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The Political Toll of Dynamic Tolling

AP Photo / Cliff Owen

Drivers in Northern Virginia are still being hit with record-high tolls, some as much as $40 for a one-way trip in express lanes during some rush hours. Michael Pope has this look at the politics of dynamic tolling.

Republicans say they might have had a better chance in the election this year if drivers were hit with $40 tolls before the election. That way they could have made it an issue and tarred Democrats as the party of crippling fees. Stephen Farnsworth at the University of Mary Washington says that may have had some success on the campaign trail, although he adds there’s enough blame to go around.

"It was not an accident that tolling was put in place after the election. But it’s important to recognize that Democrats and Republicans both voted for the privatization system that was put in place for 66.”

Democrats and Republicans have both issued a flurry of press releases condemning the tolls, and the issue is sure to come up this January when members of the General Assembly convene in Richmond.

“These tolls could potentially be damaging for the party in power.”

That’s Geoff Skelley at the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

“I could see it perhaps aiding Republicans if they choose to make it a major issue, and I think there will be Democrats in Northern Virginia who will be upset because this could endanger them politically.”

Transportation officials say they aim is to change behavior. Drivers won’t clog roads with single-occupancy vehicles if they’re hit with a $44 bill for the morning commute.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.
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