Transportation Systems Casebook/I-66 Inside the Beltway Tolls

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Summary[edit | edit source]

The I-66 inside the beltway tolls is implemented jointly by the Implemented jointly by the Commonwealth Transportation Board, Northern Virginia Transportation Commission and Virginia Department of Transportation. Proposed project follows a multi-year study undertaken in 2011 and completed in 2013. Tolling: Convert I-66 to dynamically-priced toll lanes in both directions during weekday rush hours. The I-66 inside the Beltway project is part of the multimodal project that involves: enhanced bus service throughout the corridor, better access to Metro, new bicycle and pedestrian access, and roadway improvements on local roads. The revenue from the I-66 tolls provide necessary funding for ongoing maintenance and infrastructure improvements in the I-66 corridor.

Annotated List of Actors[edit | edit source]

  • Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). VDOT is responsible for building, maintaining and operating the state's roads, bridges and tunnels
  • Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB). The CTB operates under CTB Policy Handbook dated January 25, 2018. It is chaired by the Secretary of Transportation and has direct approval authority of VDOT and Department of Rail and Public Transportation and have funding allocation authority through the funding mechanism established by statute.
  • Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC). Founded in 1964, in part to represent the interests of the Commonwealth during the establishment of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Agency (WMATA), NVTC is charged with the funding and stewardship of WMATA and the Virginia Railway Express (VRE), which it co-owns. Because Northern Virginia is also home to six bus systems, NVTC works across jurisdictional boundaries to coordinate transit service. Per the terms of the MOA, the CTB has delegated to NVTC the authority to select and administer the I-66 Commuter Choice Program.
  • Arlington County
  • Fairfax County
  • City of Falls Church
  • INRIX. A private corporation aimed towards delivering innovative products for the automotive and transportation industries such as real-time parking and traffic information and solutions that facilitate the safe testing and deployment of autonomous vehicles.
  • Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) supports State and local governments in the design, construction, and maintenance of the Nation's highway system (Federal Aid Highway Program) and various federally and tribal owned lands (Federal Lands Highway Program).
  • Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT): The mission of DRPT is to facilitate and improve the mobility of the citizens of Virginia and to promote the efficient transport of goods and people in a safe, reliable, and cost-effective manner.
  • Transportation Planning Board (TPB). It is the federally designated metropolitan planning organization (MPO) for metropolitan Washington.
  • Transcore. A private corporation aimed towards developing express lanes technology and creating smarter traffic systems.

Timeline of Events[edit | edit source]

  • 1982-I-66 opened inside of I-495 as one of the first interstates in the US limited to HOV-only traffic during peak weekday travel periods.
  • 2009-VA DRPT conducted the I-66 Transit/Transportation Demand Management (TDM) Study.
  • 2012- DOT and DRPT completed the I-66 Multimodal Sudy Inside the beltway, followed by Supplemental Report in 2013.
  • March, 2015-VA Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne announced plans to transform I-66 inside the beltway. CTB approves Governor Terry McAuliffe’s administration’s proposal to transform I-66 inside the beltway.
  • 2016-Governor McAuliffe announces bipartisan compromise to address gridlock on I-66 inside the beltway. Design public hearings are held and
  • March, 2016-I-66 inside the beltway design public hearings held. Information discussed how dynamically-priced toll lanes will operate on I-66 inside the Beltway, locations of the toll gantries and pricing signs.
  • June, 2016-CTB awards construction contracts valued approximately $60M to Tran score, LP (toll integrator contract) and Fort Myer (civil infrastructure) for Tolling System on I-66 inside the Beltway.
  • August, 2016-Governor McAuliffe announced groundbreaking for I-66 Inside the Beltway Improvements Project
  • December, 2017-Tolls for solo drivers and expanded rush hour periods begin.
  • June, 2018 Inside the Beltway Express Lanes Six-Month Performance.
  • 2011 HOV-3+ will travel for free as adopted in the Regional Transportation Plan

Maps of Locations[edit | edit source]

I 66 inside the beltway toll lanes.

I 66 inside the beltway toll lanes exits

Clear Identification of Policy Issues[edit | edit source]

Road pricing is a policy that requires you to pay for the use of a road. There are a lot of different types of road pricing. The aim of the road pricing is to make the price of using the road equal to the cost of using the road, including the negative externalities like pollution, noise, accidents, and etc.


