Drivers on Interstate 66 just outside the Beltway are seeing red lately, quite literally.
On a 6.5-mile stretch to Route 50, the far right shoulder lane is now a sort of brick red color -- a stark contrast to the black asphalt. VDOT calls the shade, "red clay." It's a special, high-friction surface coating designed to help drivers better obey the rules of the shoulder lanes.
During rush hours, from 5:30-11 a.m. eastbound and from 2-8 p.m. westbound, a green arrow comes on to permit shoulder use. The rest of the time a red X wards drivers away until they get close to an exit and can briefly merge onto the shoulder.
Trouble is, some drivers make a break for the lane early while others roll in uncertain of the rules.
The "red clay color" is meant to make things more clear.
"That new color is there solely to let drivers know that this is the special lane those green arrows and red Xs are referring to," VDOT's Jennifer McCord explained.
The I-66 project has also added a bold, double-white stripe to the HOV lanes to discourage weaving in and out there.
And drivers have noticed one other thing: "It's a lot smoother," Virginia commuter Peter Patroni said. That's because a $48 million pavement rehab project is also under way. It's scheduled to wrap up in November.