Finally, the vehicles that would most benefit commuters by having access to the Express Lanes now have access to the Express Lanes – well, the I66 Express Lanes. Outbidding the Australian company TransUrban, the selected private construction, financing and operation consortium, Express Mobility Partners, comprised of Ferrovial, a subsidiary called Cintra, Meridam and Allan Myers VA, won the bidding for the maintenance of the I66 Express Lanes which will last for 50 years when the lanes are handed back to the state. I95 and I495 are run by the TransUrban entity, and I395 is still HOV3 only.
While the financials will be finalized by summer 2017, construction costs on the interstate is estimated to cost $2.3 billion. To put it in perspective, the I495 Hot Lanes cost $1.4 billion
Currently, the far right HOV lanes on I66 allow only HOV2 vehicles during HOV hours. Trucks have always been excluded from riding in HOV lanes in the past. Between US 29 in Gainesville, Virginia and the Capital Beltway, the left lane on eastbound I-66 is reserved for vehicles with two or more occupants (HOV-2 traffic) from 5:30 to 9:30 a.m. on weekdays, and the left lane on westbound I-66 is reserved for HOV-2 traffic from 3:00 to 7:00 p.m on weekdays. Adding to the already confusing HOV hours, between the Beltway and the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge, the entire eastbound (inbound) roadway is reserved for HOV-2 and Washington Dulles International Airport traffic from 6:30 to 9:00 a.m., and the entire westbound (outbound) roadway is reserved for HOV-2 and Dulles Airport traffic from 4:00 to 6:30 p.m.
Violating the HOV2 restrictions on 66 results in a first HOV violation of $125, a second $250, a third $500 and a fourth $1,000 plus three points on the driver’s license.
With the move to the HOT lanes model (HOT means high occupancy vehicle but is also synonymous with how fast they recharge your credit card when running low on funds), trucks would be allowed access to the to-be-built 2 lane Express Lanes, but they’re going to have to pay for it. Trucks will pay 3 times the toll of cars during non-peak times and 5 times the toll at peak times. What’s the exact price? It’s a percentage based on the dynamic pricing of the lanes – similar to the setup that 95 and 495 operate off of currently.
In rush hour on I95, commuters can expect to pay $24 one way with some tolls being $30 (and mind you, this doesn’t factor in the 95 Express Lanes expansion to Fredericksburg). That means if the 66 Express Lanes are charging $10 to commuters during rush hour, a truck can expect to pay $50. Spokespeople for the project say this may be a cost-effective alternative to trucks with time-sensitive loads. Peak period eastbound 66 will be 5:30 to 9:30 a.m., and the peak period westbound will be 3:00 to 7 p.m.
If you think you can disregard HOT lanes information due to your hybrid vehicle exception, think again. “When the HOT lanes open inside the Beltway, solo drivers of hybrids will lose their exemption. They’ll need to get an E-ZPass to pay the toll or pick up a passenger and use the E-ZPass Flex transponder to claim the free ride as carpoolers.” – WaPo
Currently, you can often spot 18-wheelers with their doors open chatting with a State Trooper on HOT lanes in Virginia and Maryland (2+ axle vehicles are strictly prohibited), so perhaps having the option to shell out would alleviate some headaches for the big haulers as well as commuters who can’t abide by the HOV2 rules but would still like to make it into DC before the COB.