WASHINGTON – Tolls for lone drivers and expanded rush hour periods began on Monday, December 4, on Interstate 66 within the Capital Beltway.
According to the above rules, with some exceptions, only motorcycles, buses and cars with two or more people could legally use the road during specific rush hour periods in the morning and at night.
In the new expanded hours, drivers must now have at least one other person in the car and an E-ZPass Flex Transponder in HOV mode to travel for free at 5:30 a.m. at 9:30 a.m. to Ballston and Rosslyn, or from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Weekdays from Rosslyn and Ballston to the Beltway.
All drivers, except motorcycles, must have an E-ZPass to use the road at those times.
Drivers without another person in the car must pay a toll during the peak period expansion periods; that toll goes up and down according to the amount of traffic in the lanes. In the first days since the new tolls were implemented, rates varied from minimums of $ 5 to a maximum of $ 40 during daily trips in the morning.
The WTOP listeners presented a series of questions about the complicated rules we took for official state transportation.
Who has to pay, and how much? How do tolls work?
Any driver traveling alone during restricted hours, including traffic to or from the Dulles International Airport and in hybrid vehicles, must pay an automated toll that increases and decreases based on traffic in the lanes.
The objective of tolls is to keep traffic moving. As the demand increases, so does the price.
Like other HOVs or toll lanes in the region, drivers charge a toll depending on the distance traveled. When entering the lanes, the signs will indicate the current price of a short, medium and longer trip. Intermediate trips will have a price between those points.
In addition, VDOT also launched an I-66 Express Lanes toll calculator that displays current prices and allows drivers to consult prices at previous dates and times.
Drivers without an E-ZPass will receive an infraction notice by mail with additional fees unless you go to the state's tolls website to pay the toll.
At what time do the new rules apply?
The new weekday rush hour period The I-66 within the Beltway is from 5:30 am to 9:30 am to US 29 in Rosslyn, and 3 pm. to 7 p.m. towards the Beltway.
This is an expansion of the previous two and a half hours in each direction, where drivers were legally required to have at least one other person in the car to use the road. (It is believed that up to half of the drivers were violating that law.)
If you drive outside those hours, the road works like any other road.
That does not include changes for passengers traveling in reverse, who may continue to use the highway from DC to the Beltway in the morning and from the Beltway to DC in the afternoon. Trucks are still prohibited on I-66 within the Beltway.
If your solo trip now falls within the extended hours, what are your options?
For drivers caught in the extra hours, the options to avoid a toll are to start a carpool, change commute hours or take the shuttle, as part of the new bus service that has been implemented.
Alternative routes include routes 50 and 29. VDOT officials said they will control adjacent road systems to adjust the traffic signal time as needed.
What is an E-ZPass Flex? How do you get one?
During the new hours, an E-ZPass is now required for all drivers, except motorcycles, to avoid a violation. It requires an E-ZPass Flex mounted on the car and changed to high occupancy vehicle mode to travel legally free with two or more people in the car. The Flex transponder, which emits a beep when it is switched to mode, indicates to the toll system that the car travels as a HOV.
Drivers can exchange an existing Virginia E-ZPass transponder with an E-ZPass Flex, or start a new account online or at many supermarkets in northern Virginia.
There is no additional charge for the Flex transponder, provided it is used for an HOV trip once every six months. If not, Virginia charges a one-time fee of $ 1
For drivers with a Maryland E-ZPass account, regular E-ZPass can also be exchanged for an E-ZPass Flex through that E-ZPass system. I've been calling the state's E-ZPass customer service center. Regular E-ZPass transponders of any state will work to pay a toll on the highway, but only Flex transponders allow passengers to travel for free.
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