  • Reveals the true economic costs of the road use (including replacement costs) so that intermodal competition would become fairer. Because road prices would be primarily connected with congestion costs, some distributional and locational effects could arise. Costs of driving in non-urban areas would probably fall whereas urban driving costs would increase so that in the medium run, the quality of the public urban transport system would improve. *Reducing the cost of congestion - It has been estimated that traffic congestion in urban cities lowers GDP by as much as 3.50%. Lowering congestion will translate into more benefits for business and citizens. [1]
  • Increased efficiency in public transportation - With increased usage, public transport will attract more funds through fees levied for services. This will add to its corpus and improve the efficiency and quality of public transportation. [2]
  • Lowering air pollution by making use of less cars and motorcycles will also mean a lower degree of air pollution. [3]


  • Congestion tax is vertically inequitable - Those who have higher incomes will pay lower proportion of their income in such charges as compared to those with limited monetary resources. [4]
  • City centers will lose business - Currently, people have the convenience of travelling to shops and urban centers with ease. Imposing a congestion tax will only serve to lowered traffic to city centers and this will impact business adversely. [5]
  • Expensive to implement - Collecting the congestion tax will be a tough task, given that the cost of collection will be high. Even the technologies and manpower needed to administer this tax will be costly. [6]
  • Public transport systems will be overburdened and overcrowded - Increasing the burden on public transport systems will create further problems for the State as more people will take this transportation mode and create a burden on already choked systems. [7]

Narrative of the Case[edit | edit source]

Traffic congestion in many of the nation’s metropolitan areas is endemic, with the cost of congestion—including lost time, wasted fuel, and vehicle wear and tear—topping $78 billion per year for the nation’s 437 urban areas. Transit ridership has recently surged, leaving some systems operating near or beyond their physical capacity. Many rural areas currently do not have any transit services and in areas that do have service, the quality and coverage are inconsistent. The federal government does not bear sole responsibility for the current crisis. All levels of government are failing to keep pace with the demand for transportation investment. Increasingly, policy makers at all levels must use existing revenues simply to attempt to keep pace with the preservation and maintenance of an aging system, leaving few or no resources for vitally needed new capacity and improvements to the system. Meanwhile, the federal Highway Trust Fund faces a near-term insolvency crisis, exacerbated by recent reductions in federal motor fuel tax revenues and truck–related user fee receipts. Our current federal funding approach is weakened by two factors. First, by not being indexed to inflation, the Highway Trust Fund’s purchasing power relative to needs erodes over time. Without periodic correction by Congress, the gap between needs and revenues grows. Second, increasing fleet fuel economy and changing vehicle technology will erode the long-term sustainability of fuel-tax-based revenue mechanisms, as vehicles use less, and different, fuel over the same distance traveled and thus pay lower taxes for the same travel benefit. [8]

In addition to insufficient investment, our system is underpriced. Basic economic theory tells us that when something valuable, such as roadway space, is provided for less than its true cost, demand increases and shortages result. Shortages in our road system are manifested as congestion. As the symptoms of congestion manifest and proliferate deteriorating roadways, bridges, and transit systems will increase and, more accidents and fatalities will be prone to take place in transportation systems. Compounding these effects will be the waste of time robbing businesses of vital economic activity and productivity. Simultaneously, there will be a significant waste of fuels and add on harm to the environment unnecessarily. [9], Congressionally-created Commission Recommends Mileage Tax Instead of Fuel Tax for Transportation Infrastructure Financing. </ref>

By making those who directly use and benefit from the transportation system should, as a general rule and when feasible, bear the primary responsibility for the full cost of system use, including externalities costs placed on others and the environment. Internalizing the full costs of transportation will require more accurately identifying, quantifying, and charging the full range of costs, including the direct costs of transportation improvements and operations, such as pavement damage, and the indirect costs, such as those due to associated congestion, accidents, and pollution. The various applications of tolling and pricing can generally be grouped into two types of approaches, one of which targets tolling and the other comprehensive pricing. Both of which are differentiated by the geographic scope of their application. [10]

