CTB Approves $4 Billion Interstate 64 Project

CTB approves $4 billion project to benefit Interstate 64, Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel
The CTB approved Option A, one of four options, to relieve chronic congestion on Interstate 64 and the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel.

Wow! The Commonwealth Transportation Board  approved yesterday a $4 billion plan to expand the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel and widen twelve miles of Interstate 64 from four lanes to six. Said Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne after the vote: “Historic day for Hampton Roads and the state.”

The Virginian-Pilot provides these details:

The additional lane capacity in each direction would likely be high-occupancy toll lanes, which would require that a car carry three people to avoid a toll during peak hours. Vehicles with one or two people could choose to pay a variable toll based on congestion during peak hours. The Commonwealth Transportation Board will be able to weigh in later on the “managed lane” concept.

Buses would use the new lanes, too.

The existing lanes will remain free.

Funding will come from tolls and bonds, regional gas tax revenue, and federal loans.

Bacon’s bottom line: Northern Virginians have had to learn to live with HOT lanes, and now Hampton Roadsters will, too. Nobody likes paying the tolls, but the money to widen highways and build the tunnel has to come from somewhere.

Should Hampton Roadsters (or Virginians) pay higher gasoline taxes to improvements on Interstate 64? Nobody likes gasoline taxes either — especially if they’re not the ones benefiting from the project.

Should VDOT toll the new tunnel and its companion tunnels in order to lower the tolls? That, too, is a non-starter. No one likes paying a toll where they weren’t paying one before.

How about tolling just the new tunnel? That’s the plan! No one loses. If traffic is logjammed and you desperately need to get to the other side of the river, you can pay a toll (which will vary, depending upon demand) for an expedited trip. But you don’t have to pay the toll if you don’t want to. You can join the schlubs in the slow lanes, and you’re no worse off than before.

If you carpool or ride a bus, you’re better off. You can use the HOT lane for free, and you don’t wait in the schlub lanes.

Even if you’re a schlub, you’re probably better off. The slow lanes will be less congested than they would have been without the project. The HOT lanes will divert toll payers, carpoolers and buses who would have been clogging the slow lanes with you.

I haven’t seen how the deal or financing is structured, so I can’t comment on the soundness of the Interstate 64 plan. But construction of a HOT lane is both morally and politically defensible.

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17 responses to “CTB Approves $4 Billion Interstate 64 Project”

  1. A gas tax is the only economically sound way to go. It’s the only tax that is easy to collect and reasonably proportionate to the use of the road infrastructure involved. But we all know it is politically infeasible at this time.

    So why not build into these private deals up front a mechanism to allow the State to buy out the remaining contract at any time and eliminate the tolls, if and when the political support for a decent gas tax to pay for roads and bridges returns? HOT lanes get the job done, but the inequity of charging a few commuters more than most for their “Lexus Lane” privilege, providing this bridge for free and that one for a toll, continues to erode confidence in fair government.

    1. The gas tax is living on borrowed time. EVs are gaining market share. Also, fuel mileage mandates are cutting into gasoline sales. Between the two, the gasoline tax will yield less and less revenue. Eventually, we’ll have to switch to a vehicle-miles-traveled tax, but there’s no sign of movement on that issue in Virginia.

      1. EV drivers do not want a miles driven tax as that means they have to pay road taxes. Miles driven tax not making much headway anywhere. Gas tax works fine, and then EV drivers have to pay extra fee at registration time. I do not see EV’s gaining market share except maybe California, and CA is happy to give tax holiday to EVs. Virginia gas tax is probably too low. I think good idea if NoVA and Hampton Roads could get approval to raise the local component over 2% though.

        1. TBill, I’m surprised you don’t see EVs gaining market share outside the likes of CA. Clearly the low price of crude has undercut their appeal currently, but why shouldn’t we assume (a) gas prices will go back up, and (b) a nice gas tax on top of that will only help, not hurt, good land use policies in addition to raise transportation funds? Anyway, policy aside, as the extra cost of an EV over the el cheapo model comes down with volume and more experience building them, don’t you think we will see them doing well in just about all markets?

