Good news for drivers who need to get in and out of Washington D.C. during rush hour traffic: Single-occupant vehicles will now have a new option to travel on I-66. But there will be a toll if you travel alone.
Starting in December, dynamic tolling will begin along a 9-mile stretch of I-66, from I-495 to U.S. Route 29 in Rosslyn during peak hours – 5:30 to 9:30 a.m. eastbound and from 3 to 7 p.m. westbound, Monday through Friday.
The lanes will remain free to all users during the off-peak periods, including weekends.
This will be the first time since 1982 that single occupant drivers can use that stretch of road during those hours.
Dynamically priced tolls change with variances in traffic volumes and speed, which keeps traffic moving at free-flow speeds. When traffic volumes are heavy, tolls will increase; when volumes are light, tolls will decrease. Free-flowing lanes enable all users to experience more predictable trips that take less 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 project involves installing eight toll gantries (frames over the road) 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). Also, 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 4-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 compels 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.
The high-occupancy limit will be increased to HOV-3 when the I-66 express lanes outside the Beltway open in mid-2022. Raising the occupancy requirement will move more people in fewer vehicles, relieve traffic congestion and help the region meet federal air quality requirements.
The change to HOV-3 also 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.