News & Politics

VA Governor Declines to Address Increased Emissions from Express Lanes Change Heading Into D.C.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D-Va.) in December 2019 (Photo: Nicholas Ballasy)

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D-Va.) declined to address the increased congestion on I-395 heading into Washington D.C. after the Express Lanes conversion took place in November.

Prior to November 18, drivers with fewer than three people in their vehicles could ride in the HOV (carpool) lanes on weekdays free of charge outside of rush hour times, which freed up congestion in the regular lanes.

Every driver with fewer than three people in their vehicle must now pay an adjustable toll to get into D.C. after the I-395 HOV lanes in Virginia were converted to Express Lanes. So far, those tolls have been as high as $14. Many drivers are choosing not to pay the adjustable toll, which they were not charged in the past, so they are using the regular lanes instead, causing additional traffic.

According to the official Twitter account for the VA Express Lanes, the lanes “bring traffic relief and travel options to NOVA.”

Northam was asked if the Express Lane conversion conflicts with his climate change message given that the regular lanes are seeing more congestion now than before the conversion.

“What we’ve tried to do with transportation in the HOT lanes [High-Occupancy Toll Lane] is to give people more options,” Northam said after speaking at a transportation event in December. “They have the option to drive in whatever lane they want at whatever time of day so we’ll continue to move in that direction.”

Northam has made climate change a centerpiece of his energy agenda by setting a carbon emissions reduction goal for the state of 85 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.