Extension plan for I-95 express lanes up for vote

WASHINGTON — Toll lanes are expanding rapidly in Virginia, and the Commonwealth Transportation Board is scheduled to give additional approvals Wednesday to extending the lanes along the Interstate 95 corridor.

The votes will add a 10-mile extension of the 95 Express Lanes to official plans and put $12 million, that will later be repaid by toll revenue, into continuing work on the project. If everything proceeds on schedule, Virginia Department of Transportation Fredericksburg District Engineer Marcie Parker said construction on the lanes could begin in the spring of 2019 and the extension could open in 2021.

“It will extend the Express Lanes from Garrisonville Road to Route 17 in Stafford County, which is about 10 miles. It will have direct connection with both the northbound and southbound Rappahannock River crossing projects, and we are currently analyzing access points and operational improvements with the project,” Parker told the board.

This longer extension, which VDOT has dubbed “FredEx”, is on top of the short-term changes already in the works for an extension just beyond the current choke point at Garrisonville Road.

That shorter $31 million extension is due to open southbound this fall, with the northbound entrance opening in summer 2018.

On the northern end of the corridor, VDOT is finalizing its environmental findings on converting the 395 HOV lanes into an extension of the toll lanes.

“The biggest item here that we found was in terms of noise walls, and about eight miles of noise walls have been determined to be feasible and reasonable and are incorporated for further consideration as we move through the final design,” VDOT Megaprojects Director Susan Shaw said.

The board will later vote to finalize the conversion of the lanes from HOV lanes, where rules are only enforced at rush hour, to toll lanes, where people driving alone or with only one other person in the car must pay a variable toll at all times.

Shaw expects VDOT will move into the final proposal for the deal and contract amendments next month. Construction on the 395 conversion, which includes improved access to and from the Pentagon, would begin later this year.

The conversion is scheduled to be complete by 2020.

The lanes will be part of an even larger toll-lane network, as VDOT expects rush-hour tolls for solo-drivers on Interstate 66 inside the Beltway will begin later this year. A larger project to build two Express Lanes in each direction between the Beltway and Gainesville is scheduled to open in 2022.

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