WASHINGTON — Attempts to overhaul tolls on Interstate 66 inside the Beltway have re-emerged in Richmond, Virginia, alongside other transportation changes approved by one or both of the General Assembly’s budget committees Sunday.
For I-66, House Appropriations Committee amendments would direct the Virginia Department of Transportation to re-evaluate the tolling algorithm inside the Beltway to lower the target speed for cars and buses as much as possible while still meeting federal requirements for traffic flow in HOV or toll lanes. The changes would be required by July 1.
VDOT has said it is not yet ready to make any changes because it needs more data.
Another amendment would require VDOT to start tolling drivers going against rush-hour traffic as soon as an additional eastbound lane is completed between the Dulles Connector Road and Ballston.
The amendments are not included in the Senate Finance Committee plan, and similar stand-alone bills were voted down in both House and Senate committees.
The competing state budget proposals are due for full floor votes later this week. Negotiators then have about two more weeks to hash out a budget agreement through a conference committee before session ends March 10.
Gov. Ralph Northam can then offer suggested changes that the legislature will take up during the annual one-day reconvened session April 18.
Both the House Appropriations and Senate Finance committee plans removed dedicated funding for Metro and the Northern Virginia tax changes that would pay for it. They were originally included in a two-year budget plan proposed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe before he left office.
Each committee made clear that the removal is only until a final agreement is reached on how that funding will be provided, and that the final funding approved through what is expected to be separate negotiations over the competing Metro funding bills approved by the full House and Senate will be included in the final budget.
New toll lanes and more
The Senate would direct the Commonwealth Transportation Board, as already planned, to coordinate with Maryland on an extension of the 495 Express Lanes across the Legion Bridge to and beyond Interstate 270.
The House would direct transportation leaders to study tolling on Interstate 81 either by tolling trucks only or through new separate toll lanes similar to those on Interstate 95 or the Beltway.
Among other transportation-related budget amendments approved by the committees Sunday, both budget plans also cut all additional capital funding for transit systems across the state facing a fiscal cliff starting in the summer of 2019.
Each committee approved plans to double Virginia’s car titling fee to $20, and to allow the Department of Motor Vehicles to follow through with plans to charge $10 extra to anyone getting a license that complies with federal REAL ID rules when Virginia is ready to issue those credentials later this year.
The committees would also direct the DMV to consider outsourcing driver’s license road tests for adults.
Besides Metro, one of the top statewide priorities is dredging and widening shipping channels in and around Norfolk, Senate Finance Transportation Subcommittee Chairman Sen. Frank Wagner said. The plans would provide about $350 million in cash and bonds to start studies and work to allow larger ships to use the Port of Virginia.
In Northern Virginia, the House budget would defer funding for fixes to Alexandria’s combined sewer outfalls.
Editor’s note: Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam takes your calls and questions live on WTOP’s Ask the Governor on Wednesday Feb. 21 at 10 a.m.
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