          1. Widespread EV adoption is probably going to depend on Government forcing it on us, which like 10% ethanol, is possible. It’s going to be interesting to see if we go that route now (certainly the Dems want to go that forcing route).

            EV’s are expensive to make, but you currently get enormous gov’t subsidies and auto makers are forced to sell at relatively low prices to get the CARB credits (due to the mandates). Without mandates, there is a certain EV market due to nice quality of drive and power, but you have to fill-up the useful passenger/cargo space of the car with batteries and have a mini-power plant to charge it up quickly, as it takes a whole lot of electrons to equal a gallon of gasoline.

  2. LarrytheG Avatar

    People don’t understand congestion pricing tolling. It’s not just the money – it’s to manage the traffic flow… and it’s going to be standard practice in urban areas with significant peak hour commuting.

    there is a huge cost to people wanting to drive a peak hour… more roads, wider roads, have to be built to try to handle the peaks – and then those roads sit unused outside of peak.

    and here’s the thing – all those folks that talk about the free market – and supply and demand – that’s what electronic tolling is all about. Congestion tolling is a concept developed by Conservative think tanks like Heritage and CATO…

    The gas tax is a “all you can eat for one low price” type pricing structure that does not work… because people will drive at rush hour without thinking much about it even though they’ll be part of a crushing herd of gridlocked schlubs… they’ll do it over and over and over.. until it starts to cost them directly.

    We just had a significant gas tax increase in the last year of the McDonnell administration… and in addition – it got indexed… and also gave NoVa and Hampton additional regional taxes for transportation but none of it changed anything about rush hour driving…which actually has gotten worse when gas got cheaper.

    I’m also not yet convinced that electric cars are going to change the funding issue as probably the folks that will find electric cars appealing are the ones that live close in, take shorter trips, have a bail-out alternative, and don’t typically put a lot of miles on their cars – compared to those who commute 50-100 miles a day and need long hours of recharge when they run out of “fuel”. Some day, maybe but not until you can whip into a service station and get “re-fueled” in 5-10 minutes instead of having to park for an hour.

    I also do not think we’re going to go to any kind of a taxing scheme that involves a govt-owned device in your car …that transmits data to a govt device… it’s a simple-minded concept with both significant political AND technical infrastructure implications.

    I remain convinced that electronic tolling is the best way to do pay taxes AND to manage congestion – you get a transponder or just a license plate and you’re good to go… and yes.. if you drive more – especially at rush hour, you’re going to pay more – as you should.

    Congestion tolling is the way to go. It will make you ask yourself – for each trip you take -is that a trip that you must take and only at that time or can you time shift? Once you’re looking at $5 instead of $1.50 it becomes a much more real calculation whereas with the gas tax – it’s as much as you want to drive WHEN you want to drive – and that’s what craps up the roads…… In almost every case – you do have a choice between the toll lanes and the free lanes.

    And no – they’re not Lexus Lanes – if we provide low-income folks with EBT transponders… but of course then the narrative will go from Lexus Lanes to Deadbeat lanes!

    1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      I agree with Larry’s argument that tolling can be an important tool in congestion management. However, imposition of tolls should be done on newly constructed lanes on highways that retain general purpose lanes. This gives drivers a real choice between paying the tolls or suffering congestion.

      Tolling should not occur on a highway that does not add capacity or retain non-tolled general purpose lanes because that will push traffic off the highway and on to local roads.

      While I retain some concerns about the tolling of I-66 inside the Beltway, the addition of a third eastbound lane between the Beltway and Ballston helps mitigate the problem of traffic moving to local roads. The agreement between McAuliffe and the GA was reasonable.

  3. LarrytheG Avatar

    …. and there is no way they could have built the tunnels without tolling… it would have been decades before they could get enough money – and Hampton would have continued their war with NoVa over who should get funded – each one suspecting the other of poaching “their” money.

    Now – NoVa and Hampton are in charge of their own respective destinies.

