WASHINGTON — A new 2-mile southward extension of the 95 Express Lanes opens Tuesday afternoon, which state transportation leaders and the private company that runs the lanes hope could partially alleviate the regular backups near Garrisonville Road.
Southbound drivers will have the first opportunity to use the new stretch of toll lanes Tuesday afternoon. The reversible lane will open to northbound traffic for the first time Wednesday morning.
The toll lane rules for this stretch are the same as the rest of the 95 Express Lanes: Drivers can ride free with a total of three or more people in the car and an E-ZPass Flex switched to HOV mode, or drivers with fewer people in the car can pay the toll that rises and falls based on the amount of traffic in the toll lanes.
Drivers without an E-ZPass get violation notices in the mail that include additional penalties beyond the toll rate.
The reversal schedule for the lanes also remains the same.
For southbound traffic, the additional stretch in Stafford County, Virginia, will mean only drivers exiting onto Route 610 need to use the existing overpass to reach the exit on the right side. Drivers continuing south on Interstate 95 can continue past the exit and merge into regular traffic from the left. Northbound drivers could see traffic start moving slightly sooner with the earlier Express Lanes’ entrance.
About one in every four vehicles that drives the south end of the Express Lanes today uses the Garrisonville Road exit, while the other three-quarters start or end their trips farther south, the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Kelly Hannon said.
“We have so much merging and weaving at that interchange … so by adding a new exit south of the interchange, you’ll have about 1,000 vehicles in a peak hour that are taken out of that mix,” Hannon said.
As with any new traffic pattern, it may take several days or longer for some drivers to adjust, so Hannon said travelers need to be alert this week.
Work on the $50 million extension began in 2016.
Virginia is separately moving forward with plans for a longer extension of the Express Lanes toward Fredericksburg. On the north end, the 395 HOV lanes are due to become an extension of the 95 Express Lanes in late 2019.
Other tolls begin in December on I-66 inside the Capital Beltway at rush hour only. New round-the-clock I-66 toll lanes between the Beltway and Gainesville are due to open in 2022.