MERRIFIELD, Va. – Those who regularly drive the Beltway in Virginia between Springfield and the Dulles Toll Road are well aware of the Express Lane work that’s been taking place. And with the project fast moving toward completion, leaders say drivers will soon notice other significant changes along the corridor.
“In the next few weeks you are going to start seeing Express Lanes signs go up. The signs will have the white banner with E-ZPass logo and the EXPRESS name on them,” project Marketing Director Pierce Coffee says.
These signs will not only be the face of the express lanes, but will also explain the rules of the new High Occupancy Toll road.
The concept behind the express lanes is fairly simple. Drivers can use them for free if they have three or more people in their car. Any less than that, drivers have to pay a toll. The more the lanes are used, the higher the tolls, the idea being that some will be priced out of the lanes and traffic will be able to continue moving.
Drivers are promised a speedy commute of at least 45 miles per hour. Tolls are collected using an E-Z Pass — switched between carpool mode and toll mode — that will allow traffic to keep flowing.
Along with the new signage, the physical tolling system for the Express Lanes will also be set up and tested in the coming weeks.
“The technology being installed on the 495 Express Lanes will be used to manage traffic in the lanes to provide travelers with a faster, more predictable trip on the Beltway,” says Coffee.
Predictable and Beltway traffic? Time will tell.
The estimated opening date for the Beltway Express Lanes between Springfield and just north of the Dulles Toll Road now stands at December 2012, according to VDOT. Two new lanes are being added in each direction.
The current cost estimate is $1.9 billion. The project is being funded by both public and private money. Australian-based Transurban-Fluor is the private party investing in the project.