McAuliffe: Tolls not reached tipping point yet in Northern Va.

McAuliffe defends tolls in Northern Virginia, projects add capacity — Max Smith, WTOP

WASHINGTON — Northern Virginia roads are not yet maxed out on tolling, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said Wednesday.

“Are we at that point up here today? No. And if we were, I would have taken action,” he said.

McAuliffe’s administration has reached agreements with toll road operators in the Hampton Roads area to provide toll discounts or other relief to drivers.

But many Northern Virginia drivers, especially regular commuters along the privately owned Dulles Greenway, want their own relief.

“Is there any way that this is ever going to stop?” a caller named John from Leesburg asked McAuliffe on WTOP’s “ Ask the Governor” program. “Are we being held hostage by the owners of the toll road?”

McAuliffe said the state cannot stop toll increases on the private road. And a state law passed in 2008 specifically allowed the Greenway to raise tolls annually through 2020.

State law only allows new tolls to be imposed if a road’s capacity increases.

As Virginia adds more tolled express lanes, McAuliffe emphasized that they provide a choice for drivers.

However, the 95 Express Lanes regularly advertise tolls above $20, drawing complaints from many drivers. Drivers have also complained about the cost of tolls to use the 495 Express Lanes.

“You make the decision whether you want to pay the toll or not,” McAuliffe said. “This is done. This was a contract that was signed with a private company, as you know. But you clearly can stay in the free lanes, and you have to make that choice if it works for your business or doesn’t work for your business.”

Drivers with three or more people in their car can use the express lanes for free if they have an EZ-Pass Flex switched to HOV mode. Solo drivers must pay a toll, which varies based on the volume of traffic in the express lanes.

Virginia plans to bring tolled express lanes to Interstate 66 both east and west of the Capital Beltway. Rush hour tolling inside the Beltway is set to begin later this year.

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