Washington Post editorial:

Virginia Republicans concoct a highway horror story about I-66 tolls

By Editorial Board

Washington Post

TURN ON the World Series these days and, at the commercial break, you’ll be subjected to an onslaught of political advertising, courtesy of Republicans running for the Virginia state legislature. Like many political ads, these are crass, misleading and pitched toward exploiting voters’ fears — in this case, about the costs of commuting.

The bogeyman invoked to strike terror in commuters is the specter of punishingly high tolls on Interstate 66 in Northern Virginia — specifically $17 tolls, as scary as any Halloween fright. The 30-second spots suggest that Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) plans to impose that levy on all drivers who use I-66, a major artery for commuters in Fairfax, Prince William and Loudoun counties.

That’s false. In fact, rush-hour drivers who drive legally on I-66 now — meaning those with at least one passenger — would be untouched by the governor’s plan. They drive the road for free now and would continue to do so.

You’d never guess that from the disingenuous ads sponsored by a pair of Republicans: Harry “Hal” Parrish, candidate for the state Senate in Prince William; and Craig Parisot, who’s running for the House of Delegates in Fairfax. Both suggest flatly that $17 tolls are on the way — and only a vote for them might stop the madness.

Here’s what the ads neglect to mention: If the tolls go into effect, they’d apply only at rush hour to solo drivers on I-66 inside the Beltway, who have been forbidden from using that segment of road during peak traffic times since it opened more than 30 years ago. Under the change proposed by Mr. McAuliffe, those solo drivers would be allowed to use I-66 at rush hour, for the first time ever — and yes, they’d be charged according to a price schedule that, in the event of heavy traffic, could top out at $17 round-trip.

That’s a vastly better deal than the status quo, under which commuters face fines starting at $125 and topping out at $1,000 (plus points on their licenses) if they are caught on I-66 driving solo at rush hour. Do Mr. Parrish and Mr. Parisot prefer $1,000 fines to $17 tolls? Or do they simply prefer solo drivers cheat by driving that segment of I-66 at rush hour, as some scofflaws do? (There’s also a free option for solo drivers: Continue using ancillary roads such as Routes 50 and 29 at rush hour.)

The underlying problem is that Virginia Republicans have long hated paying for the roads citizens use and need. For years they blocked attempts to raise new revenue for transportation, even as the state’s highway network crumbled. Now aspiring GOP lawmakers such as Mr. Parrish and Mr. Parisot oppose Mr. McAuliffe’s plan, which would raise funds for an array of badly needed improvements to I-66 and the surrounding corridor. What they lack is better ideas for relieving congestion on one of the region’s most traffic-choked routes.

I have gotten dozens of mailers this fall repeating this same lie.  Of course Jeremy McPike doesn’t support taxing commuters, but not according to all the mail I have gotten.  I just hate this kind of dishonestly and was grousing to my husband about it tonight.  What plans does Mr. Parrish have to alleviate traffic and congestion and increasing revenue for badly needed road repairs?  ~~~~crickets~~~~

9 thoughts on “Washington Post calls foul on GOP over I-66

  1. Emma

    I love when pols such as McAuliffe get to Richmond and wet their pants at the ways they can fleece Northern Virginians. Our tolls and tax dollars flow to Richmond and beyond to build and improve their roads, and rarely fund any road improvements here. Apparently the I-66 tolls won’t benefit us in the form of any road improvements here. There is the Norfolk tunnel deal that was supposed to cost taxpayers nothing, but once Richmond got through with it, is now going to cost us over $300 million. The WaPo should stop with the word parsing and really investigate where those tolls are going once they’re collected. It’s not enough to just dutifully parrot that taxpayers should pay for the roads they use. NOVA taxpayers BUILT I-66!

    And as a side note, I categorically reject this business of selling off our taxpayer-funded road infrastructure to foreign-based companies, as was done with the current HOT LANES and the Norfolk tunnel. That’s just insane.

    1. Would the Greenway be part of that foreign interest? It costs too much to use except for special occasions.

  2. Pat.Herve

    Last I had looked they were changing the HOV-2 requirement to an HOV-3 requirement – that would knock out the majority of the drivers right now. If you think it is hard to find a partner for HOV-2, imagine finding a third.

  3. Confused

    Congratulations to Governor McAuliffe for winning the Political Tin Ear Award. At what point did he think it was a good idea to pick a fight IN NORTHERN VA about tolls 3 weeks before an election where he’s trying to 1) HOLD a seat being vacated by a retiring Democrat and 2) GAIN a seat held by an uber-conservative BOTH IN NORTHERN VA???

    The Republicans were on their heels and didn’t have a message they could rally around until McAuliffe gave them one. Someone on his political staff should be fired.

  4. Kelly_3406

    Transportation in NoVa is an outright mess right now. I rode the Metro for an entire week a couple of months ago–it was awful–trains late, unscheduled stops requiring all passengers to depart, single tracking, etc. Never again.

    So that leaves I-66. My hybrid-car license plate allows me to drive solo on I-66 presently, but HOV-3 will eliminate I-66 as an option. It will be very difficult to get three commuters needed to drive legally without the toll. This will mean $17 tolls for the pleasure of being able to commute to work.

    It’s unclear why McAuliff thinks there is such a distinction between the Republican narrative and what he is actually planning. Both tolls and HOV are hostile to commuters. Both are very costly in terms of time or money. In reality, it is a distinction without a difference and proves that he is clueless about the trials and tribulations of working in Northern Virginia.

    1. He shouldn’t be clueless. He lived here long enough.

      I am confused at this point what is really being proposed. I suppose we will find out after the election.

  5. Frequency

    Sure do wish someone would just talk straight to the voters. What are our options, what do they cost and what solutions are available?

    1. I wish they would also. I hate important issues being used as political fodder.

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