I-495 Express Lanes to Open Saturday

At a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell says "You see pavement. I see jobs.”

Though the I-495 Express Lanes opens to commuters this Saturday, Virginia officials, stakeholders and residents gathered for an early ribbon-cutting celebration celebration Tuesday in Tysons.

Hundreds of people attended the ceremony, including Gov. Bob McDonnell, U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-11th) and Fairfax County Supervisor Jeff McKay (D-Lee), among others.

McDonnell said the economic impacts from the massive construction project were cause for celebration. Building the lanes brought more than 16,000 jobs and $3.5 billion to the Commonwealth, he said.

“It’s pumped billions of dollars into the economy and put thousands of people to work,” McDonnell said. “You see pavement. I see jobs.”

Developers paid for 80 percent of the $2 billion project, which added two northbound and two southbound lanes to the 14-mile stretch from the Mixing Bowl Interchange in Springfield to just north of the Dulles Toll Road.

All travelers who use the express lanes when they open will need an E-ZPass or an E-ZPass Flex. Carpools with three or more riders can travel in the Express Lanes for free by switching to HOV mode, which keeps the vehicle free from charges.

Tolls are projected to be $3 to $6 during rush hour, and $1 to $2 during lower traffic periods. Toll prices will be updated in real time depending on congestion — the worse the congestion, the higher the toll.

McDonnell called the tolls “reasonable” in his remarks.

“This is a major new selling point now in bringing business and jobs to Virginia,” he said.

Connolly said while the lanes wouldn’t solve the area’s traffic problems outright, it would give drivers an option for when they needed it most.

“We’re never going to solve congestion,” he said. “But we can create choices.”

McKay said the benefits from the project were far-reaching and would be felt by commuters, business owners and residents who live along the corridor.

“The Express Lanes will also help cut down cut-through traffic in our neighborhoods around the Beltway,” McKay said. “Too many of our communities over the years have felt like they’d become an expressway for traffic trying to avoid the Capital Beltway gridlock, with this project they’ll see some relief.”

See also: I-495 Beltway Express Lanes to Open Nov. 17

tina November 14, 2012 at 07:05 PM
Expensive choices.
ClintJCL November 15, 2012 at 12:21 AM
The worse the congestion, the higher the toll? That's price gouging. But hey, if the government does it in cahoots with a corporation, it's okay.
No Toll Increase November 15, 2012 at 05:08 PM
Hopefully this project will work well and reduce congestion. If so, this is a great step towards using tolls effectively to provide a value-added benefit to toll payers. The Dulles Toll Road (DTR) is a classic example of the opposite: tolls being mis-used on other projects instead of providing a transportation solution. Tolls had already paid for the DTR, and now are being rapidly increased to pay for a transit project with no benefit to most toll-payers. The result will be toll-avoidance diversion of traffic to local roads bringing gridlock and reduced mobility to the region. If the Beltway express lanes work, VDOT should retake the DTR from corrupt MWAA, make it free again, and MWAA could turn the Dulles Airport Access Rd. into HOT lanes modeled after the beltway project. Revenues from airport users and commuters willing and able to pay could fund the rail project, while local residents' already-paid-for-road would be made accessible to them again. Sign the petition and read about more solutions at www.noTOLLincrease.org
Jason November 16, 2012 at 02:24 PM
@No Toll Increase Your proposal of turning the Dulles Airport Access Rd. into HOT lanes is a good long term solution. But I think they should start by adding distance or variable tolls on the road. Someone traveling at 9pm at night should not pay the same toll as someone during rush hour.
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