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VDOT reports analysis of first four days of I-66 express lanes usage inside the beltway

Morning and afternoon commutes were faster and travel times more reliable during the first four days of I-66 Express Lanes Inside the Beltway operations, according to a Dec. 12 news release from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).

“Based on four days of data, it is clear that the Express Lanes on I-66 Inside the Beltway are already providing an improved and more reliable trip for carpoolers, bus riders and solo drivers who choose to pay,” Aubrey Lane, Secretary of Transportation, was quoted as saying in the news release. “Travel times on I-66 were 10-12 minutes over the four-hour rush period last week compared with 15 to 30 minutes last December, and travel times on parallel roads are either similar to last year or improved.”

Drivers who chose to travel alone during rush hours paid an average round-trip price of $14.28. Over the initial four days of the I-66 Express Lanes, average prices during morning peak hours were $10.25 and average prices during afternoon peak hours were $4.03.

Further analysis of the first four days of Express Lanes indicates the following:

• Vehicle trips in the morning period ranged from 13,390 to 14,548 vehicle trips. In the afternoon, vehicle trips ranged from 15,798 to 17,401.

• The percent of carpool trips increased markedly through the week. During Monday morning’s commute, 38 percent of trips were carpools. During Wednesday and Thursday mornings’ commutes, the percent of carpools rose to 45 and 43 percent, respectively.

• A.M. prices averaged $10.25 across the four days. Morning prices peaked at $40.00 on Tuesday for one six-minute interval, with no more than 28 drivers paying this price. This price was not realized throughout the remainder of the week as morning trips are being more evenly distributed across the express lane hours.

• P.M. prices were consistently lower, averaging $4.03, across the four days. Afternoon prices peaked at $26.75 on Thursday. A better distribution of trips across the four-hour period, the lack of a merge between two highways westbound on I-66, and a variety of P.M. destinations contribute to lower average prices in the afternoons.

Drivers using I-66 during periods prior to the former HOV hours (before 6:30 a.m.) also experienced a faster and more reliable trip. In December 2016, traffic at 6 a.m. traveled at 30 miles per hour (mph) or less, and speeds did not increase to 45 mph until after 7 a.m and could only be maintained for a 15-20 minute period until it dropped to 25 mph and did not recover to above 45 mph until after 10 a.m. Last week, I-66 Express Lanes traffic maintained highway speeds of approximately 55 to 60 mph each day for the full four-hour morning commute, according to the VDOT news release.

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