Tolls higher than $30 — for the trip from I-495 to D.C. — have been reported since the HOT lanes launched on Monday. The new system replaces the former HOV-only rush hour regime with one that also allows solo drivers to pay, while eliminating exemptions for fuel efficient vehicles and those heading to Dulles airport.
Today, lower tolls — peaking around $23.50 — were reported, though that is still well above the $7-9 tolls originally predicted by VDOT. Meanwhile, traffic on alternative east-west arteries, like Route 50, has increased since the tolls went into effect.
VDOT says Route 50 has seen 8-percent increase in traffic since 66 toll began. Here's what traffic looks like on 50 inside Beltway. pic.twitter.com/ISaenPuolT
— Neal Augenstein (@AugensteinWTOP) December 6, 2017
VDOT says the toll prices are demand-based, which presumably means that some drivers are choosing to pay upwards of $30 for a one-way trip to the Roosevelt Bridge.
For those of means, along with bus riders and carpoolers, the change has at least resulted in a breeze of a commute on I-66 — higher average speeds during peak times than before the change. The average speed during Monday and Tuesday’s commutes was 57 miles per hour, according to VDOT.
Should VDOT decide to lower toll prices, it might result in slowdowns and congestion, some fear.
So what would be the price most people would be willing to pay? Let’s find out.
The rollout of the I-66 Express Lanes began this morning (Monday) with tolls already on the high side for solo drivers, and high prices could be the norm depending on traffic.
Tolls as high as $25-30 were reported this morning for non-HOV drivers heading from the Capital Beltway to Washington, D.C. on eastbound I-66.
— Julie Wright (@thejuliewright) December 4, 2017
And when an ARLnow reporter logged onto the 66 Express Lanes app just before 8:30 a.m., solo drivers could still expect to be hit in their wallets, even just traveling eastbound on I-66 within Arlington.
At that time, a trip from Sycamore Street in East Falls Church to Rosslyn would cost a solo rider $11.50, while a separate journey from the Glebe Road exit to the Pentagon would cost $7. A trip from the Beltway to Washington on I-66 cost $21 at the time.
A fact sheet on the Virginia Department of Transportation’s website said tolling “will be dynamic and will fluctuate depending on the amount of traffic on the Express Lanes.”
“As with other Express Lanes facilities, dynamic pricing will manage demand for the lanes to provide users a reliable trip,” VDOT continued. “When traffic volumes increase, tolls will rise, and when traffic volumes decrease, toll rates will fall.”
⚠️ Reminder: 66 inside the Beltway is now E-ZPass only during rush hours. If you want to travel for free, you need to be HOV-2 with an E-ZPass Flex in HOV mode. Otherwise, you can pay a toll with your E-ZPass. pic.twitter.com/UJywT6MKhX
— VDOT Northern VA (@VaDOTNOVA) December 4, 2017
Eastbound I-66 inside the Beltway is free for carpoolers with at least two people in the car and an E-ZPass Flex device set to HOV. Solo drivers can take I-66 towards D.C. in the morning, as long as they’re willing to pay a toll that will vary with demand.
The High Occupancy Toll restrictions and charges will apply only to the peak demand direction during rush hour — 5:30-9:30 a.m. in the morning and 3-7 p.m. in the evening.
Traffic appeared to be flowing relatively freely on I-66 this morning from the overpass by Washington-Lee High School, where Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) broke ground on the HOT Lanes last year.
Virginia State Police had warned drivers to plan ahead and recognize the change in traffic patterns at the Express Lanes, and to not stop or back up.
And VSP spokeswoman Corinne Geller said there were “[no] significant crashes or traffic problems to report with this morning’s rush hour.” Based on social media accounts, eastbound I-66 inside the Beltway experienced delays on the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge heading into D.C. — a fairly typical occurrence for the morning rush.
“State police thanks all the motorists who put the extra effort into planning ahead and being prepared for the I-66 changes,” Geller said.
Update: Delay: EB on I-66 at T. Roosevelt Bridge in Arlington Co. No lanes closed. Minor Delays.8:54AM
— 511 Northern VA (@511northernva) December 4, 2017
Image No. 1: screenshot via 66 Express Lanes app
After more than a year of work, the switchover from HOV to HOT lanes on I-66 is upon us, and Virginia State Police are asking commuters to be prepared for changes to their routines.
