The rules for using Interstate 395 in Northern Virginia are about to change. E-ZPass or E-ZPass Flex will be required for use of the 395 Express lanes.
Commuters will soon need to pay or be HOV-3 round-the-clock to ride for free.
The 395 Express Lanes Project is set to open sometime in November in the roughly 8-mile stretch from near Edsall Road in Alexandria to the 14th Street Bridge in D.C.
What are currently two reversible High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes during rush hours will become three reversible express lanes with HOV-3 requirements for free use.
The toll lane operator, TransUrban expects that drivers who typically don’t use the 395 HOV lanes currently will embrace the new Express lanes much like drivers did when the 95 Express Lanes opened in Northern Virginia in the counties south of Arlington.
“Most customers who choose to pay a toll to get on the lanes are only doing that about three times a month,” TransUrban’s Mike McGurk said. “So, it’s only an occasional type of option for you when you really need to get somewhere on time.”
The project includes upgrades and changes to ramps to access the Pentagon and Pentagon City in Crystal City. New bus and slug lanes opened at the Pentagon South Parking Lot last May.
People dropping off car-poolers at the Pentagon/Pentagon City exits will be able to continue trips north into D.C. free as solo drivers by flipping the switch on the E-ZPass Flex.
Some elements of construction will continue after the new lanes become operational. Construction is expected to wrap up completely in the summer of 2020.
Over the life of TransUrban’s 60 year deal with Virginia’s Department of Transportation to operate the Express lanes, it will give money to support projects to help get people out of their cars.
“TransUrban will be contributing $15 million a year toward commuter choice options out of the toll revenue that they receive,” VDOT’s Transportation & Land Use Director for Arlington and Fairfax Counties, Allison C. Richter said.
“What that means is other ways that people can get through the corridor. It could be busses or other types of public transit. The money could go toward Park and Ride lots where people can pick up a ride or slug in, for example,” Richter said.
The money will be distributed by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission through a grant application process.