After one-way tolls inside the Beltway topped $40 this week, a group of elected officials in Virginia is calling for the tolls to be temporarily suspended.
Democratic members of the state General Assembly called the rates unacceptable and said drivers should get improved roads for the price.
"I was very disappointed to see that we started with the tolling before we actually made the improvements," state Sen. Chap Petersen said. "You can't start charging people for lanes that were previously free."
Sen. Jennifer Wexton was more blunt.
"Let's call this plan what it is, the way that it's been rolled out. It's highway robbery," she said.
$30 toll for I-495 > Roslyn Exit 73 👀 Car poolers, set your EZ Pass Flex into HOV mode to avoid tolls like this; solo drivers, you could see rush hour rates rise and fall pic.twitter.com/klrK9c7EzN— Justin Finch (@JustinNBC4) December 4, 2017
VDOT said the tolls are working how they should and are shortening commute times.
The average round-trip price for a car with at least two people inside on Monday was $14.50. The state had expected it to be $17.
“Contrary to the continued political rhetoric of critics, I-66 Inside the Beltway Express Lanes tolls have been based on sound planning and with the ultimate goal of improving travel for everyone,” state Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne said in a statement. “We want to move more people, improve connectivity and provide additional travel choices. This is about unlocking gridlock on I-66 as Governor McAuliffe pledged.”
The tolls are in effect on weekdays between 5:30 and 9:30 a.m. for eastbound lanes and from 3 to 7 p.m. on westbound lanes.
There are no longer any exceptions for people travelling to Dulles International Airport or for owners of clean fuel and hybrid vehicles.
Carpoolers can travel on the I-66 express lanes for free, but they need to use a special pass called the E-ZPass Flex. The pass features a switch to enter HOV mode and signal you’re carpooling. Police patrolling for violators can detect when HOV mode is activated, officials say.
Anyone who drives in the Express Lanes without a pass will face a $12.50 fine.