Virginia launches I-395 Lanes project

After revising the initial proposal with Australian toll road operator Transurban, VDOT is kicking off the project that will extend the 395 Express Lanes 8 miles north to the Washington DC border.

Four months after the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and Australian toll road operator Transurban agreed to extend the 395 Express Lanes, the project is now under way.

“The 395 Express Lanes extension, which involves expanding and converting two high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes to three express lanes from north of Eadsall Road to Eads Street near the Pentagon, will help ease bottlenecks that occur where the existing 395 Express Lanes end,” VDOT said in a recent statement.

The revised proposal includes guaranteed funding for new and enhanced transit service and carpooling incentives, doing away with plans to build a new ramp at the Shirlington Interchange and refining the proposal further through an environmental assessment, Virginia’s Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne wrote in a letter to local leaders in Fairfax and Arlington Counties, last November, informing them of the changes.

As part of the agreement struck between VDOT and Transurban, the toll road operator will provide long-term transit investments through an annual payment to fund transit improvements on the entire I-95/I-395 Corridor, according to the latest VDOT statement. Virginia’s Department of Rail and Public Transportation has already launched a transit and transportation demand management study to identify priority transit projects that should be supported by these funds.

Construction is slated to begin in the spring of 2017, with completion expected in the summer of 2019.

“By 2021, we will have created an 84-mile network of express lanes that moves more people with fewer vehicles, using all modes of transportation, throughout Northern Virginia,” Layne said, referring to one of the most congested regions in the US.

Transurban has been involved in many such projects in Virginia. The Australian company was lead investor and lead concessionaire of the $2 billion I-495 project as well part of a consortium that in 2014 completed improvements on I-95, another $1 billion project.

The expanded express lanes project also includes extending the I-95 express lanes 2.5 miles south, but that is a separate project, a spokesperson for Virginia’s P3 agency told Infrastructure Investor. Construction on this extension is expected to get under way this summer with the new south-bound ramp opening in the winter of 2017/18.

Another project aimed at decongesting Northern Virginia is the Transform66-Outside the Beltway project, which entails improving 25 miles of the interstate corridor by adding two express lanes along three regular lanes in each direction, with space made available for transit options to be added in the future. It also involves building park and ride facilities as well as undertaking corridor-wide bike, trail and pedestrian improvements.

VDOT plans to release a final RFP in May and select a preferred bidder in the fall of 2016. Financial close is expected in the spring of 2017. Transurban is among those that has expressed interest in the project.

Photo courtesy of the I-495 Express Lanes project.