Prices to travel on the I-66 Express Lanes jumped to a new record high for several minutes Thursday morning, forcing solo drivers to pay $44 to use the lanes to travel one way.
A surge of traffic trying to escape congestion caused by a crash on I-395 likely caused the price to spike. The $44 toll was only in effect for about six minutes, the Virginia Department of Transportation said.
Only drivers who weren't traveling in a carpool had to pay the $44 fare. It's unclear if anyone actually was charged that record-high fare to travel on the lanes.
The toll prices, which fluctuate based on how many drivers are on the road, previously topped out at $40, News4 reported.
The I-66 Express Lanes were opened to solo drivers for the first time Dec. 4. On their first day, drivers saw peak fares reach $34.50 for a trip from I-495 North to the District.
The high prices sparked outrage on social media: many drivers didn't want to pay such high prices to access the toll road.
The average cost of travelling both ways on the Express Lanes during opening week was $14.27, according to VDOT.
But others said the tolls were working as intended.
VDOT said vehicles were moving about 55 mph over the first days of dynamic tolling, compared to about 34 mph at this time last year. The toll prices are designed to rise when many people want to use the road and lower when road use is lessened.
“We’re already seeing improved travel times,” Michelle Holland, a spokeswoman for VDOT told News4.
Those high prices caused concerns for single drivers, and a Loudoun County, Virginia, lawmaker wants to put a cap on pricing as well as shrink the amount of time the tolls can be collected.
“This is just way over the top,” said Supervisor Ron Meyer, R-Loudoun County. “It's only affordable for people who are mega millionaires, and it's just not appropriate."
Meyer is on the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, the agency that receives the revenue generated by the I-66 tolls. He said the increased money would definitely help with other projects, but the costs are too high.
"We like the extra transit revenue," Meyer said. “We want to build more projects, and people are getting a service being able to drive single occupancy vehicles on (Interstate) 66. But it needs to be affordable."
Holland said capping the toll prices are going to result in clogged roads.
"If you cap it, it's not going to works as well," she said. "The whole reason we're doing this is to provide a more manageable and a more consistent commute. If they choose to pay that price or if they carpool, they're going to get through 66 in a more reliable timeframe."