Washington-area drivers may think they've seen all there is to see in highways, but beginning Oct. 1, they'll get a fresh commuting experience, courtesy of Virginia: paying tolls.
The long-awaited road to Reston -- the Dulles Toll Road -- is set to debut that Monday and with its opening, the round-trip ride from Reston to Washington becomes, for the first time, one of unbroken interstate.
The $67 million, four-lane, eight-interchange highway will run from Rte. 123 just east of Tysons Corner to Rte. 28 just outside Dulles International Airport, its lanes sandwiching the existing Dulles Access Road.
The ride from Washington all the way out to Rte. 28, the full 13-mile stretch, will cost 85 cents; from Washington to Reston and most points east will be 75 cents.
The tariff aside, the Dulles Toll Road is novel among area highways for its simplicity. It will not have a single truck or car restriction, nor an HOV limit or sticker requirement or special lane.
If the road opens on its scheduled Oct. 1 target date, the day it has been set to open since construction began two years ago, it will be unusual for its punctuality in an area where promised new roads are like mirages, always receding before the onrushing crush of commuters.
Opening of the road, which is expected to carry 40,000 vehicles a day almost immediately and up to 60,000 a day by 1985, means that the Dulles Access Road, which commuters have been permitted to use since December, is once again for airport-bound traffic only.
According to Linda South of the Virginia Department of Highways and Transportation, only a stretch of foul weather before the opening day could delay the toll road's scheduled opening.
The opening will not be delayed by the lack of toll booths for the main plaza, which straddles the highway between Leesburg Pike and Spring Hill Road. The permanent booths apparently will not arrive by Oct. 1, South said, but makeshift plywood ones have already been put in place.
Tolls on the road will be exacted twice for most drivers.
Cars will pay once when entering the road and once when leaving, and cars picking up the highway from Spring Hill Road will pay a third time.
The road was set up as a toll road after members of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors asked the Virginia General Assembly to build the road, but could not get the state to appropriate the money.
During 1985, the toll road is expected to collect $6.4 million, according to South, and by 2000, it should be making $16.3 million a year. South said officials expect that the road's $67.4 million construction cost should be recouped in about 25 years.
Interchanges are located, from the east, at the Beltway, Spring Hill Road, Leesburg Pike (Rte. 7), Hunter Mill Road, Wiehle Avenue, Reston Avenue, Centreville Road and Sully Road (Rte. 28).
A ninth interchange, at Wolf Trap Road, will be open only when the park is open.
Toll booths are located at all exit and entrance points except Leesburg Pike and Wolf Trap.
The main toll plaza will be staffed 24 hours a day, according to South. The remaining toll booths are now set to be staffed six days a week, 16 hours a day. When the booths are not staffed, automatic toll machines will be in operation, and drivers will be required to have exact change, South said.