VDOT recently released their “preferred” plans for “transforming” I-66 (Transform66.org) both inside and outside the Beltway. With proposed $17/day tolls inside the beltway (except for HOV-3) and additional HOT lane tolls from the beltway to Haymarket, this strikes me as highway robbery!
The imposition of HOT lane tolls by Gov. McAuliffe I believe will seriously depress the value of homes in Prince William, Manassas, Manassas Park, Fairfax and Loudoun because the cost to commute will increase significantly as will the cost of doing business for any company that uses I-66 to deliver products or services.
I object to the proposed tolls for inside and outside the beltway and encourage everyone to learn more and voice their opinions to VDOT both through the Transform66.org website and at the upcoming public meetings.
Toll structure construction is proposed to begin in 2016. All lanes of I-66 inside the Beltway will be converted to HOV-3/Toll lanes for at least 4 hours in the morning and 3 hours in evening in both directions.
I testified at the October 5th VDOT meeting in Fairfax. The proposed tolls will cost over $4,000/year for citizens who use the HOT lanes except for HOV-3. If a husband and wife have different job start times or locations, that means an $8,000 commuting cost annually. And toll revenue will not be used to add new lanes to I-66 inside the Beltway, but turned over to an unelected board to build bike paths and improve some mass transit.
VDOT said they will “consider” adding another lane inside the Beltway after five years of review of the HOT lane project, but a required environment study would take another three years minimum before construction could begin.
VDOT also plans to convert the existing HOV-2 lane on I-66 outside the beltway to a 24/7 HOV-3/Toll lane and build one additional HOT lane in each direction which will also be HOV-3/Toll. No additional regular use lanes will be built. Taxpayers already paid for I-66 and we should not exchange an existing general use lane for an expensive HOT lane.
While the goal of the expensive tolls may be to “convince” more people to use mass transit, seniors and those with disabilities, would have a harder time waiting for buses in inclement weather. Plus, there are inadequate parking facilities at many of the Metro and VRE stations.
Turning I-66 outside the Beltway from HOV-2 into HOV-3 while keeping Hybrid vehicles off the new lanes will almost certainly dump more vehicles into the regular use lanes. This is unfair to citizens who purchased homes and vehicles based on current expectations. At a minimum current Hybrid owners should be grandfathered.
Currently, anyone can use the HOV-2 lanes during non-HOV hours on I-66 inside and outside the beltway. The new HOT lanes outside the Beltway will be tolled 24/7 so fewer regular use lanes will be available during off-peak hours. VDOT will also affect the existing shoulder lanes that are available for use during peak hours, again reducing the number of regular use lanes. I don’t see how this will improve traffic on I-66 unless commuters start using side streets to get to work!
Prior to 2007, Virginia could place a toll anywhere on an Interstate with permission from the federal government. In 2007, we changed the Code to add a condition that in addition to requiring federal approval, the toll revenue must be “reasonably related to or benefit the users of the toll” (such as widening the road or adding a new lane or interchange). Turning over toll revenue to the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) to pay for bike trails and transit will not benefit drivers who pay the tolls. I also do not believe that Governor McAuliffe can eliminate an existing general use lane outside the Beltway and convert it to a tolled HOT lane because this would not comply with the part of the statute that requires tolls to be used to reduce “traffic congestion.” Removing a general purpose lane on I-66 outside the Beltway cannot reduce “traffic congestion.”
“A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.”
– Thomas Jefferson