Starting today, vehicles traveling on I-66 will need three or more occupants to qualify for the high occupancy vehicle lanes, the Virginia Department of Transportation announced.
The new HOV policy, which will apply to the entire stretch of highway from Haymarket to the DC line, overhauls what has long been a two-plus-occupant requirement. The development is the latest in a five-year, $3.7 billion road-widening construction project designed to relieve the heavily congested interstate.
In addition to traveling with three or more occupants, vehicles using the HOV on the newly opened 66 express lanes outside of the Beltway — a 22.5-mile stretch between Gainesville and I-495 — must also have an E-ZPass Flex switched to the “HOV On” mode to travel for free, VDOT officials said. This policy will remain in effect 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The 9-mile stretch inside the Beltway between I-495 and the DC line, meanwhile, will require the same rules but will only be in effect on weekdays during high drive times and in peak commute directions.
“The HOV-3+ requirement on I-66 Express Lanes is consistent with HOV requirements on the other express lanes in Northern Virginia, and supports a regional policy and goal to increase the occupancy requirements on HOV lanes in the region to HOV-3 in order to reduce the number of vehicle miles traveled and comply with the federal Clean Air Act Amendment of 1990,” VDOT officials wrote in a release announcing the new policy.
Last month, VDOT approved the early opening of a stretch of I-66 express lanes between the Beltway and Route 28, part of a phased opening officials hoped would provide commuters a better opportunity to adjust to the new traffic patterns.
Learn more about the new I-66 express lanes and the HOV-3+ policy here.
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