On the second day of new toll rates along the Capital Beltway's Interstate 66 express lanes, rates reached $40 for solo drivers at 8:09 a.m.
Under new rules, drivers must have at least one other person in the car and an E-Z Pass Flex switched to High Occupancy Vehicle mode to avoid a toll that changes in response to traffic, Washington, D.C. radio station WTOP reports. The higher the traffic density, the higher the toll rate, as was evident by the $40 toll during morning rush hour on Tuesday.
A spokeswoman for the VDOT told the Washington Post that "It is a dynamic toll. It will vary and fluctuate based on the demand."
Following the morning rush, tolls are reintroduced between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. for the afternoon commute, but tend to be much lower. On Monday, solo westbound drivers were charged $6.25 from Washington to the Beltway at 4:15 p.m. VDOT spokeswoman Jennifer McCord told WTOP there are a multiple reasons afternoon toll rates were, and are expected to remain, lower than morning tolls.
"There is more capacity westbound, after two widenings in recent years, than eastbound," said McCord.
"The coming eastbound widening project — about 4 miles between the Dulles Connector Road and Fairfax Drive from two to three lanes — will help address this."
In addition, the typical weekday traffic pattern is different in the afternoon than in the morning, in both duration and flow.
"The exit pattern is typically more spread out," said McCord, with people leaving the District throughout the afternoon and early evening, compared with the more compressed morning inflow.
Transportation officials said they hope the tolls will encourage carpooling and use of public transportation, for the roadway is one of the most congested in the region.
The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) said Monday that the average speed on I-66 during Monday rush hour was 57 mph compared to 37 mph at the same time a year prior.
Research on the same tolls in 2015 estimated the price would average about $9 for the 10 variations of trips drivers could take on the highway.