$34.50 Toll for 10 Miles

Virginia introduced tolls to high-occupancy lanes on Interstate 66 in suburban Washington DC, and the tolls the first day reached $34.50 for a ten-mile drive. Some people think this is excessive.

What the articles may not reveal is that the high-occupancy lanes offer toll-free travel for any vehicle with two or more people. Most high-occupancy/toll (HOT) lanes only give a free ride to vehicles with three or more people. So what has happened on I-66 is that the two-or-more vehicles are pretty much filling up the lane. With room for only a handful of single-occupancy vehicles, the tolls are set high to keep the lane from getting congested.

Having gone to the expense of installing toll-collection equipment, Virginia should have changed the toll-free rides to three passengers and up. As it is, the high tolls are giving bad publicity to the idea of HOT lanes. Of course, no one has to pay the toll as there are free lanes available, though they are more congested. If all lanes were tolled, as the Antiplanner prefers, the tolls would be much lower and all of the lanes would be free of congestion.

Remember, as shown in this Cato paper, a freeway lane with free-flowing traffic can move about 2,000 vehicles per hour, but a congested lane with traffic average 25 mph can only move about 1,000 vehicles per hour. So tolling all lanes to make sure that they never get congested actually doubles the number of vehicles the highway can move per hour. In effect, this is tolling people onto the road rather than tolling them off of it, as some people fear.

Share

2 thoughts on “$34.50 Toll for 10 Miles

  1. LogiRush

    ” If all lanes were tolled, as the Antiplanner prefers, the tolls would be much lower and all of the lanes would be free of congestion.”
    Not true in Texas. Texas toll roads are expensive and most toll roads are heavily congested at rush hour, including the Sam Houston and Westpark Tollways in Houston, and the Dallas North Tollway and Bush Turnpike in Dallas. Politically it is not possible to raise tolls high enough to kill traffic congestion. Plus, that would be a huge financial hit on average folks.

    The Katy managed lanes in Houston allow free passage for 2+ HOV and the maximum toll is $7 for the 12 miles. Of course, demand many be higher on IH 66.
    https://www.hctra.org/Content/hctra3rdPartyPages/katymanagedlanes/media/road_rate_chart.pdf

  2. vtbehrens

    When you say “Of course, no one has to pay the toll as there are free lanes available,” that is incorrect. All lanes of I-66 are tolled during rush hours. I carpool on I-66 every work day, and congestion has diminished greatly since tolling started. In fact, I think VDOT could lower the tolls somewhat without increasing congestion much. The highway contains several poorly designed merges that disproportionately affect the average speed, and it’s the average speed that determines the toll rate.

Leave a Reply