Expansion of Express Lanes on Beltway Debated

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Virginia is considering expanding express toll lanes on the Beltway from the Springfield interchange, through Alexandria and across the Wilson Bridge to the National Harbor area, but local leaders are cautioning the tolls and planning be done correctly.

The cost of tolls along express lanes in Northern Virginia can be sky high.

“I do think the toll pricing is out of control,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said. “I’ve been pretty consistently saying that for a long time.”

He also believes they can be set up the wrong way. In his opinion, the express lanes along the Interstate 95 corridor may not always go the way drivers need them to go.

“I think the biggest colossal fail of toll lanes in probably the history of Virginia, maybe in the country, was building one directional toll lanes on I-95,” he said. “Talk about an inequity, that’s the inequity of all time.”

“I-95 has cemented poor planning, in my mind, for a long time in the 95 corridor because our transportation planners decided that forever people will commute in one direction in the morning and one direction in the evening,” he added. “And I’ve got news for you – that wasn’t happening on 95 before COVID and it’s not going to happen on 95 ever because it’s backed up in both directions.”

Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chair-at-Large Ann Wheeler says if these projects are coming, pandemic traffic levels allow for the construction.

“At the moment, it’s not a bad time to necessarily do it because people are in their houses, so there is some benefit to that,” she said.

These are the same type of toll lanes Maryland is considering for its side of the Beltway and Interstate 270.

Another I-95 express lanes project in Northern Virginia has hit a roadblock. A contractual dispute is delaying the 10-mile extension of express lanes south to Fredericksburg. It was expected to be finished by October, but the Virginia Department of Transportation says the toll operator and a contractor are in arbitration and working to reach an agreement over costs and the project's timeline.

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