Virginia HOT lanes

Virginia HOT lanes refers to six separate projects in the U.S. state of Virginia. The first project, completed in November 2012, added high-occupancy/toll (HO/T) lanes[a] to the Capital Beltway (I-495) in Fairfax County. The second project, opened to the public in December 2014, involved converting and extending the existing reversible high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes on I-95 and a portion of I-395 to HO/T lanes from Stafford to near Alexandria. The third project converted all lanes on I-66 inside the Beltway to peak-direction HO/T lanes, opening on December 4, 2017. The fourth project will reconstruct approximately 21 miles (34 km) of I-66 outside the Beltway, making it a 10-lane corridor (five lanes in each direction—three general-purpose and two HO/T lanes). The fifth project, which was completed in November 2019, essentially extended the aforementioned I-95/I-395 project several miles to the north, converting the existing reversible HOV lanes on I-395 to HO/T lanes from near Alexandria to Washington, DC. The sixth project will convert the existing reversible HOV lanes to HO/T Lanes on Interstate 64 from Interstate 564 in Norfolk to Interstate 264 in Virginia Beach, and also propose to expand the I-64 express lanes before and after the HO/T Lanes.

Virginia HOT lanes
Highway names
InterstatesInterstate X (I-X)
US HighwaysU.S. Route X (US X)
StateState Route X (SR X) or Virginia Route X (VA X)
System links

495 Express LanesEdit

 

495 Express Lanes
LocationSpringfield Interchange to Georgetown Pike
Length13.09 mi (21.07 km)

The 495 Express Lanes, also known as the E-ZPass Express Lanes, are a 14-mile (23 km) segment of I-495 extending from the Springfield Interchange to a point north of the Dulles Toll Road. The project began when Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) signed an agreement with Fluor Corporation and Transurban in April 2005 to create HO/T lanes between Springfield and Georgetown Pike. A contract was finalized on December 20, 2007, and construction began in the summer of 2008.[1]

During construction, the existing eight-lane (four lanes per carriageway) Beltway was widened to a 12-lane facility consisting of four general-purpose lanes per side and two high-occupancy/toll express lanes per side located to the left of the general-purpose lanes. Construction required replacement of more than 50 overpasses and bridges and the reconstruction of ten interchanges.[2] The project also added direct connections between the Capital Beltway and the I-95/I-395 HOV lanes. The project cost $1.4 billion and was controversial due to concerns over its cost-effectiveness and the environmental effects (such as surface runoff and use of parkland) of widening the Capital Beltway.[3]

The lanes opened on November 17, 2012.[4] Buses, motorcycles, and vehicles with three or more people are able to use the express lanes for free; other vehicles must pay a toll. The toll rates change dynamically according to traffic conditions, which in turn regulates demand for the lanes and keep them operating at high speeds. Tolls are collected solely via electronic means using E-ZPass transponders. No cash toll booths are offered. All vehicles using the Express Lanes, including those traveling free under the HOV provision, must have a transponder; in order to travel free, vehicles need an E-ZPass Flex switchable transponder so the driver can indicate whether the vehicle qualifies for free passage.[5] There are 11 entry/exit points to the lanes.[6] State Police positioned at toll plazas are notified electronically if a vehicle is using the EZ-Pass Flex in HOV mode. If the officer suspects the vehicle does not meet the occupancy requirement, they will stop the vehicle and verify. First time HOV violators in Northern Virginia face a minimum $125 fine, with the fine doubling (and 3 demerit points added to the driver's record) for each subsequent offense.[7]

The speed limit on the lanes was increased from 55 mph to 65 mph on June 24, 2013, after a VDOT study concluded an increase would not pose a safety risk.[8] Transportation officials said they always expected the speed limit to be increased, but they needed to open the lanes with a 55 mph speed limit to observe how the lanes operated and to assess whether the limit could be increased.[9]

Interstate 495 (Capital Beltway) Express Lanes under construction. At the left is the I-495 interchange with Route 123 and the elevated ramp access to the HO/T lanes from Route 123 (Tysons Corner), in Fairfax County, Virginia.

