Toll lanes opened for the first time on the Capital Beltway Saturday, providing a disturbing glimpse of the future of infrastructure development. Virginia's Interstate 495 Express Lanes project adds desperately needed capacity to the congested route, which will ease commutes for drivers -- but only if they pay up.
Commuters may have shorter drive times on the Virginia side of the Capital Beltway with this weekend's opening of 14 miles of four high-occupancy toll lanes -- a milestone public-private partnership that is one of the biggest transportation projects of its kind in the country.
Gov. Robert F. McDonnell made a strategic retreat from a key element of his vision for Northern Virginia's roads. His transportation chief, Sean T. Connaughton, announced last week that Interstate 395 will no longer be part of the scheme to convert existing freeway car-pool lanes into "high-occupancy toll" (HOT) lanes. The shrewd maneuver has all but assured victory for Mr. McDonnell's broader plan to see the commonwealth's commuters tossing quarters into baskets each and every time they get behind the wheel.
Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell last week made the pitch for a $4 billion investment in transportation. Given the gridlock on many of the commonwealth's roads - particularly in the north - this goal has some appeal. Unfortunately, the specifics in the governor's proposal will put future generations in debt without addressing the fundamental cause of congestion.
Arlington County officials filed a lawsuit last year alleging that the state's plan to turn Interstate 95/395 high-occupancy-vehicle (HOV) lanes into a toll road was, among other things, a racist enterprise. While it's hard to endorse that logical leap, the legal wrangling has ground progress on the tolling scheme to a halt - and that's the best possible outcome for limited-government conservatives.