The dreaded I-66 tolls overhaul has revealed its ugly head once more in the General Assembly. As well, amendments traveling through House and Senate committees will allow Virginia’s transportation system to begin imposing new fees on car titles and make way for departments to switch over to the federal REAL ID system.
According to a report from WTOP, The House Appropriations Committee will be issuing amendments that will require the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to review and determine if changes will need to be made to tolling algorithms on I-66. Drivers on the congestion-ridden Beltway interstate may be imposed with lower speeds for cars and buses so that federal requirements for traffic flow in high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) and toll lanes can be met.
VDOT claims they do not have the information they need to make changes to speed limits to improve congestion as of now. Therefore, the House committee will institute that the changes will be made by July 1, 2018.
Moreover, another amendment proposed will require VDOT to begin imposing tolls on drivers traveling against rush-hour traffic after the additional eastbound lane is constructed between Ballston and the Dulles Connector Road. According to the report, the I-66 toll lane amendments have not been included in the Senate Finance Committee plan. Recently, similar stand-alone bills were voted down in both House and Senate committees.
The bicameral legislature will have just two weeks to negotiate a budget agreement with the amendments after they are due for a vote at the end of the week. The session will adjourn on March 10. Nevertheless, Governor Ralph Northam will have the authority to offer suggested changes that the legislature will discuss during the annual one-day reconvened session on April 18.
More toll lanes are also being proposed in the northern Virginia area to generate revenue and decrease congestion. The Senate is reported to have directed the Commonwealth Transportation Board to coordinate with the Maryland state legislature to agree on an extension of the I-495 Express Lanes across the Legion Bridge to and beyond I-270.
This comes at a time when the Republican-led House is directing VDOT officials to begin a study on I-81 in the western part of the state on how congestion, safety, and infrastructure can be improved. Some lawmakers have proposed a gas tax on wholesalers in that particular region, as well as tolling trucks and through new toll lanes.
Within the proposed budget plans, transportation amendments will cut additional funding for roadway systems across the state as a fiscal cliff will be faced by the General Assembly in the summer of 2019. To mitigate this, the committees are attempting to approve plans to increase Virginia’s car titling fee from $10 to $20. As well, they will allow the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to charge drivers an extra $10 for obtaining a license that complies with federal REAL ID laws.
Currently, Virginians may continue to use their state-issued driver’s license or ID card to enter federal facilities and military bases and to board airplanes. The extra fee will be allotted to creating the federal system that will have Virginians obtaining a REAL ID that will take place of credentials that are required by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) The special ID is not required as of now, but will expedite service that grant access to boarding planes or entering a military base.