Private investment, public benefits: Celebrating the success of the 66 Express Outside the Beltway project

This content is provided by I-66 Express Mobility Partners.

I-66 Express
I-66 Express

May marks 18 months since the full opening of the 66 Express Outside the Beltway dynamic toll managed-lane system in Northern Virginia. This month, we also celebrate Infrastructure Week (May 13-17), making it a great time to examine the economic impact, multi-modal infrastructure, private investment, and public benefits of this transformative Public/Private Partnership (P3) project.

Ranking among the biggest P3 infrastructure projects constructed in the United States, the 66 Express Outside the Beltway Project features the reconstruction of 22.5 miles of three general purpose lanes alongside two new dynamically tolled “express lanes” in each direction of I-66, a span that connects the Capital Beltway in eastern Fairfax County with Gainesville in western Prince William County.

For all travelers, the benefits of the 66 Express Outside the Beltway are significant. The 66 Express offers commuters, businesses, freight carriers, mass transit agencies, and travelers the most reliable, predictable way to traverse the I-66 corridor. As a result, drivers who choose the 66 Express are saving substantial time, with the current average travel time for the 22.5 miles being reduced by 54% from pre-construction levels to less than 20 minutes in the express lanes. Furthermore, average travel time in the non-tolled general-purpose lanes has also improved, benefiting all drivers in the corridor, not just those who choose the 66 Express.

The 66 Express is fulfilling its promise to move more people, goods, and services more efficiently along the busy I-66 corridor, while providing new travel options for all, including toll-free travel for mass transit, motorcycles, and eligible vehicles with three or more passengers (HOV 3+).

“For the estimated 200,000 vehicles that rely on I-66 every day, the 66 Express Outside the Beltway provides relief from daily congestion with a consistent, reliable travel choice for both commuters and commercial vehicles,” said Luis Vazquez, CEO of I-66 Express Mobility Partners. “Thanks to strong collaboration and an innovative public-private partnership with VDOT, together we opened one of the nation’s largest transportation improvement projects ahead of schedule.”

The mega-project was funded through an innovative package of private investment of over $3.7 billion by I-66 Express Mobility Partners (I-66 EMP), a consortium of global infrastructure companies Cintra, Meridiam, and APG, along with design/build contractor FAM Construction, a joint venture of Ferrovial Construction, and Allan Myers. I-66 EMP now operates and maintains the 66 Express in partnership with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).

That $3.7 billion in private investment included all of the design and construction costs to rebuild the full I-66 corridor between the Capital Beltway and Gainesville, as well as upfront funding of $579 million for additional locally selected transportation improvements along the I-66 corridor, plus funding to support transit services during the construction period.

Additionally, I-66 EMP has committed to providing approximately $340 million over 50-year term of its contract with VDOT in annual mass-transit capital and operating subsidy supporting ongoing improvements to regional transit infrastructure, as well as another $350 million for additional future local transportation improvements along the I-66 corridor.

This investment is already realizing returns for the Commonwealth and its citizens. Not only were these major infrastructure improvements made at no cost to Virginia’s taxpayers, but the 66 Express Outside the Beltway project generated an estimated $4.9 billion in cumulative impact to Northern Virginia’s economy from the start of construction in 2017 through 2022, according to an October 2023 study (Steer: Economic and Community Impact of Ferrovial Toll Roads, October 2023). The study also found that the 66 Express Outside the Beltway produced 26,300 full-time equivalent job-years through 2022, when the construction phase of this remarkable project was completed.

Multi-modal in nature, the 66 Express Outside the Beltway has transformed transportation infrastructure along the I-66 corridor with a bevy of key improvements that help to safely move not only more cars, but more people, throughout the region. These improvements include:

  • Twelve rebuilt or modified interchanges with safety and operational improvements,
  • Additional auxiliary lanes to reduce merging between close interchanges,
  • Dedicated access ramps to the 66 Express to improve traffic flow and ease of use,
  • Over 18 miles of new shared-use path infrastructure, including the 11-mile 66 Parallel Trail, to provide new bike and pedestrian travel options along the corridor,
  • Two park-and-ride facilities in Prince William County providing more than 4,000 commuter spaces for carpooling and transit users, and,
  • Reserved median space for future transit extension along the I-66 corridor.

Now 18 months into full operations, the 66 Express continues to provide valuable benefits. Drivers may take advantage of free AAA-style roadside assistance by calling #77 on their mobile phone to get fast help if ever they run out of gas, need their battery jumped, or have a flat tire. In addition, the 66 Express operates its own Incident Response, Weather Preparedness, and Snow Removal fleets, freeing up resources for VDOT to use elsewhere while keeping drivers moving.

With its myriad of benefits to the driving public, a host of multi-modal improvements to Northern Virginia’s transportation infrastructure, far-reaching economic impact, and $3.7 billion in overall private investment, the 66 Express Outside the Beltway is an exemplary project to highlight on Infrastructure Week.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up