While it’s not clear if and when a new American Legion Bridge will be built, now that the group Maryland chose to build the Potomac crossing and toll lanes on parts of the Beltway and I-270 has pulled out of the project, Virginia is moving full speed ahead to extend its 495 Express Lanes.
Regardless of whether a new bridge is built, Virginia’s Department of Transportation is seeking to reassure drivers that traffic will continue to improve — at least south of the Potomac River — and that its new express lanes are scheduled to open by late 2025.
Beginning its second year of construction — and Beltway work zones — VDOT’s work is readily visible to drivers Wednesday morning, with clearing and digging at what will be an improved George Washington Parkway interchange.
In a statement specifying that its 495 NEXT project is a separate entity from Maryland’s stalled efforts, VDOT says the extended express lanes “will move 2,500 more people per hour in both directions combined, and improve travel times by as much as 24 minutes in the northbound direction.”
According to the agency: “By increasing the person-carrying capacity of I-495, drivers will have less incentive to use neighborhood cut-through routes, reducing traffic on local roads.”
VDOT’s project is scheduled to include four miles of new bicycle and pedestrian connections, rehabilitation or replacement of seven bridges to accommodate pedestrians, and several noise wall replacements to shield current neighborhoods.
In the national capital region, commuters from Virginia and Maryland often cross the Potomac on the American Legion Bridge, heading toward the D.C., the Dulles Corridor, or the I-270 corridor of Montgomery County and other business centers.
While the announcement from Australian toll-road operator Transurban Ltd to pull out of the project has soured — at least temporarily — the plans for a new American Legion Bridge, VDOT’s news release suggests it is doing all it can to improve commutes.
“Our colleagues in Maryland have told us that they remain committed to congestion relief in the corridor and have expressed their intention to deliver their project in accordance with the federally approved Record of Decision, which is a managed lanes project,” VDOT said in a news release. “Virginia will continue to coordinate with Maryland as they determine their next steps to alleviate one of the region’s worst traffic bottlenecks.”
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