WASHINGTON – An out-of-town driver has died after a fiery, three-car wreck at the entrance to the new 495 Express Lanes Tuesday, state police say.
And the fatal crash has prompted the express lanes’ operator Transurban to undergo a safety review to determine if any changes are needed to help avoid future collisions.
Mary Jane Treacy, 72 of Bluffton, S.C., was driving a Town and Country minivan on the Inner Loop of the Beltway when she suddenly braked at the entrance of the tolled express lanes, according to the Virginia State Police.
A Jeep Wrangler swerved and was able to avoid hitting the minivan but a Mercedes sedan was unable to stop and rear-ended the van, spinning it around.
The minivan then hit the Jeep. Meanwhile, the Mercedes hit the jersey barrier where it began to smoke and caught fire, police say.
Treacy died after arriving at a local hospital, according to the Virginia State Police.
Her husband Thomas Treacy, 78, was taken to the hospital with serious injuries but was expected to survive.
The driver of the Mercedes, Ronald Henderson, 30 of Dulles, was able to get out of the car on his own and was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. The driver of the Jeep Tricia Hindermann, 43 of Arlington, was also taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
Police have not yet determined the cause of the crash.
When the tolled express lanes first opened in 2012, drivers trying to bail the toll lanes and return to the main lanes caused numerous crashes.
Additional signage and pavement markings were added to help drivers decide whether they wanted to pay to travel along the new lanes.
Transurban spokesman Mike McGurk tells WTOP that the toll lane operator will call in an outside entity to review the fatal accident and determine what happened and what can be done to prevent future crashes. He said such reviews are done for any accident involving the express lanes.
Drivers who accidentally enter the tolled lanes should keep driving and exit as soon as they can. ” And give us a call after their trip,” McGurk says.
The lanes will eventually connect to the toll lanes that will replace the existing HOV lanes along Interstate 95. That project is slated to be finished in 2015.
“We’re continuing to look at additional enhancements along the entire corridor to strengthen awareness and better indicate entry and exit points,” McGurk says.