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The Lesson of $40 Highway Tolls in Virginia

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This week in northern Virginia, the congested stretch of I-66 inside the Beltway opened to solo drivers during the morning rush, for a price.

Previously, during peak hours these 10 miles of I-66 had been limited to carpoolers, people with hybrid vehicles, and people heading to Dulles Airport. The new policy lets carpoolers use the road for free, while solo drivers pay a toll. This allowed solo drivers to use I-66 at a time when they’d previously been banned, but they were surprised to see rush hour prices ranging between $30 and $40.

The rates are well above the $6 tolls officials had told people to anticipate. But that’s what it costs to allow access to single-occupancy vehicles without jamming the road. By law, toll prices are automatically set to keep traffic moving at 55 mph. The high rates reflect high demand (though there’s speculation that the prices are being calibrated

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