TOLLING: Virginia eliminating monthly maintenance fee for E-ZPass users

VDOT must eliminate fee, find alternative funding source by September

April 21, 2014

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is looking for new ways to pay for maintenance and operation of toll lanes after Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed a bill last week eliminating the monthly maintenance fee on E-ZPass accounts. Under the terms of the bill, VDOT has until Sept. 1 to completely eliminate the fee.

The fee—charged to drivers getting new E-ZPass transponders—was first implemented in September 2012 at a rate of 50 cents per month. For the Flex transponders, which allow single drivers to use the carpool lane, the fee was $1 per month. VDOT allowed that fee to be waived, however, if drivers only used the Flex to travel in the I-495 express lanes.

Driver reaction to the fee was mixed but didn’t appear to have much impact on toll-road usage. The issue came to a head early in 2014 when the Downtown and Midtown tunnels in the Hampton Roads metropolitan area switched to all-electronic tolling.

VDOT is hoping that waiving the fee will incentivize the 40% of Beltway drivers without E-ZPass to purchase one. At the same time, the department is working to find new ways to collect the millions needed to help maintain the program—including the $10 million annual operating cost for the E-ZPass customer service center.