Gov. McAuliffe, Republicans hash out deal on I-66 widening, tolling plan
As part of the compromise, Republicans are expected to kill legislation from state Del. Jim LeMunyon that would block tolling along the same stretch of I-66.
Republicans and several Democrats had bashed the governor's original plan, which called for tolls first and potential widening several years later. Now, the widening is anticipated to be completed by 2020.
The HOT lanes tolling program is still scheduled for implementation in 2017.
Here are the key points of the deal, according to the governor's office:
-Converts I-66 inside the beltway to Express Lanes during rush hours in the peak directions, widens I-66 eastbound from the Dulles Connector Road and improves transit service throughout the corridor.
-If you carpool today (two or more people in a vehicle), you will continue to ride the lanes for free when dynamic tolling is scheduled to begin in 2017 during morning and evening rush-hours (5:30 am to 9:30 am eastbound and 3 pm to 7 pm westbound). Solo drivers can ride the lanes in exchange for paying a variable toll based on the distance they travel. Average toll is expected to be $6 a trip.
-In 2020, lanes will be free to vehicles with three or more people during rush-hours (carpoolers, vanpools and buses) and motorcycles per adopted regional policy. All others will pay a variable toll.
-The lanes will remain free to all traffic during off-peak periods. There will be no tolling in the reverse commute.
-All of the revenues raised from the tolls will be used by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission for improvements in the corridor such as new transit service and carpooling incentives. Estimated toll revenue in 2018 is $18 million.
-Toll revenues will finance the environmental work and construction to widen I-66 eastbound from the Dulles Connector Road to Ballston – eliminating the current bottleneck inside the beltway.
-Estimated cost of construction is up to $140 million and will be funded with increased revenues from the recently passed FAST Act and improved state revenues. No revenues will be taken from the HB2 recommended projects released in January.
“This agreement is a big win for Virginia’s economy and for the commuters who spend too much time on the most congested road in the most congested region in the country,” McAuliffe said in a statement. “After a spirited political debate last fall, and a series of productive discussions after the General Assembly convened, we are proud to announce a compromise that will move our plan to transform I-66 inside and outside the beltway forward.”
Del. LeMunyon, who represents portions of Loudoun and Fairfax counties, was a central player in the deal.
“My colleagues and I made the case for widening I-66 inside the beltway," LeMunyon said. "I'm glad there is now consensus on the need to do this as soon as possible. This is a step forward in our efforts to address the gridlock on I-66 within the limits of current budget resources. I look forward to taking additional steps to reduce congestion in this key corridor."
While hailed by the politicians, the news can still be taken with a grain of salt for single-driver Loudoun's commuters who use the Dulles Greenway. Once the I-66 HOT lanes are open, a driver who uses the Greenway, the Dulles Toll Road and I-66 will spend around $30 for a round-trip commute.
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