    More than tolls.. their share of State gas taxes plus their local regional taxes plus loans from the Feds that have to be paid back.

    I credit VDOT and Mr. Layne in particular for turning this regional envy dynamic around… as well as making both regions more responsible for the choices they make via the Smart Scale program that forces a more cogent approach to transportation planning and not without some major nudging from VDOT – on I-66 and the Hampton Tunnels.

    It’s a pity that a bureaucrat from VDOT has to force discipline into the process because the local BOS and City governance is incapable of doing it without VDOT pushing them.

    So much for local governance being better than faceless govt bureaucrats!

    1. LG: re: “all those folks that talk about the free market – and supply and demand – that’s what electronic tolling is all about. . . . The gas tax is a[n] ‘all you can eat for one low price’ type pricing structure that does not work.” No, I don’t agree, because of the end result: a gas tax is roughly proportional to total miles driven on our domestic road system, while electronic tolling on HOT lanes, while fair enough for recovering the cost of the particular piece of infrastructure you’re driving on, applies ONLY to that piece and for ONLY that piece you are, in effect, paying twice, or at least a huge surcharge, to use what is in fact a part of the larger highway system that you use incrementally for “free.” It would be much fairer to recover most of the cost of constructing and maintaining and snowplowing and policing that system from ALL users roughly in proportion to their use — which the gas tax does; and it’s collected from all users, not just a particular class of user.

      I have no philosophical objection to a vehicle-miles-traveled tax if you applied it to ALL roads (interstate, primary and secondary) and eliminated all the toll surcharges. That would allow for the refinement of congestion pricing, for example, which is fair if applied simultaneously to ALL roads. But the collection and enforcement mechanisms that are required for that tax simply aren’t there yet, and would be horribly expensive if implemented on every road. The gas tax is the closest approximation that’s readily do-able. JB, I don’t buy the objection that EVs undercut the fairness of the gas tax: first of all, they don’t eliminate the consumption of fossil fuels so the transportation revenue still comes in, and the tax can be raised if the sum is not enough; second, a gas tax piled on the cost of the gas itself only amplifies the price signal given to consumers to think about conservation, think about home location and commute length, think about neighborhood walkability, think about pooling and public transit. This effect may be an economic externality but in my book it’s a good one.

  4. LarrytheG Avatar

    re: ” because of the end result: a gas tax is roughly proportional to total miles driven”

    miles driven is not the complete metric though. If you drive your miles on a crowded road at rush hour – you’re not using the same road as driving on a deserted road without other cars.

    that’s the entire concept of congestion tolling.

    and it’s really no different than charging more for the SAME SEAT at the first row on the 50 yard line than the very same physical seat 300 seats away at the endzone. Or using electricity at peak hour when it costs 7 times as much to buy at the wholesale level – than at non-peak hour.

    It’s like when gasoline is scarce – it increases in price – it’s the very same gallon of gas – but it’s VALUE depends on availability and demand.

    simply said – roads that carry alot of traffic at rush hour cost MORE to operate and maintain… for instance you cannot do re-paving or repairs during the day – or snow plowing requires priority from the trucks… while subdivision roads wait.

    so it’s not the same dollar for the same road.

    and EV’s will pay the same price as others for tolling.. there need not be a special tax or an “in car” device… every vehicle regardless of how it is powered pays for IT’S USE – at non-peak hour – cheap or peak-hour – more expensive.

  5. LarrytheG Avatar

    @Acbar – how about when you fly or stay at a motel ? it’s the very same plane and room yet you pay more – why?

    See you could claim – and people have – that airlines should have more planes and motels more rooms so they don’t have to charge more at peak hour but what happens if they do that? Then – EVERYONE pays more for the SAME thing…because then everyone has to pay for planes and rooms that sit empty at off peak times.

    roads work just like airlines do… or motel rooms… right?

