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Dulles Toll Road traffic passing the Herndon Metro station (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

There are only a few days left before fee increases go into effect on the Dulles Toll Road.

Beginning Jan. 1, at the main line plaza, tolls will rise from $3.25 to $4 for two-axle vehicles, $6.50 to $8 for three-axle vehicles, $7.75 to $9.25 for four-axle vehicles, and $9 to $10.50 for five-axle vehicles.

The increase was approved by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Board of Directors earlier this year. This is the first fee increase since 2019.

“Strategic debt management and refinancing efforts have kept toll rates lower than original projections through the years,” MWAA wrote in a statement.

The next toll increase will go into effect on 2028. Overall, hikes are expected every five years, according to MWAA. Increases are expected to continue through 2058.

At the ramps, tolls will increase from $1.25 to $2 for two-axle vehicles, $3 to $4 for three-axle vehicles, $3.50 to $4.50 for four-axle vehicles, and $4 to $5 for five-axle vehicles.

Toll booths will also be eliminated in the coming months, with the system switching to fully electronic payments.

Revenue from the tolls funds operating and maintenance costs, along with a portion of the construction costs for Silver Line. Service for the extension began in mid-November.

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The newly constructed I-66 Express Lanes from Gainesville to Centreville will open ahead of schedule (courtesy FAM Construction)

If you’re driving along the highways in Northern Virginia, do you usually hop into an express lane or do you prefer to tough it out in the normal lanes with the rest of the proletariat?

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) announced last week that the new I-66 Express Lanes running from the Beltway down to Centreville are set to fully open today (Tuesday).

“[VDOT and partners] announced today that the westbound direction of the new 66 Express Lanes from I-495 (Capital Beltway) to Route 28 in Centreville remains on schedule to open on or about this Saturday, Nov. 19,” VDOT said in a release. “The eastbound direction of this same 13-mile section of express lanes is expected to open by the end of November and could open as early as next Tuesday, Nov. 22, depending on weather and other factors.”

Along with the expansion, this month marks the 10-year anniversary of the express lanes opened on I-495. Since Express Lanes started being added to the highways around Northern Virginia, they’ve become largely ubiquitous along I-495, I-95 and I-395.

Intended to allow faster travel, the lanes charge vehicles based on demand, which can lead to eye-popping tolls. In two weeks, drivers will need to have at least two passengers to use the I-66 lanes for free, an increase from the current HOV-2 requirement.

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A mini-van takes the new I-66 Express Lanes in the Centreville area (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

If you plan on driving the newly extended I-66 Express Lanes next month, make sure there are at least two other people in the car to avoid paying a toll.

The entire length of the I-66 toll lanes will shift from HOV2 to HOV3 in early December, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) recently announced.

Starting Dec. 5, only those with traveling with three or more people will be able to use the lanes for free. This is a change from the previous standard of two or more passengers.

Single riders or those traveling with just two passengers will have to pay a toll, with the price varying based on traffic volumes (known as “dynamic tolling”).

The change will apply to the entire 32-mile length of the I-66 Express Lanes, including the existing 9-mile section inside the Beltway (I-495) from Dunn Loring to Route 29 in Rosslyn. A new Beltway ramp to I-66 just opened this week.

That portion of I-66 operates as HOV on weekdays during peak hours and in peak directions. Otherwise, the express lanes are free and have no occupancy requirement.

Hours of operation for I-66 Express Lanes inside of the Beltway (screenshot via VDOT)

VDOT also notes that, in order to use the lanes during rush hour, drivers need an E-ZPass transponder.

The state transportation agency said in a press release that the new requirements are “consistent with HOV requirements on the other express lanes in Northern Virginia.”

