WASHINGTON – Virginia hopes to break ground on an extension for the 95 Express Lanes in 2016 and take major steps toward the overhaul of how drivers use Interstate 66, which will include new tolls.
Some of the top transportation changes expected to come up this year in Northern Virginia include:
95/395 Express Lanes extension
Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced on WTOP in November that the state would extend the 95 Express Lanes about two miles south in Stafford County to help ease the regular traffic backups created since the lanes opened at the end of 2014. The administration is also negotiating the final details of a deal to convert the HOV lanes on Interstate 395 to toll lanes to extend the 95 Express Lanes north to the District line.
“The process is moving forward with Transurban, and I’m hoping in 2016 you’re going to see activity on the ground,” McAuliffe told WTOP.
Transurban operates the toll lanes, which are free for cars carrying three people or more.
Interstate 66 changes are near
Expanded hours for HOV requirements on Interstate 66 inside the Beltway are scheduled to begin in 2017, but key parts of the project that will add tolls for solo drivers will be completed this year.
Public meetings are scheduled for late January on the design of the all-electronic toll system and locations of the digital signs that will inform drivers of the current variable toll rates.
The project to add two new HOV or toll lanes in each direction on Interstate 66 between the Beltway and Gainesville is expected to be finalized by fall 2016.
A financial close on the deal with a private partner by spring 2017 would allow construction to begin that same year. Those lanes are not scheduled to open until about 2021.
If the negotiations for a public-private concession fall through, the timeline could be delayed by several months.
Bus-only lanes along Route 1 will open in full
The delayed Crystal City-Potomac Yard Transitway will open in spring 2016 to complete the region’s first full stretch of bus-only lanes.
Alexandria’s section of the project opened in 2014, but Arlington’s section has been delayed several times. Acting Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz said Dec. 15 that the Arlington portion of the project will finally be completed by spring.
Metro has already begun special bus service in the corridor called Metroway that will make trips even quicker once the Arlington lanes open to help the buses avoid traffic.
The fare for a trip anywhere along the route between Braddock Road Metro Station and Pentagon City Metro Station is $1.75, the same as other buses in the region.
One hope for the project is that people will prefer the bus over the heavy crowding faced by drivers along Jefferson Davis Highway, and will choose to take the bus rather than adding to the traffic.
The lanes include stations that will eventually allow for all fares to be paid on the platform rather than on the bus, which will speed up the ride.
The project pairs with the Potomac Yard Metro Station, which is scheduled to open around 2020. A contract to build the station on the tracks between Reagan National Airport and Braddock Road could be advertised for bid by fall.
The transitway was originally imagined as infrastructure that later could be converted for streetcar service, before the Arlington County Board scrapped streetcar plans.
If the transitway is successful, it could pave the way for other bus-only or streetcar-only lanes elsewhere in the area.
That could include any future extension of the D.C. streetcar (which could also finally open for riders in early 2016), or other projects such as proposed bus rapid transit in Montgomery County or improved bus or new light rail service along Route 7 in Virginia.