WASHINGTON - Virginia transportation officials are ready to cut the ribbon on a new interchange -- but technically, it's already open to drivers.
The ceremony is set for Thursday to celebrate the interchange on the Fairfax County and Fair Lakes parkways. The interchange opened earlier this year.
"This is part of the parkway that is heavily traveled and was heavily congested with all the traffic lights," says Virginia Department of Transportation spokesperson Joan Morris.
Until now, there was an intersection at the two points with a traffic light, backing up traffic during the morning and evening rush. About 66,000 vehicles travel this stretch of the Fairfax County Parkway each day.
"That intersection is now gone. Several traffic signals are now gone. Motorists are now able to cross over Fair Lakes Parkway," says Morris, who adds that it saves drivers time.
Below is a map with the location of the interchange.
Removing traffic lights and adding interchanges has been a popular concept to ease traffic in sprawling new major roadways like Route 28 in Fairfax and Prince William counties and Route 29 north of the Beltway in Montgomery County.
Interchanges are raised exit ramps that take only exiting drivers towards a traffic signal, or in this case, drivers wanting to get to Fair Lakes Parkway.
"We also now have three miles with an additional lane, so now we have three lanes in each direction from Route 50 to Rugby Road with a nice, long merging lane to increase traffic safety," says Morris.
VDOT also says the project will improve congestion on the Fair Lakes Parkway by separating local and Fairfax County Parkway traffic.
"Even better, pedestrians have safer and better access at this new interchange and there's a shared use path for bicyclists and pedestrians," says Morris.
The total cost was $69.5 million, with at least $40 million of it coming from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The project took about three years to complete.
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