HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) — The Virginia Department of Transportation says drivers could opt to pay more to use express lanes on much of Interstate 64 by 2024.
In December, VDOT will roll out the first high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes in the region on an eight-mile stretch of I-64 from I-264 to Naval Station Norfolk.
Signs will be in place and testing will begin on the new system in September, according to VDOT.
Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne says the tolls at the Midtown and Downtown Tunnels are “bad policy” because they force drivers into paying a premium. Layne says that the implementation of HOT lanes over the next seven years will be more smooth and the process will be more transparent.
“Every time somebody chooses to use this lane, it frees up the other lane you were going to be in,” said Layne, who spoke Tuesday in front of the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB). “Going forward, there will be a free alternative.”
Tolls will only be applied to drivers with no one else in the car. Vehicles with two or more people can ride the HOT lanes for free using an E-ZPass Flex, which is a transponder that gives drivers the ability to switch to a carpooling (HOV) mode.
Layne says the price of the toll will fluctuate based on the traffic and the speed in which drivers are traveling. He estimates the price to range from $1 to $2.
10 On Your Side received mixed reviews from drivers.
“I think options are good,” said Andrea Cleaves, of Suffolk. “If they hold the cost down, I think it’s good… I find myself in situations where I have to be on time and the traffic around here is terrible.”
David Moore of Portsmouth says he is tired of paying tolls to get through the tunnels that connect his city to Norfolk.
“Paying tolls now is too much,” he said. “I’d rather sit there and wait than to keep paying money and get a bill in the mail.”
Layne says the CTB express lanes could be implemented on the High Rise Bridge and around the Bowers Hill area by 2021.
By 2024, Layne expects there to be a tolling option on the expanded Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel. He says the same year, express lanes could be installed north to Jefferson Avenue in Newport News.
“If we truly want a transformative project and attract federal dollars, that may be something this board may need to consider.”
VDOT says drivers can trade in their standard transponder for an E-ZPass Flex for free at the customer service centers in Norfolk and Portsmouth. Drivers must use their E-ZPass Flex within six months of activation to avoid a $10 service charge.