Outrage over high tolls on I-66 is getting a lot of attention in Richmond as lawmakers consider several toll-relief bills.
Tolls on I-66 have jumped to shocking levels, hitting $47 in January for the inside-the-Beltway one-way commute.
"We already pay our taxes, now we have to pay an extra toll? No. Thank you very much,” said a commuter in Tysons.
The I-66 Express Lanes are free for carpoolers with two people in the vehicle. The cost for single drivers averages $10.70 a day, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation. But to keep traffic flowing, those tolls spike to deter more people from getting on the road.
Now, lawmakers are fighting back.
One of the many so-called toll relief bills going through the Virginia legislature would activate reverse tolls. That means people who live in D.C. and work out in Virginia would be charged also.
Businesses in Tysons Corner employee hundreds of people from D.C. and Maryland, including Deneen Gaynor. She lives in Capitol Heights and takes I-66 in a reverse commute--westbound in the morning eastbound in the evening, which means she pays no tolls.
"It’s already a really long commute from Maryland having to go through the traffic on 395 and 66. It has been a blessing to not have tolls. I wouldn't’t be able to afford to come to work, especially with it being so far and how much gas it takes to get here," said Gaynor.
"Definitely unfair,” said another commuter.
But Virginia Delegate Tim Hugo, a Republican who represents parts of Fairfax and Prince William counties, said a reverse commute toll is all about fairness.
"If you live in Fairfax or Loudoun or even Fauquier and come in, you're paying the toll in the morning, you pay the toll in the afternoon. If you live in Arlington and going out and going to Fairfax or to Ballston or even out west, you don't have to pay that toll. What we're just trying to do is make it fair for everybody. Fair for a lot of our constituents who are in western Fairfax, western Prince William, or Fauquier," said Hugo.
Critics said a toll that has nothing to do with congestion relief could have a detrimental effect, especially on businesses thinking about moving to Northern Virginia.
"I lived in Boston before this and one thing I can tell you is that in Boston you don't want to get lost. You get lost once, you end up paying $6 just for being lost. The last thing we want is this new tech boom area taxes going to have the same issue. Especially if you're trying to get companies like Amazon to move in, little things like that could be a huge determining factor," said Mario Bruno.
VDOT said the tolls are designed to manage congestion and provide a faster and more reliable commute.
Lawmakers are also trying to scale back the I-66 tolling hours from eight hours a day to five hours a day.