Some HOV lanes in Hampton Roads will be converted to toll lanes

ARLINGTON, Va. (WAVY) – The Commonwealth Transportation Board voted Wednesday to allow VDOT to convert eight miles of Interstate 64 High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes into toll lanes.

The decision impacts the stretch of I-64 from the I-264/64 interchange up to Interstate 564. It means solo drivers will be able to use the lanes for the first time during peak hours – they will just have to pay a variable toll.

There’s been no final determination on how much the tolls will cost, but officials are estimating they will start at 50 cents.The tolls will vary depending on traffic volumes.

Vehicles with two or more people will still get to ride in the lanes for free and tolls will not apply to any drivers outside of the Express Lane hours of 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday only.

Drivers who intend to use the HOV lane as single passenger drivers can use and keep their E-ZPass to pay the toll. Those who plan on using the lane as an HOV lane (with two or more people in the vehicle) will need an E-ZPass Flex, which allows drivers to switch an HOV mode on and off. There is no charge to obtain either E-ZPass product.

If you are actually a single passenger vehicle in the HOV lane during express lane hours, though, you will be subject to facing a violation. There won’t be cameras set up to catch violators, but there will be state troopers. When a driver travels through the HOV lane in HOV mode, the overhead gantry will light up.

Officials are still working to determine how often troopers will be scheduled to monitor the Express Lanes.

Virginia’s Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne called the conversion “long overdue” and said the Express Lanes, or High Occupancy Toll (HOT) Lanes, will be a “much better use of our assets.”

Tolls were a big item of discussion when the General Assembly reconvened this past January. Just last month, the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization passed a resolution supporting the conversion.

September 2016 Conversion Feasibility Study

VDOT estimates the express lanes will decrease traffic in the parallel untolled lanes of I-64 by 17 percent. Officials said the HOV lanes are underused.

Several folks in Hampton Roads told 10 On Your Side that they agree, and are pleased with the upcoming change.

“[The HOV lanes] are not really used that much,” said Steven Bell, of Norfolk. “It might encourage people to use those lanes more… it’ll alleviate congestion on the regular lanes that are already there now.”

“I see it as a positive thing for when traffic gets heavy,” said Eddie Gorkowski.

The conversion is expected to be complete in Fall 2017.

Toll Zone & Read Points from September 2016 study. Courtesy: VDOT
Toll Zone & Read Points from September 2016 study. Courtesy: VDOT
Express Lanes Access Points Map, from September 2016 study. Courtesy: VDOT
Express Lanes Access Points Map, from September 2016 study. Courtesy: VDOT