In a statement to FFXnow, a VDOT spokesperson said consistency and federal environmental standards were the biggest reasons for the change:

This change supports the National Capital Region’s Transportation Planning Board’s policy to change HOV-2 to HOV-3 throughout the region in order to move more people with fewer vehicles and comply with the federal Clean Air Act Amendment. This change is also consistent with the other express lanes in Northern Virginia on I-95, I-395, and I-495, and is aligned with Virginia’s policy that HOV-3 be the requirement for toll-free travel on all privately-operated express lanes in Virginia. This rule applies to I-66 Express Lanes Outside the Beltway, which are operated by I-66 Express Mobility Partners under a public-private partnership with the Commonwealth.

The switch from HOV2 to HOV3 was first approved in 2016 by Virginia’s Commonwealth Transportation Board.

The portion of the express lanes inside the Beltway opened five years ago, accompanied by a good amount of griping about the high toll prices.

The 22-mile section outside of the Beltway is almost fully operational after about six years of work. A 9-mile stretch from Route 28 in Centreville to Route 29 in Gainesville opened in early September, and the westbound lanes from I-495 in Dunn Loring to Route 28 became operational yesterday.

The eastbound lanes could open as early as tomorrow, a few weeks ahead of schedule, VDOT says. Work in the corridor will continue through mid-2023 on other elements of the Transform 66 project, including new interchanges and a parallel shared-use path.

A version of this story appeared earlier on FFXnow’s sister site, ARLnow.

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The Dulles Toll Road seen from the Innovation Center Metro station (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Drivers on the Dulles Toll Road can expect to pay higher tolls beginning next year.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority’s Board of Directors voted yesterday morning to increase fees for users of the toll road — bringing tolls to $6 for the average driver.

The increase is expected to cover highway operations and maintenance costs, along with a dedicated set-aside for phase two of the Silver Line, which opened Tuesday (Nov. 15). The increase does not directly fund cost overruns associated with the project and has long been anticipated as part of a long-term funding plan.

At the main line plaza, tolls will rise from $3.25 to $4 for two-axle vehicles, $6.50 to $8 for three-axle vehicles, $7.75 to $9.25 for four-axle vehicles, and $9 to $10.50 for five-axle vehicles.

At the ramps, tolls will increase from $1.25 to $2 for two-axle vehicles, $3 to $4 for three-axle vehicles, $3.50 to $4.50 for four-axle vehicles, and $4 to $5 for five-axle vehicles.

The next toll increases is slated for 2028, according to MWAA’s board. “Modest” toll rate hikes are generally expected every five years, MWAA wrote in a statement.

MWAA also plans to collect a $1.60 administrative fee to process tolls for drivers who do not pay with the EZPass. The move comes as the toll road makes a shift to all electronic collections next year.

MWAA plans to eliminate toll boots at existing toll lanes in the coming months.

“Eliminating toll booths is expected to speed traffic flow and benefit the environment by reducing emissions that would have been produced by vehicles waiting in toll-booth lines,” MWAA wrote in a statement.

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I-495 North is getting a new ramp to the I-66 West general purpose lanes, while the existing ramp will lead to the new I-66 Express Lanes (via VDOT)

Updated at 3:25 p.m. — The switch to the new I-495 North ramp to I-66 is now scheduled to be implemented tomorrow night and will be in place early Wednesday morning (Nov. 16), VDOT says.

Earlier: The Capital Beltway is getting a new ramp in Dunn Loring, as the Virginia Department of Transportation prepares to open another segment of the extended I-66 Express Lanes.

A new, permanent ramp and exit from the northbound I-495 Express Lanes to the general purpose lanes on I-66 West was scheduled to open this morning, VDOT announced Friday (Nov. 11).

The ramp is located on the right side of the Beltway, about 500 feet north of the existing ramp, and loops around the interchange.

The existing ramp closed today but will reopen on or around Saturday (Nov. 19) as the new connection from the 495 North Express Lanes to the new 66 Express Lanes West, according to VDOT, though the exact date could vary depending on the weather.

The department announced last week that the westbound I-66 toll lanes from I-495 to Route 28 in Centreville will open to traffic this Saturday, with the eastbound lanes following by the end of November.