  6. LarrytheG Avatar

    this is Federal Highways narrative on congestion pricing:


    Congestion pricing – sometimes called value pricing – is a way of harnessing the power of the market to reduce the waste associated with traffic congestion. Congestion pricing works by shifting purely discretionary rush hour highway travel to other transportation modes or to off-peak periods, taking advantage of the fact that the majority of rush hour drivers on a typical urban highway are not commuters. By removing a fraction (even as small as 5%) of the vehicles from a congested roadway, pricing enables the system to flow much more efficiently, allowing more cars to move through the same physical space. Similar variable charges have been successfully utilized in other industries – for example, airline tickets, cell phone rates, and electricity rates. There is a consensus among economists that congestion pricing represents the single most viable and sustainable approach to reducing traffic congestion.”


    “Effects of Pricing on Vehicle Throughput
    Vehicle “throughput” on a freeway is the number of vehicles that get through over a short period such as an hour. Once freeway traffic exceeds a certain threshold level, both vehicle speed and vehicle throughput drop precipitously. Data show that maximum vehicle throughput occurs at free flow speeds ranging from 45 mph to 65 mph. The number of vehicles that get through per hour can drop by as much as 50 percent when severe congestion sets in. At high traffic levels, the freeway is kept in this condition of “collapse” for several hours after the rush of commuters has stopped. This causes further unnecessary delay for off-peak motorists who arrive after rush hour.”

  7. LarrytheG Avatar

    re: ” Widespread EV adoption is probably going to depend on Government forcing it on us, which like 10% ethanol, is possible. It’s going to be interesting to see if we go that route now (certainly the Dems want to go that forcing route).”

    It WILL be interesting to see if Trump and the GOP remove the subsidies and credits and perhaps even roll back the ethanol – and other air quality regs – as a lot of the GOP has long promised if they ever got the chance.. which they now have.

    but I DO THINK that there is some opportunity that EV’s will catch on in certain areas where the vehicle is doing a predictable set route at the conclusion of which it will sit and be recharged until the next day or cycle..

    Transit buses, delivery vehicles, even police cars in urban areas may be candidates. even regional self-driving delivery trucks on repeating routes… may be candidates.. but pure electric vehicles that will be used for less predictable, various routes and various times like many consumer cars – people are not going to like the range issue… ever – unless they have really long ranges and can recharge fairly quickly.

    It’ll be interesting now that the environmental critics in the GOP – now that they have the ability – to see how far they go – and how many of the folks who supported them at elections – also retreat from where we are now on the environment.

    Do Trump supporters really want to kill environmental regulations? we’re going to find out!

    1. Also interesting, is basically California and the other 8 CARB states, already have approval to exceed EPA regs and they are the ones mandating a fairly high % of EV by 2025 or so. Basically they are saying Fed Gov is going too slow on climate change, so they are taking the bull by horns and going their own way (as if EV is better for climate change anyways, which is questionable).

      Originally, California was mandating zero emission vehicles for unique smog/air pollution reasons, which could be a justified reason. But CA have morphed the rationale into reducing CO2, which is really a national issue, not for states to go off on their own mandates. Now we have the entire auto industry R&D effort building cars for what CA wants, which was OK when the idea was clean air, but now is less justifiable to go off on some liberal political-based direction.

  8. LarrytheG Avatar


    California started regulating auto emissions in 1960 – before the EPA was even created and virtually everything that California has done – has been followed by the EPA and other states so it’s not like they went off on their own – and its not like they, just now, are going off on some “liberal political-based” direction.

    The auto you drive right now has emission controls and safety features that were first done by California – and then copied at the national level – with Conservatives staunchly opposed every step of the way from the very beginning and now that behavior has not changed even when the earth itself is now at risk – they’re still opposed to the science itself behind the regs.

    Truth be known – if Conservatives had their way- there would be no air quality regs and no EPA so yeah.. I’ll take the “liberal” direction… Conservatives have a marvelous capacity to claim they USED to be in favor of Environmental Protection but NOW it’ gone too far. The truth is – they have been opposed from the beginning – and nothing has changed except for their recollection of history.

