The toll on Interstate 66 inside the Capital Beltway reached $46.50 for a solo driver during the Tuesday morning rush, just below a record of $47.25 set last month.
For much of the morning Tuesday, there were no major crashes in the D.C. region, but a heavy volume of commuters created delays on several highways in the Washington area. The toll reached its peak about 8:30 a.m.
About the same time the toll peaked, delays worsened as a crash blocked some inbound lanes of the Roosevelt Bridge.
Eastbound I-66 was backed up to the Glebe Road interchange about 9:30 a.m. Minutes later, all lanes on the Roosevelt Bridge reopened and traffic conditions began to improve as rush hour wound down.
The lane closures on the bridge also brought lengthy delays on the George Washington Memorial Parkway, which backed up to near the VA-123 interchange.
Michelle Holland, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Transportation, said there wasn’t a specific cause for the spike in the toll price.
“Tolls are based on congestion,” she said. “The more congested it is, the higher the toll, and that’s how we manage demand for the lanes so people who are on the lanes have free-flowing traffic.”
The I-66 tolls, which are meant to encourage drivers to carpool or use public transportation inside the Beltway, have raised criticism among some drivers since they began in December. Solo drivers who travel on those 10 miles of I-66 at peak periods are charged based on a “dynamic pricing” system that changes every six minutes, depending on traffic volumes and speeds.
Drivers are charged to use the lanes if they are alone, but usage is free with two or more occupants in a vehicle with an E-ZPass Flex transponder.
On Tuesday, Jake Jenkins was driving from his home in Clifton to his job in McLean when he noticed the price hit $46. He said he watched the highway signage indicate a driver would get to the District in 20 minutes. That compared to 33 minutes if driving on U.S. 50 for free — a difference of 13 minutes.
“Who’s paying $46 for 13 minutes?” Jenkins said. “Time is money but it doesn’t balance out in my favor.”
When the toll prices spike, Jenkins said it can create a mess on the roads as drivers decide at the last minute whether to pay the toll or find an alternate route.
“People try to bail out when they see the price is at $46 all of a sudden and it is mayhem,” he said. “People in the left lane are thinking they’re going to pay the price for the toll but then they get to the sign and see what it is. Then there’s this massive lane change to bail and get on Route 50 or Route 29.”