95 Express LanesEdit

 

95 Express Lanes
LocationStafford County to Interstate 395
Length29 mi (47 km)
 
I-95 with reversible HOT lanes in northern Virginia

The 95 Express Lanes project is a separate public-private partnership to construct and operate HO/T lanes on a 29-mile (47 km) portion of the existing reversible HOV-3 facility on I-95 and I-395. The project included construction of a nine-mile (14 km) extension of the reversible lanes from their previous southern terminus near Virginia Route 234 to Garrisonville Road (Route 610) in Stafford County. The project also added a third reversible lane within the carriageway's existing footprint from the Prince William Parkway (Virginia State Route 294) to the project's northern terminus between Duke Street (Virginia State Route 236) and Edsall Road, just south of the City of Alexandria limits; to the north of this point, the reversible facility continues to operate as it did prior to the high-occupancy/toll project.[10] The 95 Express Lanes began HO/T operations on December 29, 2014. The project had opened two weeks earlier and operated under the older HOV rules until tolling began.

Road improvements included:

  • Making improvements to the existing two HOV lanes for six miles (9.7 km) from Route 234 to the Prince William Parkway.
  • Widening the existing reversible carriageway from two lanes to three lanes for 14 miles (23 km) from the Prince William Parkway to approximately two miles (3.2 km) north of the Springfield Interchange in the vicinity of Edsall Road.
  • Adding new or improved access points in the areas of Garrisonville Road, Joplin Road, Prince William Parkway, Fairfax County Parkway (Virginia State Route 286), Franconia-Springfield Parkway (Virginia State Route 289), I-495, and in the vicinity of Edsall Road.
  • VDOT advanced plans to construct a new ramp at I-395 and Seminary Road for the Mark Center, concurrent with (but separate from) the HO/T lanes project. The ramp opened to traffic in early 2016.
  • VDOT also expanded park-and-ride lots and funded other local transit improvements to maximize the benefit of the new HO/T lanes network.
  • VDOT advanced studies to support the ultimate extension of HO/T lanes on I-95 south of Route 610 into Spotsylvania County.[11]

The original proposal was for the lanes to extend the entire length of the then-existing HOV facility, reaching the District of Columbia. The plan faced opposition from Arlington County, which houses a 4.5-mile (7.2 km) stretch of I-395; the county filed a lawsuit demanding an environmental review of the proposal and contending the lanes would create congestion on streets traveling to and from I-395. In February 2011, VDOT said the lawsuit created a "detrimental" delay to the project, with Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton saying, "We can no longer wait to deliver congestion relief and new travel choices."[12] VDOT announced a modified plan that ends the HO/T lanes at Edsall Road in Fairfax County, avoiding the City of Alexandria and Arlington County.[12][13] As a result, the three-lane portion of the reversible carriageway, and the HO/T rules, ended just north of Edsall Road. North of that point, the reversible lanes continued to operate under the pre-existing rules imposing an HOV-3 restriction during peak hours, allowing all traffic at other times, and not requiring an E-ZPass. Drivers paying the HO/T lane tolls with fewer than three people in a vehicle were not permitted to use the reversible lanes all the way into Washington during the morning rush hour and instead had to exit the reversible lanes at a new ramp north of Edsall Road constructed as part of the HO/T project; similarly, during the afternoon rush hour toll-payers with fewer than three people in a vehicle were not permitted to enter the reversible lanes north of that same location. These restrictions changed in November 2019 when the HO/T system was extended north along I-395 to the Potomac River.

Since the original portion of the HOV facility opened in the 1970s, an informal car pool system called "slugging"[14] has evolved around the reversible lanes. Drivers of cars with only one or two passengers stop at designated points and pick up strangers in order to meet the HOV-3 requirement. Members of the slugging community contended that if the HO/T lanes were extended all the way to Washington, passenger utilization of the reversible lanes might decline if drivers chose to pay HO/T tolls instead of picking up passengers from slug lines. The impact on the slug lines was not addressed by VDOT or its private sector vendors in the original proposal.

