Virginia restarts I-395 Lanes project

VDOT and Transurban have agreed to extend the 395 Express Lanes 8 miles north to the Washington DC border.

In an effort to decongest one of the busiest corridors in the US, Virginia is moving ahead with improvements to the north and south of Interstate-95 (I-95), Governor Terry McAuliffe said in a statement on Tuesday.

The improvements will include extending I-95 by about two miles to the south, adding a new northbound entrance and adding new merge ramps. Construction on this part of the project is expected to begin in 2016 and take two years to complete.

To the north of I-95, the 395 Express Lanes will be extended for eight miles up to the Washington DC line. The project will convert and expand the existing HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) lanes to dynamically tolled express lanes, according to the governor’s statement, while an additional express lane will be built, providing three express lanes in the corridor.

Transurban, the Australian toll road operator, which was lead investor and lead concessionaire of the $2 billion I-495 project, will work on I-395.

Transurban was also part of the consortium that last year completed improvements on I-95, a $1 billion project that included improvements to 395. However, due to a lawsuit filed by Arlington County in 2009, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) decided to defer this portion of the project.

Last week, Virginia’s Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne sent a letter to local leaders in Fairfax and Arlington Counties, which are affected by the project, informing them that Governor McAuliffe and VDOT have initiated discussions with Transurban to extend I-95 express lanes to the north.

“This proposal is not the same as proposals in the past,” Layne wrote, explaining some of the revisions. These include 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.

Layne also stressed that public meetings will be held in all affected jurisdictions as well as individual meetings with local homeowner associations and businesses as the project is further developed.

“We have worked to refine the design of the project to reduce impacts on surrounding roadways and communities, and are committed to working alongside VDOT to keep residents, commuters and other stakeholders engaged and informed as we move the project forward,” Jennifer Aument, Transurban’s group general manager for North America, said in a statement.

Construction is expected to begin in 2017, with the extended lanes opening to traffic in 2019.

Photo courtesy of the 495 Express Lanes project.