeze out the existing traffic, without any capacity improvements,” he said.

Supporters of the governor’s plans hope the addition of toll lanes on I-66 will get cars moving faster, in addition to encouraging commuters to carpool or take public transit.

Petersen says he’ll be disappointed if the bill fails to move forward after a full committee vote on Wednesday.

“I’m going to keep pushing the bill forward in the full committee, I’ve also got a few tricks up my sleeve,” Petersen said.

Petersen says other options include attaching amendments to different pieces of legislation, including an upcoming budget bill.

Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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