WASHINGTON — The Virginia Department of Transportation has announced that an extension of the express lanes on Interstate 95 in Stafford County will open ahead of schedule later this month.
On the afternoon of Oct. 31, southbound commuters on the I-95 Express Lanes will be able to drive two miles deeper in Stafford County when a new section of the reversible road is scheduled to open, VDOT says. Southbound afternoon drivers will be able to drive past Route 610 in the Express Lanes and merge onto the left side of the mainline about a mile south of Route 610.
Drivers will still be able to use the southbound flyover before Garrisonville to exit the express lanes.
The lanes will reverse as usual during the overnight hours and by early Wednesday morning, northbound drivers will be able to access the lanes at a new left on-ramp past Route 630. Northbound drivers will have a couple of chances to enter the lanes from the left side of the highway after the new slip ramp opens.
The rules for the all-electronic facility remain the same — all drivers in the lanes are required to have an E-ZPass. Tolls are dynamic and hinge on travel volume. Carpools equipped with an E-ZPass Flex are still allowed to travel for free.
Around 146,000 vehicles a day travel I-95 near Garrisonville Road, according to recent VDOT traffic counts. Long volume delays and high tolls have occurred at times, particularly on getaway travel days and summer Fridays, at the southern end of the facility.
“Just over a quarter of the express lanes traffic is getting off at Garrisonville [Road]. You have that entire movement of people that are trying to get off that exit so by adding a new exit south of the interchange you’ll have about one thousand vehicles in a peak hour that are taken out of that mix,” said Kelly Hannon with the Virginia Department of Transportation.
With fewer drivers trying to compete for merge space in the main lanes and express lanes, VDOT and the operator, TransUrban, hope to see some improvement in getaway volume delays.
“We do hope that it will reduce the merging and weaving and the jockeying for position that happens there and that will hopefully result in an improved trip,” Hannon said.
Construction of the short stretch of road began last summer. The work is part of a larger effort to extend the express lanes farther south toward Falmouth and Fredericksburg. The recent segment cost about $50 million with full funding for the expansion across the Rappahannock River still pending.
A separate project to convert the High Occupancy Vehicle lanes to toll lanes on Interstate 395 is underway. The reversible highway, along with the I-95 Express Lanes, will operated by TransUrban as one facility.