One month in, VDOT says use of I-64 express lanes still growing

NORFOLK, Va. - It's been one month since the Virginia Department of Transportation opened its latest effort to fight congestion along I-64.

The express lanes, or High-Occupancy Toll lanes, are a new option for drivers looking to bypass traffic on the portion of I-64 between I-564 and I-264 during peak travel times.

Most who use the lanes during those travel times must pay a toll except for vehicles that have more than one person inside and an EZ Pass Flex switched to 'HOV On', which equals a free ride.

"We think it’ll take a couple of months for motorist who have these new travel choices to normalize their travel patterns but we see the numbers and it looks like people are liking the travel choices that they have," said Paula Miller, spokesperson for VDOT.

Based on three weeks of data, on average when tolls are activated VDOT says seven percent of drivers move over to use express lanes.

Day-by-day, the number has been as low as two percent and as high as 12 percent. The goal is to have 17 percent of traffic using the express lanes.

Average daily tolls for a round trip on the lanes has been $2.06.

"The total rate goes up when more people are in the lanes. People drop out the fewer people that use the lanes the toll drops," said Miller.

VDOT is hoping the numbers will stabilize as more people get used to the lanes.

"There are a lot of factors that don’t give us a full picture yet but in a couple months we will have those reports that will probably give us a true picture of these stabilized travel patterns," Miller said.

The goal is to have express lanes extend down I-64 to the Bowers Hill exit in Chesapeake and up to Jefferson Road in Newport News. The next phase is set to be completed in 2021.