Across the United States and around the world, targeted tolls and pricing are a proven technique for charging users who travel on selected roads or within a regional transportation system. Widespread acceptance depends on clear evidence that the fees can be administered in ways that are fair and convenient for users and that are practical and cost-efficient for governments. A New Framework for Transportation Finance 127 network. Advances in technology are encouraging adoption of more sophisticated tolling and pricing practices. In the United States, targeted tolls are mostly used to pay for construction, maintenance, operation, and improvement of individual facilities and sometimes to manage congestion. Facilities that are subject to targeted tolling and pricing are access-controlled, and prices to use them are usually fixed. Examples of targeted tolling and pricing include charging to use selected highways, tunnels, or bridges; pricing access to designated congestion-free lanes; and charging to enter cordoned areas prone to heavy congestion. Targeted tolling and pricing approaches refer to direct user fee mechanisms that are administered at the local, regional, or state levels and that focus on pricing access to and/or distance traveled on individual facilities or regional networks. Specific targeted approaches include tolling applications (such as a tolled bridge or highway), high occupancy toll (HOT)/ managed lanes, and cordon pricing. Targeted tolling and pricing rates can be fixed as a set rate for facility access or for specific distances, or they can be variable, with dynamic rates that can change based on considerations such as type of vehicle or time of day/level of congestion (typically referred to as congestion pricing). [11] Targeted tolling and pricing are not feasible strategies for revenue generation at the federal level because they focus on specific roads or networks of facilities in defined geographic areas. They are nonetheless important tools that some states, localities, and regions use to generate funding for surface transportation investment. In addition, the systems and architecture that would be required to implement comprehensive pricing at the federal level could be leveraged to facilitate broader use of targeted tolling and pricing—particularly congestion pricing—at the state and local levels. [12]

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), in partnership with the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT), developed and introduced the conversion of I-66 inside the Beltway between I-495 (the Capital Beltway) and Rosslyn, to variably-priced toll lanes and extend the existing morning and evening high occupancy vehicle (HOV) periods from a 2.5-hour window to a 4-hour window between 5:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. traveling eastbound and 3:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. traveling westbound to better manage the travel demand in the corridor.[13] Beginning in 2017, single occupancy vehicles (SOVs) were allowed to use the lanes during the restricted hours by paying a toll, and vehicles with two or more occupants (HOV-2+) were no longer tolled. Beginning in 2021, which is consistent with the opening of the express lanes project along I-66 outside the beltway, both SOVs and vehicles with two occupants (HOV- 2) will be required to pay a toll to use the lanes, and HOV-3+ will not be tolled. In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and 23 CFR 771, a Categorical Exclusion (CE) has been prepared in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration for an electronic tolling system under the federal Value Pricing Pilot Program. [14]

During the initial launch of the I-66 tolls lanes, there was vast wave of criticism against their continuing used and rates. Several Virginia lawmakers called for the state to suspend tolls on I-66, condemning initial variable tolls rates that went as high as $40 as an outrageous and unacceptable measure. Amongst critics their argument stated that the currently application of the inside the beltway tolls rates were very different from what we briefed people it would be. He said VDOT told him that as many as 76 commuters paid $40 at the peak of the morning rush hour on Tuesday, out of about 11,000 vehicles that went through the system during the morning rush. But, it is still unclear what the average toll is. In a presentation to the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission in September 2015, Deputy Transportation Secretary Nick Donohue said the tolls were projected to be about $7 going eastbound in the morning rush hour and about $9 westbound in the evening. The tolls are intended to vary significantly depending on congestion. The tolls are dynamic, meaning they change according to demand and volume of traffic to maintain a target speed. The tolls are calculated every six minutes. During Monday’s commutes, the average speed was 57 mph consistently.[15]

Other large metropolitan locations have developed and enacted road pricing measures in order to combat the growing effects of congestion. One example is London, which enacted strict congestion pricing through many of its central districts in 2003. If a motorist wants to bring their vehicles into central London between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m., they have to pay a fee of roughly $15. In the first 10 years, the fees have netted about $1.6 billion, most of which has been reinvested back into transit, including improving the city’s bus network. Several other cities have also experimented with congestion pricing. In Stockholm, traffic dropped by an average of 20 percent after the city introduced its congestion fees. Though 70 percent of Swedes were initially opposed to the tax, after a few years of lighter traffic, 70 percent support now the tax. [16] The electronic road pricing (ERP) system that was launched in YEAR continues to be carried out in Singapore. In July 1989, the Cabinet gave the go-ahead for the ERP system, with an initial target to introduce it in five years' time. The $197-million system, produced by a Singapore-Japan consortium led by Philips Singapore, underwent rounds of tests to its gantries and in-vehicle units for 12 months before the system's launch. The system was implemented in stages, beginning with the CBD, and on the Central Expressway, Pan-Island Expressway and the East Coast Parkway in the following two years. It was later extended to other expressways and major arterial roads, such as Orchard Road. In preparation for the launch, motorists had to make appointments at vehicle inspection centers and workshops to get their vehicles fitted with an in-vehicle unit. [17] Currently, the charge period in the central RZ is in effect from 7:00AM to 7:00PM (Monday through Friday) and charge rates vary from zero to approximately US$2.00 per crossing at a charge point. The rates vary from zero to about US$4.00. Also, a few of the arterial streets are priced weekdays from 7:00AM to 9:30AM and the prices vary from zero to about US$0.80. Over the past thirty years, the expansion of the congestion pricing program has been accompanied by major reforms and expansion in vehicle taxation policies as well as significant enhancements to public transportation services including introduction and expansion of mass rapid transit, light rail and bus systems. [18]

