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

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.

  • Q: When is the primary? When do polls open?
  • The 2020 Democratic presidential primary in Virginia is March 3, 2020. Polls are open from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m.

  • Q: What's on the ballot? Who can vote?
  • Only the candidates running for the Democratic nomination for president will be on the ballot. The list of candidates on the ballot includes some candidates who have already dropped out of the race.

    Virginia’s is an open primary — meaning any registered voter can cast a ballot regardless of their party registration.

    The Virginia Republican Party has notified the Virginia Department of Elections it will not hold a primary on March 3. President Donald Trump is running for reelection and is expected to be officially selected as the state party’s nominee at a party convention.

    Democratic and Republican primaries to select candidates for the U.S. House and Senate are set to take place June 9, 2020.

  • Q: What do I need to vote?
  • You must have been registered to vote at least 22 days before Election Day.

    When you show up to the polls, you will need to show a photo ID to vote in person. Acceptable forms of ID include:

    • Virginia driver’s license
    • Virginia DMV-issued photo ID
    • United States passport
    • Employer-issued photo ID
    • Virginia Voter Photo ID card
    • Other U.S. or Virginia government-issued photo ID
    • Student photo ID issued by a school, college or university located in Virginia
    • Tribal enrollment or other tribal photo ID

    If you show up to vote and don’t have ID, you will have to vote using a provisional ballot.

  • Q: Voting absentee?
  • The deadline for requesting an absentee ballot is Feb. 25. You can apply online for one, and register to vote if you aren’t already, at the Virginia Department of Election’s website, as well as in-person or by email, fax and standard mail.

    If you already signed up to vote absentee and received your ballot, you must turn it in to your voter registration office by 7 p.m. on Election Day. Absentee voters can also check the status of their ballot through the state’s online citizen portal.

  • Q: Need accommodations?
  • If you are 65 or older or you have a physical disability, you can vote from your car at your polling place on Election Day. The department of elections recommends you bring a helper with you who can go into the polling place and request curbside assistance.

  • Q: Who else is voting?
  • A lot of people. They don’t call it Super Tuesday for nothing. Virginia is one of 14 states plus American Samoa that are voting March 3.

  • Q: Will WTOP have election coverage for Maryland and D.C.?
  • Absolutely! A similar set of FAQs will be set up for both. Stay tuned.

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