The Transform 66 Outside the Beltway project has been in the works since 2016, adding 22 miles to the I-66 toll lanes while reconfiguring interchanges and creating a shared-use trail in the corridor. A 9-mile stretch of lanes opened between Gainesville and Centreville in September.

Starting Dec. 5, the entire I-66 Express Lanes system will require vehicles to have three or more occupants to qualify as high-occupancy so they can use the lanes toll-free.

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The I-66 Express Lanes at the Vienna Metro station, as of September (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

The extended I-66 Express Lanes outside the Capital Beltway will open ahead of schedule, the Virginia Department of Transportation says.

Previously scheduled to arrive in December, the lanes will open in the westbound direction from I-495 in Dunn Loring to Route 28 in Centreville as soon as Saturday, Nov. 19, VDOT said in a news release snuck in just before a three-day weekend.

The eastbound lanes along that 13-mile stretch of road are expected to open by the end of November.

“Updates will be provided to the public as final construction progresses. All work is weather dependent, and inclement conditions could affect the final opening schedule,” VDOT noted.

Construction to extend the I-66 toll lanes 22 miles outside the Beltway has been underway since summer 2016. Toll lanes opened inside the Beltway in December 2017.

Nine miles of express lanes west of Centreville opened in early September, also coming sooner than anticipated. Tolling on that section, which extends to Gainesville, began on Sept. 24.

As with the existing express lanes around Northern Virginia, the new I-66 lanes will charge tolls that vary based on traffic volumes and speed. Vehicles that meet the high occupancy requirements can use the lanes for free, but they need to have an E-ZPass Flex set to “HOV On.”

The I-66 Express Lanes currently have an HOV requirement of two or more occupants, but that will increase to three or more occupants along the entire corridor, starting Dec. 5, according to VDOT, which says the new rule will be consistent with other toll lanes in the region.

Here’s more from VDOT on how drivers can prepare for the express lane openings:

Obtain an E-ZPass to pay tolls, or an E-ZPass Flex to travel toll-free as HOV. Drivers can obtain an E-ZPass at ezpassva.com, by calling 877-762-7824, or in person at many Giant and Wegmans grocery stores in Northern Virginia, as well as at AAA offices, Fairfax Connector stores, and DMV Customer Service Centers.

Become familiar with other payment options available through I-66 EMP such as paying online, via the mail, by calling 833-643-2867, or in person at the 66 Express Lanes Customer Service Center in Manassas. Payment options other than E-ZPass will incur administrative fees. More information can be found at Ride66express.com.

More information about the I-66 Express Lanes can be found at Ride66express.com.

Though the express lanes will open to traffic soon, work on some interchanges and a shared-use trail alongside the highway will continue. The overall project is scheduled for completion by mid-2023.

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Westbound Dulles Toll Road approaching the Fairfax County Parkway exit (via Google Maps)

A plan to increase tolls on the Dulles Toll Road and eliminate the option to pay by cash is barreling towards approval next month.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority is expected to vote on the toll increase at a Nov. 16 meeting, a spokesperson told FFXnow.

At a meeting late last week, a board committee unanimously approved both proposals. Tolls would generally rise from $3.25 to $4 at the main line plaza and from $1.50 to $2 on ramps. Similar increases are proposed for vehicles with three or more axles.

The change would go into effect after a public comment period closed earlier this year.

The next toll increase is expected in 2028 while the last toll increase happened in 2019.

Staff noted that so me residents opposed the use of tolls for additional costs associated with the Silver Line and the Dulles Metrorail Project.

“While many of the comments oppose the current allocation of responsibility for funding construction of the Dulles Metrorail Project, that allocation reflects policy decisions and agreements made at the federal, state and regional level over many years,” staff wrote in a statement.

The board will also consider collecting an administrative fee for vehicles that choose the pay-by-plate payment option. The fee — $1.60 per transaction– is not intended to generate any revenue.

The move comes after MWAA transitions from cash payments and moves towards payment via E-ZPass and mobile applications. Residents will have 30 days to pay the toll.