As of November 2019, construction is underway to extend the I-95 HO/T lanes south from their original terminus at Exit 143 near Aquia to Exit 133, US-17 near Fredericksburg.

395 Express LanesEdit

 

395 Express Lanes
LocationInterstate 95 to Washington, D.C.
Length9.8 mi (15.8 km)

The 395 Express Lanes project extended the I-95/I-395 HO/T lanes approximately eight miles (13 km) to the north from the "Turkeycock" ramp complex north of Edsall Road to the District of Columbia line. As with the I-95 project discussed above, construction involved widening the two existing reversible lanes to a three-lane reversible roadway and making changes to the interchange closest to the Pentagon in order to reduce traffic backups. In addition, the approach to the inbound (towards DC) Rochambeau Bridge span at the 14th Street Bridge (widely known locally as the "HOV bridge"), which was previously open to all traffic without restriction, was added to the HO/T operations at all times in order to prevent general-purpose traffic from congesting the northern terminus of the express lanes. Traffic leaving the District of Columbia is not subject to the same restriction and may use the express roadway toll-free up to, and including, the Eads Street/Pentagon exit.

The I-395 HO/T lanes operate in the same manner as the I-95 lanes with the exception of a ramp on the south side of the Seminary Road interchange that is restricted to HOV-3 traffic at all times.

66 Express LanesEdit

 

66 Express Lanes
LocationUS 29 to the Capital Beltway
Length9.0 mi (14 km)
Inside the BeltwayEdit

The I-66 Express lanes began operation on December 4, 2017. Unlike the other HO/T projects, the I-66 Inside the Beltway project uses existing infrastructure to provide Multi modal ways of travel along the nine-mile (14 km) segment between US-29 in Rosslyn and I-495 (the Capital Beltway). It allows drivers to pay the toll and use the road, Carpool or Vanpool with an E-ZPass Flex, or use Public Transportation. Hybrid vehicles, vehicles with Clean Special Fuel license plates, and people traveling to and from Dulles International Airport are no longer exempt from restrictions and must either pay the toll or satisfy the HOV rules. Motorcycles and vehicles carrying two or more people are eligible for free travel.[15] These lanes are free to all drivers during off-peak periods and weekends.

The peak periods of these lanes, to maintain a minimum average speed of 45 mph (70 km/h), are:

  • Monday through Friday 5:30–9:30 am (eastbound)
  • Monday through Friday 3:00–7:00 pm (westbound)

During peak periods, if drivers carpool with two or more people (HOV-2), they can travel on I-66 during rush hours for free with an E-ZPass Flex set to HOV mode to travel toll free. This will change to HOV-3 in 2022, when new express lanes open on I-66 between I-495 and University Boulevard and US-29 in Gainesville.[16]

This is the first time that single-occupancy vehicles are permitted to use I-66 inside the Beltway during rush hours, as the road has been subject to HOV restrictions since it opened in 1982.[17]

Outside the Beltway (Overview)Edit

I-66 Outside the Beltway is a project that started construction in 2018, which aims to ease congestion along the corridor, ease gridlock at its most heavily used interchanges, and provide more ways to travel along the corridor. The project is set to be completed some time in 2022. Changes that will be made along the corridor are:

  • Add two express lanes in each direction
  • Provide access to the express lanes along the corridor and at interchanges
  • Reconfigure challenging interchanges
  • Provide sound walls and pedestrian/bike pathways
  • Add new Park and Ride lots along the corridor

The new express lanes will operate like the 495 Express Lanes; You will need an E-ZPass to use the lanes. Carpoolers will need an E-ZPass Flex and 3 People in the vehicle to travel free. However, Large vehicles, such as trucks or vehicles with more than two axles (Buses ride free) will be able to use the lanes at 3x the price during non-rush hour periods and weekends, and 5x the price during peak hours[18]. Large vehicles are still NOT permitted to use any other express lanes unless explicitly posted. More information regarding the project can be found at Transform66.org[19] and the Project website at Virginiadot.org.[20] Visual and more In-depth information can be found on the Project Video.[21]

I-64 Express LanesEdit

 

I-64 Express Lanes
LocationHampton Roads

The I-64 Express Lanes are a public-private partnership between TransCore and VDOT to convert the eight-mile (13 km) stretch of existing HOV lanes to rush-hour toll lanes.

