Virginia will extend its Interstate 95 Express Lanes in northern Virginia in both directions, Gov. Terry McAuliffe said Tuesday.
“Now for the first time, a single driver can get on at Stafford and take it all the way to the district line,” McAuliffe said.
McAuliffe said on WTOP-FM the lanes will be extended about two miles on their southern end in Stafford County. The current terminus regularly produces backups, especially during the afternoon rush hour.
The Express Lanes are free for carpools of three or more. Other drivers can use the lanes by paying a variable toll.
On the northern end, the Interstate 395 Express Lanes will be extended all the way to the border with the District of Columbia. The state had wanted to do that in the first place but was stymied by opposition from Arlington County.
As a result of Arlington's opposition, the Express Lanes project was scaled back. The stretch of I-395 in Arlington County from Edsall Road to the Potomac River remained as traditional HOV lanes when the Express Lanes made their debut last year.
Mary Hynes, who chairs the Arlington County Board, said the county has not yet adopted an official position on McAuliffe's plan but said at first glance it appears to be a significant improvement over the original proposal that Arlington opposed. Hynes said McAuliffe's plan includes funding for additional mass transit and will include studies to test whether local Arlington roads will be affected and money to fix any problems that result from the change.
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Operating like the 29 miles of dynamic tolling lanes already lining I-95, prices will depend on demand.
The plan to convert the HOV lanes into Express Lanes also calls for the addition of a third lane.
Before the transformation begins an environmental assessment to look at every option possible has to happen, said Stewart Schwartz of the Coalition for Smarter Growth.
“This is a governor who appears to want to get everything done yesterday, and you see that in this release,” Schwartz said.
It’ll also help determine if the project is successful, he said.
“If this simply moves a bottleneck to the bridges and into 14th Street, it doesn’t solve the problem,” he said.
A study released Monday ranked a stretch of I-395 in Arlington as one of the nation's worst bottlenecks.
Construction on the southern extension will begin next year and is expected to take two years. Construction on the northern extension is also expected to take two years, but won't begin until 2017.