Starting with Monday’s morning commute, the inbound lanes of I-66 inside the Beltway will be free for carpoolers with at least two people in the car — and, now, an E-ZPass Flex device set to HOV. All other drivers will be able to take I-66 towards D.C. in the morning, as long as they’re willing to pay a toll that will vary with demand (as announced by electronic signs).
The High Occupancy Toll restrictions and charges will apply only to the peak demand direction during rush hour — 5:30-9:30 a.m. in the morning and 3-7 p.m. in the evening. During the evening commute, lone drivers heading outbound (westbound) on I-66 will be charged, even if they’re heading to Dulles airport.
Another change: drivers of hybrid vehicles who were previously able to use I-66 during HOV-only times will now have to pay.
In a press release, below, Virginia State Police said Sunday night that drivers should get ready for changes to the morning commute and a stepped-up police presence along I-66.
With the opening of the new 66 Express Lanes, Virginia State Police are encouraging all drivers to plan in advance if needing to travel I-66, especially during the Monday morning commute on Dec. 4, 2017. State police will have additional troopers on I-66 to help ease the flow of traffic, especially as motorists become accustomed to the new Express Lane changes.
“If you will be traveling I-66 on Monday morning and/or afternoon, then please plan ahead and before your trip research your options with the new Express Lanes,” said 1st Sgt. Steve Mittendorff, Virginia State Police Area 45 Office Commander. “Your morning and afternoon drives on I-66 inside the Beltway are going to look much different from what you are used to, so take advantage of the maps and detailed information provided at http://www.66expresslanes.org. Familiarize yourself with where the traffic lanes change to decide if you want or can use the Express Lanes on I-66 inside the Beltway during the designated hours.”
Plan Ahead. Recognizing and being prepared in advance of the change in traffic patterns at the Express Lanes entrance will help keep traffic moving safely and smoothly along I-66 during the morning and afternoon rush hours.
Don’t stop or back up. Drivers should never stop or back up in an attempt to avoid the Express Lanes. If you accidentally find yourself in the Express Lanes, then just keep going in the Express Lanes and get off at the first exit. Go to http://www.66expresslanes.org and follow the directions on how to pay the toll online. Backing up or stopping puts you at risk of causing a crash and being seriously injured or killed.
Update at 3:25 p.m. – Police have reopened the left-hand lane of westbound I-66. Traffic is proceeding slowly. Drivers can still expect delays as firefighters leave the scene.
Earlier: A vehicle fire closed the Rosslyn Tunnel on I-66 just after 3 p.m. this afternoon.
According to scanner traffic, a vehicle caught fire in the westbound lanes at mile marker 74.5. Traffic cameras showed the car had pulled over into the right shoulder.
Virginia State Police shut the tunnel to traffic heading west, with firefighters from the Arlington County Fire Department on scene to help put out the flames.
From the traffic cameras, there appeared to be some flames from the car’s underside, but firefighters quickly put out any fire just before 3:20 p.m.
Drivers in the area can expect delays.
Hot Item for the Holidays: E-ZPass — With tolling set to begin on what are now the I-66 HOT lanes, stores in Arlington and elsewhere in Northern Virginia are having trouble keeping E-ZPass transponders in stock, particularly the E-ZPass Flex devices that will allow carpoolers to continue to use I-66 for free. [WJLA]
W&OD Trail Changes Discussed — Officials are considering options for separating cyclists from those on foot on the W&OD Trail. “I love the potential separation,” Arlington County Board member John Vihstadt is quoted as saying. “I think that will be well-received by both sets of users.” [InsideNova]
Dad Speaks Out After W-L Grad Son ODs — “As an admiral I helped run the most powerful military on Earth, but I couldn’t save my son from the scourge of opioid addiction,” writes retired Adm. James Winnefeld, in an Atlantic article entitled “No Family Is Safe From This Epidemic.” Jonathan Winnefeld, a Washington-Lee High School grad, died in Denver this past September “after a long and honorable battle with addiction.” [The Atlantic, Legacy, Denver Post]
More on Accessory Dwelling Vote — A GGW writer argues that while the Arlington County Board is to be commended for allowing the creation of basement apartments that can be rented out, it punted on the issue of backyard cottages at its Tuesday meeting. The Board’s action on so-called Accessory Dwelling Units included instructing the County Manager to study setbacks from the property line for detached accessory structures before any are approved under new rules. [Greater Greater Washington]
New Incentive for Sustainable Buildings — “Arlington County will pioneer Virginia’s first Commercial-Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) program–a public-private partnership to provide affordable, long-term financing for projects to improve the energy or water efficiency of commercial buildings in the county.” [Arlington County]
