Virginia reaches agreement for I-95 HOT lanes

Hank Silverberg,

WASHINGTON – After years of discussions, lawsuits and redesigns, the High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes for I-95 in Virginia appear to be a done deal.

The state has reached a tentative agreement with private Australian company Fluor-Transurban to begin constructing the HOT lanes in the spring of 2012, with completion slotted for 2015.

The project will expand the current High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes to create 29 miles of toll road between Edsall Road in Fairfax County and Garrisonville Road in Stafford County. The current HOV lanes end in Dumfries in Prince William County.

Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton says Transurban is taking all the risk in the $940 million project, particularly if traffic volume in the toll lanes does not meet projections.

“The tolls will be variable based on the traffic conditions,” Connaughton says. “If it hits certain thresholds, we do revenue sharing between the state and Fluor-Transurban.”

If the HOT lanes are profitable, the state’s revenue share could be between 5 percent and 40 percent, depending on volume. The contract with Fluor-Transurban is for 73 years.

Cars with three people will still travel for free. Cars with less than three will pay a toll using E-ZPass, but there will be no toll booths.

The new toll portion will have three lanes instead of the current two in the HOV system, along with numerous entrances and exits along the 29 miles. Tolls will be based on distance traveled, volume and time of day — making them hard to predict on any given trip.

The HOT lanes will not go all the way to D.C. because of a dispute with Arlington County. But they will connect directly in Springfield with the HOT lanes currently under construction on I-495. The current HOV system would stay in place between Edsall Road and the 14th Street Bridge on I-395.

Virginia also plans to spend $200 million on as many as 46 new bus routes in Spotsylvania, Stafford, Prince William and Fairfax counties. There additionally are expected to be as many as 9,500 new park-and-ride parking spaces along the highway that Connaughton says will be phased in as needed.

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(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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