The Washington Post

Crews have started

- BY LUZ LAZO luz.lazo@washpost.com

work on a 10-mile extension of Interstate 95 toll lanes in Northern Virginia.

Virginia’s high-occupancy toll lanes continue to expand in the Interstate 95 corridor.

Constructi­on kicked off last week along a 10-mile stretch of I-95 in Northern Virginia, where Transurban is extending the reversible 95 Express Lanes from Route 610 to Route 17 near Fredericks­burg. The $565 million project will represent another milestone in the state’s vision to create a network of more than 90 miles of HOT lanes in Northern Virginia by 2022.

The project is one of several in a $1 billion deal the state announced earlier this year. As part of the deal, Transurban has also agreed to build a reversible ramp — a $50 million project — connecting the 95 Express Lanes at Opitz Boulevard to enhance access to the Potomac Mills shopping center. And the Virginia Department of Transporta­tion will build and maintain a southbound auxiliary lane, a $30 million project, on I-95 in Woodbridge to address a traffic bottleneck at the Occoquan Bridge.

Officials say the Fredericks­burg extension will increase lane capacity — by 66 percent in the peak direction — along one of the most congested stretches of I-95. When the lanes open in late 2022, carpoolers will be allowed to ride free. Solo drivers can use the lanes if they pay. Even those who choose not to pay can benefit, proponents say, because having more people in the toll lanes should ease congestion in the general lanes.

The constructi­on over the next three years will create additional traffic headaches for drivers in the corridor. Constructi­on activity will pick up in coming weeks and months as crews move from installing work-zone signs and concrete barriers to building the lanes. There will be closures along the 10-mile work zone from the vicinity of Exit 143, Route 610, to Exit 133, Route 17 in Stafford County. Additional work is expected near Exit 148, at the Quantico Marine Corps Base exit, where Express Lanes access will be added.

“Drivers should be alert to constructi­on vehicles entering and exiting the I-95 median at constructi­on access points in the work zone, and they will observe clearing of trees and brush in the median and grading,” VDOT spokeswoma­n Kelly Hannon said. “We ask drivers to help us keep travelers and our constructi­on crews safe this summer by wearing their seat belt, obeying the speed limit, and limiting distractio­ns as they travel through the work zone.”

Transurban President Jennifer Aument said the project will ensure that Virginians see an improved commute. More than 100,000 carpool and bus commuters use the I-95 and Interstate 495 network of express lanes, she said, and the extension will bring the express option to carpoolers in the Fredericks­burg area.

“This really builds on what has been a very successful network along I-95 and 495 for a number of years,” Aument said. She said Fredericks­burg-area drivers who encounter long lines on 95 south of the existing express lanes will experience “immediate relief.”

The congestion created when the express lanes end and traffic merges into the general travel lanes will move 10 miles south, and it will probably continue to be a choke point. Aument said her company is working from operations and design perspectiv­es to ease that hot spot.

In the I-95/Interstate 395 corridor alone, there will be 50 miles of toll lanes from the D.C. line to Fredericks­burg, including an eight-mile stretch of I-395 that is being converted from HOV lanes into toll lanes. That project is expected to open this year.

Transurban also operates the 495 Express Lanes and is working on a three-mile extension to the American Legion Bridge. Virginia manages and operates 10 miles of HOT lanes on Interstate 66, inside the Beltway. Nearly 23 additional miles of express lanes are under constructi­on on I-66.

All HOT lane users need an E-ZPass transponde­r. A portion of the revenue will go toward highway improvemen­ts and transit.

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