DCA Tweets at Teigen — Model and social media personality Chrissy Teigen told followers yesterday that she left “a very large mom bra” under her seat on a flight that arrived at a D.C. area airport. Reagan National Airport’s official Twitter account responded by recommending that Teigen stop by the Spanx store in the airport for a replacement. [Twitter]
‘Age in Place’ Tax Deferral Questioned — Mortgage and title companies are reportedly not big fans of Arlington’s Real Estate Tax Relief Program, which allows older residents who meet certain income requirements to defer property tax payments until the home is sold. The system has sometimes sprung large tax bills on unsuspecting heirs, real estate agents and mortgage settlement officers. [Falls Church News-Press]
Flickr pool photo by Michael Coffman
I-66 HOT Lanes Open Dec. 4 — Beginning on Dec. 4, the new toll booths along I-66 will be switched on and solo drivers will be able to use I-66 during rush hour, for a price. Cars with two or more occupants will be able to continue using I-66 for free, as long as they have an E-ZPass Flex transponder. [WAMU]
Transportation Secretary Regrets Streetcar Cancellation — “As he prepares to wrap up a four-year tenure as Virginia’s secretary of transportation, Aubrey Layne said the cancellation of the Columbia Pike streetcar project ranks as one of the major disappointments of his tenure.” [InsideNova]
Investigation into ANC Cop Photo — “Officials at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall now say they are conducting an internal investigation after a photo surfaced depicting several officers who patrol Arlington National Cemetery smiling and laughing while pretending to beat a fellow co-worker. A source within the base police department shared the photos with FOX 5 and says the officers took the pictures on Thanksgiving Day while on duty at the cemetery.” [Fox 5 DC]
Roaches Run Now Sanctuary for DCA Drivers — The Roaches Run Waterfowl Sanctuary was first established by FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps in the mid-1930s. What was once intended as a tranquil place to watch waterfowl is currently mostly being used by drivers waiting to pick up passengers at Reagan National Airport. [Falls Church News-Press]
NBC Correspondent is Arlington Resident — NBC News correspondent Peter Alexander lives in Arlington with his wife, ABC 7’s Alison Starling, and their two daughters. He recently shared ten pieces of wisdom he’s learned over the years. [Northern Virginia Magazine]
Arlington Store Featured on VOA — Wild Birds Unlimited, the store for bird watching enthusiasts along Lee Highway, was featured in a recent Voice of America report about the “popular American hobby” of bird feeding, which “connects people to nature.” The store and owner Michael Zuiker also publish a biweekly column on ARLnow.com. [Voice of America]
The incident started just after 9 a.m. near the intersection of N. Lynn Street and Lee Highway.
According to scanner traffic, the suspect is a panhandler who robbed another homeless man in October. He was spotted in Rosslyn this morning and led police on a brief foot chase. The suspect reportedly dodged a Taser and then outran police as he he fled into the woods along I-66.
The suspect is described as a white male with a shaved head, wearing a hooded sweatshirt and blue jeans.
Police are setting up a perimeter and bringing in a K-9 unit and the U.S. Park Police helicopter to search for the suspect.
— ArlingtonCountyPD (@ArlingtonVaPD) November 15, 2017
Charlottesville Solidarity Rally Held — Arlington County Board vice chair Katie Cristol was among those who spoke at a “Rally of Solidarity for Charlottesville” in Courthouse yesterday. The rally was intended to “actively condemn bigotry and racial hatred through a series of speeches, songs, actions, and a moment of silence.” [Facebook, WJLA]
Alexandria Considering New Names for Route 1 — An Alexandria group charged with considering new names for Jefferson Davis Highway (Route 1) is soliciting suggestions through an online form and two public hearings. [City of Alexandria]
Flashing Lights on I-66 — If you drove on I-66 this weekend and noticed flashing lights from equipment overhead, don’t worry: you’re not getting a ticket. Instead, VDOT is testing new toll equipment. Non-HOV drivers are expected to begin paying a toll to use I-66 inside the Beltway in December. [VDOT, NBC Washington]
Old Oak Tree Saved — A “mighty” oak tree that pre-dates the Civil War was saved from being removed during the construction of a new home thanks to a petition by neighbors and a developer willing to consider their concerns. The tree, at the corner of N. Nottingham and 27th streets, is 18 feet in circumference and one of Arlington’s 100 designated “champion” trees. [Washington Post]
WeWork Offering Free Space on Mondays — Coworking provider WeWork is offering free workspace at its D.C. and Northern Virginia locations — including its Arlington location in Crystal City — on Mondays as part of a new promotion dubbed “#SummerMondays.” The promotion runs through the end of September. An RSVP is required. [WeWork]
Photo courtesy Peter Golkin
Units from the Arlington County Fire Department responded to the scene under Rosslyn Gateway Park with Virginia State Police just after 3:30 p.m after reports of the crash.
