WASHINGTON - A second day of high tolls awaited commuters traveling the Express Lanes on Interstate 66 inside the Capital Beltway Tuesday.
The expansion of northern Virginia's network of toll roads was in place for Monday's morning commute and the higher than expected charges caught many drivers off guard. On Monday morning, some travelers who used that stretch of highway during the peak hours between 5:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. saw charges of over $30.
The launch of the Express Lanes allows drivers to use Interstate 66 for free as carpoolers and for a variable toll as solo drivers. The highway remains free for all users outside of rush hour.
I-66 commuters: Tolling operations begin at 5:30AM. All lanes require an E-ZPass Flex in HOV mode (to travel free as HOV-2) or an E-ZPass (if driving alone and paying the toll).— VDOT Northern VA (@VaDOTNOVA) December 5, 2017
During the evening rush hour, tolls on the westbound lanes of I-66 were between $6 and $8.
A check of the tolls during Tuesday morning's commute again showed estimated toll charges above $30. FOX 5's Rasia Crespo captured an image of an EZ Pass sign that showed a $19.50 charge for use of the Express Lanes at 7:30 a.m. when entering at Interstate 495 and exiting in D.C. FOX 5's Melanie Alnwick reported a $33.50 charge at the same entry and exit location when she did an online check just 30 minutes later at 7:50 a.m. A check by FOX 5's Erin Como at 8:11 a.m. from I-66 to D.C. showed an estimated toll of $40.
"Prices for a trip along the entire nine-mile corridor ranged from $4.50 at 5:36 a.m. to $34.50 at 8:36 a.m.," the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) said in a news release on Monday. "Each price remained for six minutes (toll prices are updated every six minutes). As traffic volumes climb, the system responds by raising the toll price to help manage the number of vehicles getting on the roadway, to keep the traffic flowing freely. The price is an indication that the system is becoming fuller and fuller."
"The tolls are dynamic," said VDOT's Michelle Holland in an interview with Alnwick on Monday. "It's based on the volume of traffic and the number of drivers that are willing to pay the toll."
"Now, early in the morning, it was $4.50. I was told for six minutes, it hit $34. But when those dynamic tolls go up, what they are trying to tell you – don't go on the lanes." said Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe during an interview on Monday.
The Express Lanes will be in effect Monday through Friday from 5:30-9:30 a.m. in the eastbound direction, and from 3-7 p.m. in the westbound direction. Outside of these times, the lanes will be free for everyone.
Ugh. Look at the estimated tolls on I-66 EB right now pic.twitter.com/oF6VrzRnDH— Erin Como (@ErinFox5DC) December 5, 2017