Wait...how high are the tolls?
The tolls along Interstate 66 eastbound in Northern Virginia heading into Washington, D.C., hit $46.75 after a crash that caused delays.
Why are the tolls so high?
I-66 is one of the main points of entry into the district from Virginia. As it nears D.C., I-66 cuts across I-495, which loops around the entire city and is colloquially known as the Beltway.
Before 2017, drivers were permitted to use the stretch of I-66 inside the Beltway loop during rush hour only if they had two or more people in their cars. This was an effort to decrease traffic congestion.
However, in November 2016, the Virginia Department of Transportation estimated that as many as half of all drivers were driving along this stretch of highway during rush hour without anyone else in the car. The tolls were supposed to solve this problem by giving drivers a legal way to use this route.
“It's a choice,” Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne said when the tolls were announced. “You don't have to use it, but you can legally use it now.”
Since Dec. 4, 2017, drivers with two or more people in their vehicles still drive for free, while anyone else is charged. Tolls or extra passengers are required between 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. heading into the city, and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. heading away from it.
The pricing for these tolls changes every six minutes, adjusting for the amount of cars and the speed at which traffic is moving.
What are people saying?
Not everyone thinks that the high tolls are a bad thing. Local resident Scooter Schaefer, who commuted on I-66 via carpool, said that he thought the high prices were a great free-market solution to a crowded highway.
“For years I commuted every day on I-66 via a bus or ride-sharing, and I appreciate the high tolls,” Schaefer told TheBlaze. “They keep that portion of I-66 moving fast, and encourage more people to take a bus, ride-share, or use public transportation. Traffic congestion won't fix itself.”
Others aren't so pleased. “Only the rich can afford to be on the 66,” chauffeur Issam Bennbarek quipped to WRC-TV back in July.
Another Northern Virginia resident, Melissa Lopez, told TheBlaze that while she has paid the $20 toll on I-495, she would “rather drive my car into the Potomac than pay that toll.” She added that she was waiting for the day when the I-66 toll reached $50.