Frequently Asked Questions

Project Description and Overview

What improvements are planned for I-66 outside the Beltway?

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), in coordination with the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT), will upgrade I-66 outside the Beltway to include:

  • Three regular lanes in each direction;
  • Two express lanes in each direction from I-495 (the Capital Beltway) to Gainesville (University Boulevard);
  • New and expanded transit service and park-and-ride lots; and
  • Interchange improvements to enhance safety and reduce congestion, including auxiliary lanes between interchanges, where needed.

Where does the project begin and end?

The project is approximately 22 miles, extending from I-495 (the Capital Beltway) to Gainesville (University Boulevard).

Who will be able to use the express lanes?

Vehicles with three or more occupants and buses will travel for free. Vehicles with less than three occupants can choose to use the lanes and pay a toll. Toll rates will increase as traffic volumes on the express lanes increase so that traffic flows freely.

Will I still be able to travel for free in the regular lanes?

Yes, three regular lanes will be open to all traffic and will not be tolled.

What will I-66 look like when the project is completed?

The images below illustrate how I-66 will generally look when the project is completed.

Gainesville to Manassas, Centreville to the Capital Beltway

Manassas to Centreville

Environmental Analysis

Were environmental studies performed?

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) approved a Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) with a Record of Decision in November 2013. The EIS studied potential multimodal improvements that could address existing and future transportation needs in the I-66 corridor. The study was developed by VDOT, DRPT and FHWA.

During the Tier 1 process, VDOT and DRPT identified ten concepts that would increase capacity, provide multimodal options, improve individual interchanges, and address safety and operations.

A Tier 1 EIS differs from a traditional EIS in that it focuses on broad issues, such as purpose and need, travel modes (bus, carpool, rail transit, car, etc.), technology choices and the general location of proposed improvements.

For additional information, please refer to the Tier 1 Final EIS and Record of Decision.

Were additional environmental studies conducted?

In July 2014, VDOT and DRPT initiated a Tier 2 Environmental Assessment (EA), which addressed a set of transportation improvements identified in the Tier 1 EIS. The EA’s Purpose and Need statement reiterated the existing and future transportation conditions and needs that were defined in the Tier 1 Final EIS and provided updated supporting traffic and transportation information.

The purpose of the project is to address existing and future transportation problems on I-66 and improve multimodal mobility by providing diverse travel choices in a cost-effective manner. It is also to enhance transportation safety and travel reliability.

The Tier 2 EA studied a combination of improvement concepts from the Tier 1 Final EIS, including:

  • Two express lanes and three regular lanes in each direction and preserving a median for future transit service;
  • Dedicated access points serving the express lanes;
  • High-frequency, fast and reliable bus service during extended peak periods;
  • New and expanded park-and-ride lots, all having direct access to the express lanes;
  • Corridor-wide bikeway, trail and sidewalk improvements; and
  • Safety and operational improvements at key interchanges.

Presented to the public in spring 2015, the Tier 2 Draft EA included evaluations of site-specific conditions and potential effects from proposed improvements on air quality, noise, neighborhoods, parks, recreation areas, historic properties, wetlands and streams. The Tier 2 Revised EA was made available for public review and comment in January 2016.

In July 2016, after reviewing the Tier 2 Final EA, the Federal Highway Administration published a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the Transform 66 Outside the Beltway improvements. This step cleared the way for the project to move forward with design and construction.

How the Express Lanes Will Work

How much will I have to pay to use the express lanes?

Travelers in vehicles with three or more occupants and buses will travel for free. Travelers in vehicles with less than three occupants can choose to use the lanes and pay a toll.

The toll rates will vary based on demand. The price will increase as more vehicles enter the express lanes and will decrease when there are fewer vehicles.

How and why will the toll rates vary?

Toll rates will increase as traffic volumes increase so that traffic flows freely.

How will the tolls be collected?

The express lanes on I-66 will use an electronic toll collection system (like the 495 Express Lanes and 95 Express Lanes). To use the express lanes, drivers will be required to have an E-ZPass transponder mounted inside their vehicle. Tolls will be collected when their vehicles pass below the overhead toll-collection gantries.

If a vehicle does not have an E-ZPass transponder, a photograph will be taken of the vehicle's license plate and a bill will be mailed to the registered owner in the amount of the toll, plus a processing fee.

Will carpoolers be exempt from paying tolls?

Yes. Motorists who regularly travel with three or more passengers are encouraged to get an E-ZPass Flex transponder, which can be switched to HOV mode, so they will not be charged for their trip.

Buses will not need an E-ZPass to use the express lanes.

Will motorcyclists be able to use the express lanes for free?

Yes, motorcyclists will travel for free and will not need an E-ZPass to use the express lanes.

Trucks

What types of vehicles will be allowed to use the I-66 Express Lanes Outside the Beltway?

Any vehicle with two or more axles including motorcycles; mass transit vehicles, commuter buses and school buses; and trucks.

What types of trucks will be allowed to use the I-66 Express Lanes?

Small and mid-sized trucks with two axles, as well as multi-axle vehicles including large 18-wheel trucks and tractor trailer trucks pulling a single trailer, will be permitted to use the I-66 Express Lanes.