Northern Virginia is really taking a significant approach towards comprehensive transporation policy, naturally a wide array ofattention is being made on I-66 inside the Beltway. Moving forwrds there will be a new project coming online for I-66 outside of the Beltway. All of these things seem like separate, different projects, but they’re actually all designed to work together. The magnitude and reach of these projects are required for the larger redevelopment that is happening in the region. The projected growth is estimated to take place not only in Arlington but also Tysons Corner, and other surrounding periphery urban locations. The goal is aimed towards large experiments in urban redesign and redevelopment. So all of this has to be taken in this bigger context because they’re not just transportation projects in isolation, they’re part of what’s going on across the entire region. Part of the success is directed towards actually reducing travel times. Travel times were 10-12 minutes compared with 15-30 minutes last December. In addition, travel speeds on I-66 averaged 52.4 miles per hour (mph) during morning commutes compared to 45.7 mph in February 2017. Drivers on parallel arterial roadways including Routes 7, 29 and 50, and the George Washington Memorial Parkway, experienced similar or improved travel speeds and times. The application and dispersion of funds is and will continue to be an essential element towards the feasibility and vitality of the inside the Beltway toll lanes. Funding is being directed towards a stable revenue stream to support multimodal investments on I-66 and complementary corridors adjacent to I-66. Toll revenue generated from the I-66 inside the Beltway Express Lanes supports the I-66 Commuter Choice Program run by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission. All toll revenues after operating costs will be allocated to transit and other multimodal initiatives that provide a direct benefit for those who travel on the I-66 corridor by the Commission. Fairfax Connector Express Bus Service between Vienna/Fairfax-GMU and Pentagon Metrorail stations, Fairfax County ($3,452,618). [19]

Lessons Learned[edit | edit source]

  • Lack of political support and long term commitment is indicative of a faulty finance transportation policy
  • Poor popular perception reflects poor general awareness road conditions and capacity. towards
  • Congestion pricing is considered as inequitable often suggest that it will harm those with lower incomes who will be forced to pay additional costs or be priced off the roads
  • Mass transit systems are ill-equipped to handle rapid passenger surges.
  • Shuffling traffic around to other surrounding roads is not the best methods to handle mass congestion.

Discussion Questions[edit | edit source]

  • Exactly where does the toll revenue go?
  • Should other U.S. cities use congestion pricing to ease traffic?
  • Which measures should be installed in order to make congestion pricing politically permissible?
  • Aside from congestion pricing, which other mechanisms should be set in place in order to alleviate congestion?
  • Does congestion pricing hurt local business?

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Most transportation pricing systems usually require several months or even years to achieve its full effects. One of congestion pricing’s greatest strengths is convincing drivers to skip trips they don’t really need to take, or convince them to go at another time. Though the express lane scheme targets commuters, not everyone who travels during those periods is going to work. The percentages vary by metro area and travel corridor but the data show that about half of peak period trips are for other purposes. A long term commitment is required in order to see this if congestion pricing can influence where people choose to live.

Complete Reference[edit | edit source]

  1. [1], Road Pricing: the case for and against.
  2. [2], Congestion Charges for Urban Cities : Pros and Cons.
  3. [3], Congestion Charges for Urban Cities : Pros and Cons.
  4. [4], Congestion Charges for Urban Cities : Pros and Cons.
  5. [5], Road Pricing: the case for and against.
  6. [6], Pros and Cons of a Congestion Charge.
  7. [7], Pros and Cons of a Congestion Charge.
  8. [8], Paying Our Way.
  9. [9], Paying Our Way.
  10. [10], Land Use and Transportation Planning in Response to Congestion Problems: A Review and Critique.
  11. [11], Paying Our Way.
  12. [12], Transit and Congestion Pricing.
  13. [13], VDOT Public Notice.
  14. [14], High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) Lanes - Rules and FAQs.
  15. [15], Upset about the I-66 tolls? These Virginia lawmakers are with you.
  16. [16], Why congestion pricing might work in LA .
  17. [17], Electronic Road Pricing turns 20 in April: Notable milestones over the years .
  18. [18], Electronic Road Pricing turns 20 in April: Notable milestones over the years .