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GOP lawmakers outline bill to ease tolls for Northern Va. commuters

Eastbound tolls on Interstate 66 fluctuated, but increased gradually during the morning rush-hour on Monday, Dec. 4, 2017. (WTOP/Dave Dildine)

WASHINGTON — Virginia Republican lawmakers say they plan to introduce legislation next week to bring toll relief to Northern Virginia commuters, including cutting new tolling hours on Interstate 66.

“We’re very concerned about the really astronomical levels of tolls that are being imposed on people in Northern Virginia,” said Virginia Sen. Dick Black, who represents the 13th District, covering parts of Loudoun and Prince William counties.

On Friday, Republican lawmakers outlined their plan at the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority in Fairfax. The legislation is set to be introduced during the new General Assembly session, which begins Jan. 10.

Black’s bill would ask the Virginia Department of Transportation to roll back the tolling hours on I-66 to the previous high occupancy vehicle lane hours, which were shorter.

The new toll system is in place weekdays from 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Previous HOV hours were 2 and 1/2 hours in both the mornings and evenings.

Republican Del. Dave LaRock, who represents the 33rd House District, said he will introduce a companion bill in the House of Delegates that would also call for adjusting the formula that sets tolling amounts.

Tolls are currently being set under a formula that keeps traffic flowing at an average of 55 mph.

“When that’s reduced to say 45, which is closer to the federally mandated performance level, you will move more people through and the tolls should lower as a reaction to that,” said LaRock, whose district covers parts of Loudoun County.

LaRock’s legislation would also instruct VDOT to refund tolls inside the Beltway that exceed $200 a month.

In addition, the lawmakers are asking VDOT to negotiate with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority about turning the Dulles Access Road into HOT lanes and using the revenue from that to buy down tolls on the Dulles Toll Road. Backers of the bill say it would allow the toll road to become toll free by 2030, which would fulfill a long overdue promise.

When Dulles Toll Road was opened in 1984,there was a promise made to all of the people in the region that once it was paid off that the road would be free, Black said.

But in 2006, then-Gov. Tim Kaine signed an agreement turning the road over to MWAA, Black said. Since then, the tolls have been increasing on the toll road to fund Dulles Rail or the Silver line, the lawmakers contend.

Other Republican legislators who attended Friday’s event included Del. Rich Anderson, Del. Randy Minchew and Loudoun County Supervisor Ron Myer.

On Dec. 21, a group of nine Republican state lawmakers sent a letter to outgoing Democrat Gov. Terry McAuliffe asking him to support the initiatives as he leaves office.



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