Editor: The tolls on I-66 inside the Beltway, today (Oct. 11) reached $37 to drive just eight miles from the Dulles Toll Road/495 to the Key Bridge, and at times have hit nearly $50 since this scheme was first implemented by former Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) in late 2017.
In contrast, today’s I-495 Beltway charge from Tysons to I-395 was only $4.30—a 17-mile distance. Do you see the inequity of paying $37-50 to drive eight miles unless you carpool, versus $4.30 for 17 miles?
And, when I observed these charges while taking the Loudoun Transit Commuter Bus, the congestion on I-66 was as bad as ever. In addition, I see no sign of the promised construction of a third-inbound lane on I-66, which is what this toll revenue was supposed to pay for. That contract was issued nearly 10 months ago, but the toll scheme allows for this lane to not be built until 2025, as I recall.
Adding to the inequity, there is no toll for DC, Maryland and Arlington and Alexandria, motorists even if they drive solo to and from their jobs in Tysons and Reston without paying a dime to use I-66. This summer, Gov. Ralph Northam’s (D) transportation secretary, Shannon Valentine, told News4 the state was looking at tolling lanes in both directions “to keep costs down as we find ways to try to move more people.” But has anything happened? I don’t think so.
Some 10,000 Loudoun County residents commute to DC for work, so this I-66 toll scam hits them hard, as it does to Fairfax County residents and hybrid car owners, who used to be able to drive solo on 66 until the state got rid of that exemption.
Most egregious is that McAuliffe implemented the toll regime after the 2017 statewide elections, so there was no discussion of it among the candidates running, and Democrats won.
As the former Republican County supervisor who represented Loudoun on the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, where this scheme was first unveiled in the summer of 2015, I have followed this closely including failed efforts by the General Assembly to roll back the tolls.
So, with this year’s congressional midterm elections upon us, the I-66 issue is being resurrected in various TV attack ads in the House race between Rep. Barbara Comstock (R) and her Democrat challenger, Jennifer Wexton.
While Wexton opposed the toll scheme during her 2015 re-election campaign, held a news conference with fellow Democrat lawmakers in 2017 to “protest” it and co-sponsored bills to roll the tolls back, she and the fellow Democrats in the General Assembly stood by while Democrat governors McAuliffe and Northam worked with House Appropriations Committee Chairman Del. Chris Jones (R) to kill those bills.
I would argue that Wexton and other Democratic senators and delegates did this so not to cause a split with their fellow inside-the-Beltway Democrats, who have opposed the widening of I-66 for decades and want this toll scam, in part to fund sidewalks and bike trails in Arlington and Falls Church. So, she has paid lip service to the issue and has failed to work in a bipartisan manner to reform this “highway robbery.”
Hence, these TV ads criticizing Wexton on I-66 are on point. Rather than getting a promotion to be the 10th District member of Congress, Sen. Wexton should stay in Richmond and try to work with Democrats and Republicans to end this I-66 scam and if she can’t she also does not deserve re-election to the State Senate in 2019.
I hope all reading this will vote for Barbara Comstock for Congress Nov. 6 because she has a record of solving problems, not just lip service.
Ken Reid, Leesburg