While Virginia already has an extensive network of HOT lanes on the Capital Beltway and I-95/395, the traffic-easing programs are a unique feature of the “Transform 66” project. Early on in the I-66 planning, Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne said the state would commit to using some of the toll revenue to programs that would enhance carpooling and commuter bus-riding, as well as others that would offer alternatives to solo driving at rush hours in one of the D.C. region’s most congested highway corridors.
The 10 programs were selected by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission and the list was forwarded to the Commonwealth Transportation Board, the statewide panel, for final approval. Kate Mattice, acting executive director of the NVTC, said the commission will monitor the programs to ensure they actually move more people and increase travel options in the I-66 corridor. The $10 million in funding, an advance on the toll revenue, covers a two-year period.
“It’s not meant that these should be locked in forever,” Layne said of the programs selected for the initial round.
Mattice said the commission estimates that the programs will directly affect the daily travels of 5,000 people. Lowering the demand for driving solo on I-66 could also lower the toll rates for the drivers who do choose to use the HOT lanes.
The chart below identifies the 10 programs selected for funding.
The HOT lanes system itself is supposed to improve travel times along I-66. Here again, the I-66 inside-the-Beltway project has some unusual features. Tolling will be used to create a new option for solo drivers — since the lanes are now open only to carpoolers and exempt vehicles at peak periods — but the system also will encourage more carpooling, since two-person carpools will be exempt from the tolls. Several of today’s exemptions to the carpool system will disappear: Solo drivers of hybrids and drivers going to or from Dulles International Airport will have to pay the tolls.
As with the other HOT lanes, the tolls on I-66 will rise and fall to maintain free-flowing traffic. If the system works as designed, some solo drivers will vary their travel times to avoid the peak of the peak congestion, when they also would pay the peak toll.
The HOT lanes rules will be in force only during peak periods and in the peak direction. The state is going it alone on the inside-the-Beltway project rather than enlisting a private partner. The toll revenue will go to covering expenses and financing travel improvements.