Tolls will go into effect on I-66 inside the Beltway in December, imposing a dynamically-generated fee on single drivers while allowing high-occupant vehicles to travel freely. The tolls, collected through E-ZPass, will be in effect eastbound from the Beltway to Rosslyn from 5:30 until 9:30 a.m. and westbound from 3 to 7 p.m. weekdays. The lanes will be free the rest of the time.
All vehicles traveling during these periods will need an E-ZPass transponder, and HOV-2+ vehicles will need an E-ZPass Flex transponder switched to HOV-mode to travel for free.
The “dynamic” tolling is already in use on the I-495 Express Lanes and elsewhere in the region. Tolls are determined by the amount of traffic and are calculated to keep traffic flowing freely. When congestion builds, the tolls increase.
A thin ribbon
I-66 has been restricted to HOV usage during rush hours since it was opened in 1982. The narrow stretch of highway is only two lanes in each direction for most of the nine miles inside the Beltway, thanks to the opposition of Arlington County officials who fought construction of the highway and have hindered its expansion at every turn, even though some of the biggest chokepoints on the chronically congested road are in Arlington.
The project involves installing eight toll gantries spanning the eastbound and westbound travel lanes of I-66 along with a gantry that spans the eastbound lanes of the Dulles Connector Road (to differentiate trips east of the Dulles Connector Road), allowing traffic from Dulles Airport to travel freely on the highway paid for by local taxpayers who are not allowed to use it during rush hour unless they are part of a car pool.
Approximately 125 signs are being installed along I-66 and approaching roadways. The current toll rate will be prominently displayed on some of these signs so drivers know what they will be charged.The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is currently conducting field testing of the electronic tolling equipment through the fall to ensure the system is fully functional when tolling begins this December.
Drivers are now seeing flashing lights indicating testing of tolling equipment mounted on overhead gantries along I-66 inside the Beltway including cameras and E-ZPass readers, as well as test messages displayed on new electronic toll signs on I-66. Crews also are testing indicator lights, which briefly flash to show that a vehicle is traveling with an E-ZPass Flex in the HOV mode and will be used for HOV enforcement once the express lanes are in operation.
A new lane will be added to a four-mile stretch of eastbound I-66 between the Dulles Connector Road and Fairfax Drive/Glebe Road (Exit 71), removing a chronic bottleneck that slows travelers and causes some to divert from I-66 onto streets in Falls Church and Arlington. Construction is anticipated to start in 2018 with the lane opening to the public in 2020. Additionally, improvements to exits 69 (Washington Boulevard/Lee Highway) and 71 (Fairfax Drive/Glebe Road) will further enhance traffic flow, VDOT engineers say.
The high-occupancy limit will be increased to HOV-3 when the I-66 express lanes outside the Beltway open in mid-2022. The change to HOV-3 will make I-66 consistent with the Capital Beltway, I-95 and I-395, which currently are designated HOV-3, as well as other HOV-2 facilities throughout our region that will be changing to HOV-3 in the future.