Operating Hours are:

  • Monday through Friday 5:00–9:00 am (westbound)
  • Monday through Friday 2:00–6:00 pm (eastbound)

At all other times, the express lanes will be open to all traffic, like they are today. Heavy tucks will be prohibited on the express lanes, limited to vehicles with two axles; buses, motorcycles, and carpools may ride for free. Carpoolers will also need an EZ-Pass Flex for toll-free travel during toll hours.

VDOT is proposing to extend the I-64 Express Lanes past the I-264 interchange to near the US-58 interchange. VDOT has also proposed to build new express lanes in each direction on the stretch from the I-664 interchange before the Hampton Roads Bridge–Tunnel to the I-564 interchange.

GalleryEdit

NotesEdit

  1. ^ The form "HOT lanes" stands for "high-occupancy toll lanes" and is common in the media; accordingly, it is the name of this article to facilitate searches. However, because the lanes in question offer users the choice of satisfying an HOV restriction or else paying a toll, the more accurate name is "high-occupancy or toll lanes", or "HO/T lanes" (the slash denoting the option). This article uses the latter convention in the text for accuracy.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Craig, Tim (December 21, 2007). "Deals Clinched on HOT Lanes". The Washington Post. p. B01. Retrieved December 21, 2007.
  2. ^ "I-495 HOT Lanes". Virginia Megaprojects. Archived from the original on February 13, 2010. Retrieved August 20, 2011.
  3. ^ "HOT Lanes: Will people be willing to pay for them?". WTOP-FM. Retrieved March 1, 2010.
  4. ^ "Express Lanes". Transurban (USA) Operations Inc. Retrieved November 13, 2012.
  5. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions". I-495 HOT Lanes. Retrieved August 20, 2011.
  6. ^ "Using the Lanes". Transurban (USA) Operations. Archived from the original on January 15, 2012. Retrieved June 25, 2013.
  7. ^ "High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) Lanes: Rules and FAQs". Virginia Department of Transportation. Retrieved May 19, 2015.
  8. ^ Speed Limit Increases On 495 Express Lanes In Northern Va. On June 24 Archived December 21, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Beltway Express Lanes speed limit raised to 65 mph
  10. ^ "I-95 HOV/HOT Lanes". Virginia Megaprojects. Retrieved August 20, 2011.
  11. ^ "Virginia Advances New I-95 HOV/HOT Lanes Project and New Ramp to Seminary Road at Mark Center" (Press release). Virginia Department of Transportation. Retrieved September 19, 2011.
  12. ^ a b "Virginia Advances New I-95 HOV/HOT Lanes Project and New Ramp To Seminary Road at Mark Center" (Press release). Virginia Dept. of Transportation. February 3, 2010. Retrieved February 3, 2011.
  13. ^ New HOT lane plan for Virginia's I-95 corridor
  14. ^ "What are Sluglines". Sluglines.
  15. ^ Gilgore, Sara (November 28, 2017). "I-66 toll lanes inside the Beltway start Monday. Here's everything you need to know". www.bizjournals.com. Retrieved December 5, 2017.
  16. ^ "66 Express Lanes - Inside the Beltway :: About the Lanes". 66expresslanes.org. Retrieved December 5, 2017.
  17. ^ "Dynamically Tolled Express Lanes on I-66 Set to Open in December". Fairfax County Government NewsCenter. September 6, 2017. Retrieved November 21, 2017.
  18. ^ FAQs | 66 Express Lanes - Outside the Beltway
  19. ^ Transform 66 - Outside the Beltway
  20. ^ Interstate 66 Projecs - Projects | Virginia Department of Transportation
  21. ^ VDOT: Transform I-66 Outside the Beltway 2017

External linksEdit