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.