What types of trucks will not be allowed to use the I-66 Express Lanes?

Tractor-trailers pulling more than one trailer and personal vehicles towing trailers or boats will be prohibited from traveling on the I-66 Express Lanes.

How much will trucks pay to use the I-66 Express Lanes?

Trucks will be tolled at a minimum of five times the regular toll rate for two-axle vehicles during peak periods, and will be tolled a minimum of three times the regular toll rate during all other times.

Are trucks allowed to use other express lanes in Northern Virginia?

Small and mid-sized trucks with two axles can use the 495 and 95 Express Lanes in Northern Virginia.

How does large truck traffic on I-66 compare to other interstates in Virginia?

On I-66 west of Route 28, large trucks account for about 4 percent of daily traffic; east of Route 28, large trucks account for about 3 percent of daily traffic. On I-81, trucks average between 20 and 30 percent of daily traffic; on I-95, trucks average about 7 percent of daily traffic on the general purpose lanes.

The chart below shows the actual number of large trucks as compared with other vehicle traffic during peak hours:

Is truck traffic expected to increase on I-66 in the future?

VDOT’s traffic analysis shows that by 2040, the proportion of large trucks using I-66 east of Route 28 will remain relatively consistent with current truck use, while large truck use west of Route 28 will increase slightly. During off-peak travel periods, large trucks will account for 4 to 6 percent of all traffic on the Express Lanes. Because trucks avoid congested periods to shorten delivery times, the proportion of trucks traveling on I-66 during rush hours already is lower than at other times, and is expected to be less than 1 percent of all traffic in 2040.

How are roadway designers achieving the highest degree of safety, especially considering large trucks can use the I-66 Express Lanes?

Roadway and ramp designs, such as ramp lengths allowing deceleration, turn radii, and lane and ramp widths, will take into account large trucks and will be developed in accordance with state and federal standards and procedures. Final designs will be approved by VDOT and FHWA.

How does truck traffic on I-66 today compare with I-81 and with the Transform I-66 project in the future?

The animations below show a comparison of existing traffic and trucks on I-66 and I-81, and future traffic with the new I-66 Express Lanes.

What are the benefits to allowing large trucks to use the I-66 Express Lanes?

Allowing large trucks to use the I-66 Express Lanes can:

  • Make travel easier in the general purpose lanes with fewer trucks during off-peak periods;
  • Support local businesses that will be able to make more service calls;
  • Improve the movement of goods and services; and
  • Further remove trucks from communities adjacent to the general purpose lanes.

Bicycle and Pedestrian Access

Are bicycle and pedestrian improvements part of the project?

New bridges over I-66 will better accommodate bicycles and pedestrians, as well as connect routes. The project also provides opportunities to complete segments of the regional trail network. Segments of the network parallel and adjacent to I-66 will be constructed as part of the project. For other segments, VDOT is working to identify an implementation and funding plan with our local partners. The locations of proposed shared-use paths are shown on the concept plans.

Will existing bicycle and pedestrian trails be affected by construction?

The three existing trails listed below are located on roadway bridges that pass over I-66 and will remain open throughout construction.

  • The Gerry Connolly Cross County Trail (Pickett Road/Blake Lane/Jermantown Road Trail Segment) (I-66 overpass on Blake Lane)
  • W&OD Trail/City of Fairfax Connector Trail (I-66 overpass on Vaden Drive)
  • W&OD Trail (on VDOT right of way east of I-495 and on I-66 overpass on Virginia Lane)

Metrorail and Virginia Railway Express

Does the project envision extending the Metrorail system?

The project provides a feasible way of incorporating a future Metrorail extension from the existing line along I-66 to Centreville, as well as between Manassas and Gainesville, by preserving the center median, as well as by building wider and larger bridges over the highway.

Until an extension of Metrorail is approved, the project is providing a variety of transit and ride-sharing services, including park and ride lots, high frequency bus service, and bicycle and pedestrian access to meet the demands of the corridor.

Further widening of I-66 to accommodate transit between Centreville and Manassas would occur in the future, dependent upon funding and demand. This approach is consistent with the transportation plans of both Fairfax and Prince William counties, which include the extension of Metrorail within the I-66 right of way.

At this time, Metro is focusing on ensuring that equipment and facilities are in a state of good repair, increasing system capacity by purchasing and implementing eight car trains across the system, and improving core capacity. Metro does not anticipate any extensions of the system until these priority projects are completed. For more information on Metro's current high-priority operations and maintenance program, please see their SafeTrack plan. For more information on Metro's plans to improve service by 2025, please see their Momentum report.

Have you considered extending Virginia Railway Express from Gainesville to meet with Metrorail's Orange Line?

Virginia Railway Express (VRE) is currently working on a planning and project development study for the Gainesville-Haymarket Extension. The $295 million project is not currently funded in the region's fiscally constrained Long Range Transportation Plan. For more information, see the VRE System Plan.

Project Schedule

What is the current project schedule?

2017: Design Public Hearing
2017: Construction Start

Contact Information

What is the best way to contact the project team?

For more information on Transform 66 Outside the Beltway, please visit www.Transform66.org. Inquiries or requests can be emailed to the project team at: Transform66@VDOT.Virginia.gov.