Three patients were transported to the hospital with injuries, according to scanner traffic.
Officers and crews from the Virginia Department of Transportation blocked all lanes of westbound I-66 and diverted traffic in the area onto Lee Highway. Delays are likely to continue into the evening rush hour, although police said they will look to reopen one westbound lane soon.
— WTOP Traffic (@WTOPtraffic) July 14, 2017
Rough Day on the Roads — An already rain-soaked Thursday was made worse after a tree fell across the eastbound lanes of I-66, blocking the highway during the morning rush hour. Later, the southbound lanes of the GW Parkway were closed near the Key Bridge due to a crash. [WJLA, Washington Post]
Arlington Helps Out With Falls Church Graduation — Arlington voluntarily shifted its high school graduation schedule to help Falls Church’s George Mason High School get a graduation ceremony spot at D.A.R. Constitution Hall last month. [InsideNova]
Nearby: Affordable Housing Decline in Alexandria — There was a 90 percent drop in affordable housing units in Alexandria between 2000 and 2017 and the decline is likely to continue without the construction of more dedicated affordable units. [WAMU]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
A plan to revamp Interstate 66 is threatening the character of the Custis Memorial Parkway, the highway’s name inside the Capital Beltway, historic preservation advocates said today (Wednesday).
Preservation Arlington, a nonprofit group that looks to protect Arlington’s architectural heritage, released its annual list of “endangered historic places,” with the parkway named as one.
The Virginia Department of Transportation is in the midst of an ambitious plan known as “Transform 66” to widen I-66 from the Dulles Connector Road to the Fairfax Drive exit in Ballston within the existing eastbound right-of-way.
But Preservation Arlington said the plan could undermine “the roadway’s unique parkway design.”
“Plantings are no longer maintained. Corten steel guardrails and sign supports are being replaced with standard, steel interstate highway components,” the group wrote. “The new toll road gantries, and large, new sign supports (and highway signage) on nearby arterial roads have further eroded the parkway’s ability to blend into its surroundings.”
Another piece of history under threat, according to Preservation Arlington, are the Education Center and Planetarium, chosen last week by the Arlington County School Board for an extra 500-600 high school seats and a renovation.
“While some exterior improvements will be necessary it is hoped that this will be minimal and will not alter the appearance of the historic structure,” Preservation Arlington wrote. “Designed as a headquarters building to show the strength and commitment to education, the building is iconic in our community.”
Also under threat, according to Preservation Arlington:
- 1000-series Metro cars, retired this month for safety reasons
- Community buildings like those for churches and service organizations
- Four Mile Run industrial area
- Housing stock from before World War II, with the continued loss of these homes “erasing Arlington’s architectural and community history.”
Image via VDOT presentation
Arlington Woman Invented ‘Monopoly’ Precursor — An Arlington woman may have been the “real” inventor of the board game Monopoly. Lizzie Magie, who died in Arlington in 1948, created a board game very similar to Monopoly. Three decades later, Charles Darrow, taking inspiration from Magie’s game, created Monopoly and sold it to Parker Brothers. [Arlington Magazine]
I-66 Tolls Expected to Start in December — New tolls on single-occupancy vehicles on I-66 are now expected to take effect in December. Electronic toll signs have started going up near I-66 on-ramps. [Twitter, NBC Washington]
Krupicka Having Fun Running Donut Stores — Former member of the Virginia House of Delegates Rob Krupicka is enjoying his second act: owning Sugar Shack donut stores in Arlington, Alexandria and now D.C. [Washington City Paper]
Wages Drop in Arlington — Mirroring regional and national trends, average weekly wages in Arlington dropped 1.4 percent, to $1,677, in the last three months of 2016. Arlington ranked as the seventh-highest average weekly wage in the country. [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Bekah Richards
Refinements are being made to a plan to build a pedestrian and cyclist bridge in East Falls Church, which has undergone big changes in the past few months.