If approved, both proposals would go into effect on Jan. 1.

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I-66 construction in Fairfax County (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

To help ease congestion, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) said it will suspend work on many highway projects and lift lane restrictions on interstates and other major roads.

VDOT said in a release that Labor Day is one of the busiest travel days of the year. Past traffic data suggested the congestion is heaviest from noon to 7 p.m. on Friday and intermittently throughout the holiday weekend, Monday included.

“As travelers make their end-of-summer vacation plans before the hustle and bustle of the school season, drivers are encouraged to plan ahead for their holiday road trips,” VDOT said. “To make travel easier this coming Labor Day weekend, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will suspend many highway work zones and lift most lane closures on interstates and other major roads in Virginia from noon Friday, Sept. 2 until noon Tuesday, Sept. 6.”

According to the release:

  • All HOV restrictions on Interstate 66 and rush-hour tolls on the 66 Express Lanes Inside the Beltway will be lifted on Monday, Sept. 5.
  • Find directional schedules for the reversible 95 and 395 express lanes, and information for the 495 Express Lanes at www.expresslanes.com.

This story was first published on ALXnow.

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Morning Notes

A busy bee in Vienna (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

A Few Sidelined Metro Trains Return Today — “Metro has previously said riders will first see the trains on the Green and Yellow lines. The transit agency says once they’ve established a ‘steady rhythm of inspections and consistently delivered eight trains for daily service,’ they will increase service on the Blue, Orange, and Silver lines to every 15 minutes” [DCist]

D.C. Woman Believed to Be New Victim of Alleged Serial Killer — “A spokesperson with the Metropolitan Police Department told WTOP that ‘shopping cart killer‘ suspect Anthony Eugene Robinson is a person of interest in the death of Sonya Champ…found by police around 11:30 a.m. Sept. 7, 2021.” [Patch]

Dulles Toll Road May Phase Out Coins — “MWAA officials say the shift to an all-electronic system will reduce emissions from vehicles idling at the toll plaza. The shift to all-electronic tolling, expected to take place in January, comes as MWAA is considering the first toll increase for Dulles Toll Road users since 2019.” [The Washington Post]

School Board Vote on Student Phone Use Tonight — “Under a proposed revision to the ‘Student Rights and Responsibilities’ handbook, cellphone use for most students would be prohibited during all classes as well as visits to the bathrooms and locker rooms…A  vote on the handbook for next year is scheduled for Thursday night.” [WTOP]

West Springfield Baseball Player Goes Viral — Eric Fila, a catcher for West Springfield High School, shook hands with the home plate umpire after his team lost to Herndon High School in the 10th inning of a June 7 game in the Virginia state tournament quarterfinals. Video of the gesture was posted on Twitter and went viral, even airing during a Phillies-Brewers broadcast. [The Washington Post]

Virtual Mental Health Services Available for Students — “Through August 5, the FCPS Office of Intervention and Prevention Services will offer virtual mental wellness consultations. Parents and students can schedule a 45-minute consultation with a school psychologist or school social worker by phone or videoconference.” [FCPS]

McLean Community Center Reschedules Fourth of July — The center’s annual Independence Day celebration will now take place at Langley High School from 6:30-10:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 2. Vienna and Fairfax City have also moved events off of July 4 due to staffing shortages at the company that conducts their fireworks shows. [MCC/Twitter]

Inside Tysons Corner Center’s Princess Diana Exhibit — “Princess Diana: Accredited Access Exhibit takes a look at Diana’s life as a royal, seen through the eyes of [royal photographer Anwar] Hussein. His work — including never-before-seen photographs of the princess — is presented next to photos taken by his sons Samir and Zak, who both work as royal photographers today.” [Washington City Paper]

It’s Thursday — Possible light rain in the morning and overnight. High of 86 and low of 71. Sunrise at 5:44 am and sunset at 8:38 pm. [Weather.gov]

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