  9. Posted on behalf of Randy Salzman, who, true to his values, is riding on a train at the moment and cannot post himself:

    On Layne’s new I-64 lanes… Of course, if it’s the state building this toll infrastructure – and not some P3 scheme (which to me is now “they are guilty unless proven to actually save both this generation’s and the next generation’s taxpayers, both state and federal”) – toll roads have great potential. Plus in a 2013 (or so) study project with America Speaks, the MWCOG discovered that tolls would receive much better public support than “VMT taxing (as Jim Bacon suggests) or congestion charging (my best case approach).

    As you probably know, in the 2008 presidential cycle, both Republican John McCain and Democrat Hillary Clinton, both promised to drop our meager gasoline tax due to the “poor consumer” being overwhelmed by a tax which was less than the entire price of gasoline for our grandparents (indexed, of course) paid even in the days before gasoline taxing. Although the fed gas tax hasn’t been increased since 1993, there has been no effort since to do this “easiest” approach to addressing congestion, pollution, greenhouse, health, and foreign policy while making cars be more efficient. Since 2008, of course, we’ve seriously begun fracking – and potentially affecting water supply; our driving is now well over 3 trillion miles annually (highest ever); we subsidized throwing away good used cars to save less an .7 (yes with a point) miles per gallon through “cash for clunkers” even though it increased the cost of vehicles for the poor by an average $1,500 and we’re building these toll roads virtually everywhere for the privates in P3s to scam taxpayers now and into the future. After the Saudis drove marginal producers, like deep water off Brazil, out of the market, they just recently began letting the price of oil again approach market price. Fracking jobs also went with the successful Saudi strategy.

    A decade ago, a prominent conservative – pro defense especially –did the externality study of our gasoline consumption and found that to pay primarily for the $30 million daily cost of keeping two carrier groups near the Strait of Hormuz (and other defense spendings related to oil), we should have increased gasoline taxes by $10.06 per gallon. A liberal transportation group out of Victoria, Canada, some six years ago, ran the numbers and said that, on average, every mile Americans drive dumps 54 cents worth of externalities on U.S. society.

    Meanwhile, every study of U.S. gasoline consumption, or U.S. driving, indicates that the public cares only about one thing: “getting all these other cars out of my way.” The data on that is clear, too. For every 10 percent increase in lane miles, the data shows there is an immediate six percent increase in usage and in five years, that increase has grown to 10 percent – or the entire benefit of whatever new highway capacity (unless it’s a toll road which does NOT do what most think it does.) There are few, if any, traffic engineers who today don’t argue that “induced traffic” is a real phenomena, even if the public doesn’t understand it.

    What tolls do is increase U.S. federal debt because tolls are heavily used by people who don’t pay the toll. Instead, tollways are used by drivers who are working for companies/organizations who successfully argue the toll is a cost of doing business and therefore tax deductible. In the end, we taxpayers – just like the P3 toll roads – get scammed by the loss of dollars for public or personal transportation, like buses or bike lanes.

    The real issue in all of this is “why doesn’t any media truly cover transportation,” especially now that Mr. Trump is promising to poor trillions into new infrastructure – which is another way of saying pouring money into the pockets of his high-rolling friends. All this is complex but the public can’t begin to understand it – and argue the merits of toll roads, for example – until media begins to dig a little and quit trying to discuss this incredibly complex subject on a bumper sticker.

    You probably do the best job in Virginia, Mr. Bacon, of discussing the entire transportation problem but you still see only a small fraction of the toll road issue.

    Let me leave you with one thought that your libertarian brain, Mr. Bacon, no doubt, will sense. Suppose you were one of the people who paid a very high premium to be in or near the Capital Beltway, daily faces the horrifying noise of I-66 in D.C., has a kid who now has asthma (and is much more likely to become autistic) and sometimes your eyes water… Would you fight the expansion of I-66 Tolls all the way to Haymarket? You’ve already paid your price for being close to D.C. jobs – much higher housing – now you’re tax dollars would be subsidizing others to make your life worse???

    1. Ack? My libertarian brain? Is this what you have in mind?


      If so, when it comes to politics, my wife would share your opinion.

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