A previous version came under fire earlier this year for what critics viewed as a negative impact on the surrounding neighborhood and a perceived lack of community input, as well as design concerns. In previous renderings, the bridge had a trussed roof and was dark red.
The Virginia Dept. of Transportation has proposed building a new bridge over Lee Highway near the W&OD trail as part of its “Transform 66” interstate widening and tolling project.
If built, VDOT says the bridge would improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists. The trail currently crosses Lee Highway at the busy intersection with Fairfax Drive.
Now, the bridge has no trusses along its top and is instead what Amanda Baxter, special projects development manager at VDOT, described at a meeting Tuesday as an “earth tone gray.” Baxter said other refinements include shaped fencing and renderings showing nearby landscaping, as well as locations for relocated trail shelters to provide a rest area for all users.
She added that the lighting on the bridge is still up for discussion. Currently, the bridge has acorn-style lights in its center that would be maintained by Dominion Virginia Power. VDOT and local residents agree the lights could be better, but they are limited to lights in Dominion’s inventory.
Baxter said the Northern Virginia Regional Parks Authority, which owns land nearby, is instead willing to help out with maintaining different lights.
“I think they’ve heard you too and are willing to step up and look to other options they can maintain,” she said.
Also still up for discussion are the installation of noise walls at certain areas along I-66, which VDOT is required to offer to provide under federal law if the noise level goes higher than 66 decibels.
Neighbors who would directly benefit from the walls would be balloted on whether they should be installed, Baxter said, although some attendees raised concerns about the walls appearing to enclose the neighborhood behind them and block light.
And local resident Sandy Chesrown, representing the Lee Highway Alliance, said the group would continue to push for public art to be installed nearby.
“We see this as a gateway statement to Falls Church and Arlington County, and we will continue to lobby for some sort of public art,” she said.
VDOT plans to award a design/build contract for the entire “Transform 66” project, including constructing the bridge, at the end of this year. Building work is projected to take from mid-2018 until 2021.
Bloomberg BNA Expansion — Crystal City-based Bloomberg BNA will invest $5.5 million to expand in Arlington County and create up to 125 new jobs. Governor McAuliffe approved a $500,000 grant from the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund to assist with the project. [Augusta Free Press]
Suspect Has Missing Ex-Wife — The Capital Area Regional Fugitive Task Force arrested a man in Arlington this weekend in connection with the 2009 disappearance of his girlfriend, who lived in D.C. Now Jose Rodriguez-Cruz also has been tied to the disappearance of his first wife, who was last seen in 1989. Arlington County police have opened an investigation into her disappearance. [WTOP] [NBC Washington]
Overnight I-66 Closures — VDOT will be closing part of eastbound I-66 for 20 minute intervals tonight for toll construction. Beginning at 9:30 p.m. and running until 5 a.m. on Wednesday, closures will occur on eastbound I-66 between I-495 north and Lee Highway.
Baba Now Open — Baba, the comfy bar and cafe in the basement of Ambar in Clarendon, is now open after some unexpected delays. The “big draw” of Baba, according to the Post’s Maura Judkis, is its made-from-scratch cocktails. [Washington Post]
Ballston Wi-Fi to Launch Today — The “BLinked” gigabit wi-fi service in Ballston is expected to launch today. The free service will offer a high-speed and seamless internet connection throughout public spaces in Ballston. [Twitter]
Signature Theatre 2017-18 Season Announced — Shirlington’s Signature Theatre has announced the lineup for its 2017-18 season, with eight marquee shows and six short-run cabarets. [Signature Theatre]
Reminder: Storm Drains Empty to Waterways — “Our local waterways literally go with the flow. That means rain water heads into nearby storm drains and then quickly ends up in local streams like Four Mile Run. Those streams flow into the Potomac River, the source for much of the region’s drinking water.” [Arlington County]
Obit: William Coleman — William T. Coleman, Jr., a civil rights lawyer and cabinet member who broke racial barriers, has died. Coleman is noted in Arlington for his role, as U.S. Secretary of Transportation, in authorizing the controversial construction of I-66 inside the Beltway. [NBC News]
Arlington Players Rack Up WATCH Awards — The Arlington Players have received seven Washington Area Theatre Community Honors awards, tying an Alexandria theater company for the highest award total of 2017. [InsideNova]
Hat tip to Eric Dobson. Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley