WASHINGTON — The red paint marking shoulder lanes that for the last few years have opened any time traffic backs up on Interstate 66 outside the Capital Beltway, Virginia, is being peeled off in multiple stretches this month, as years of construction lane shifts ramp up.
In addition to the areas where concrete barriers have already been placed to narrow lanes or shift traffic as part of toll lane construction, work Friday and Saturday nights is scheduled to remove the “red x” lane from eastbound I-66 between U.S. 50 and Virginia Route 123.
This weekend’s work is scheduled to block lanes starting 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights.
“Drivers are advised that once this lane shift is implemented, the ‘red X’ signs between U.S. Route 50 and Route 123 (Chain Bridge Road), which are part of VDOT’s Active Traffic Management system, will be transitioned out of service,” a Virginia Department of Transportation advisory said.
For now, the signs that allow for the remaining portion of the “red x” lanes to be opened when traffic backs up outside of the typical rush hour will remain in place on a stretch east of Route 123.
In some other locations, the paint has already been ground off the pavement.
The entire active traffic management system, which also posted lower recommended speed limits for drivers when there was congestion ahead and pointed drivers to a different lane in the event of a crash, is expected to be dismantled soon.
Before the system was in place, the shoulder lanes were open to rush-hour drivers in the peak direction, but even that use will now be limited.
Alternatives emphasized during construction
Significant lane closures and delays ramping up now are expected to last about four years as part of the construction of two toll lanes in each direction between Gainesville and the Beltway.
Like the 495 Express Lanes, trips will be free for drivers with at least three people in the car and an E-ZPass Flex switched to HOV mode.
For other car and truck drivers, tolls will rise and fall based on the amount of traffic in the lanes.
Until the lanes open in 2022, local and state transportation leaders expect significant delays at times on top of existing traffic jams.
For now, several transit agencies are offering free or discounted bus trips in the corridor.
PRTC OmniRide buses serving Gainesville and Manassas will be 50 percent off from Monday, May 10, through the end of construction.
That means one-way fares on commuter buses to the Pentagon and other inside-the-Beltway locations will drop from $6.90 to $3.45. Fares for PRTC buses from the Manassas area to end-of-line Metro stations will drop from $3.45 to $1.75.
The Portsmouth Road commuter lot, off Sudley Road in Manassas, typically has parking spaces available, PRTC said.
Loudoun County Transit is offering free rides to Metro stations this month and Fairfax Connector plans some fare discounts soon.
Route 28 construction shifts now in place
Additional construction barriers were scheduled to be set up overnight Wednesday into Thursday along Virginia Route 28 between Westfields Boulevard and Braddock Road — essentially the entire section of Route 28 near I-66.
The toll lane construction project includes a complete rebuilding of the I-66/Route 28 interchange and changes for Route 28 past E.C. Lawrence Park.
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