495 Express Lanes Open Saturday

Transurban-Fluor Photo

The 495 Express Lanes will be open for business this Saturday, Nov. 17. Unlike other toll projects around the area, there will be no free trips given during the opening days, so anyone using the new lanes will need to have an EZ-Pass transponder.

State and local politicians gathered at a Tysons Corner ceremony earlier this week to celebrate the on-time, on-budget completion of the project.

“The opening of the 495 Express Lanes means opportunity for Virginia,” said Gov. Bob McDonnell. “The project not only helped create jobs during construction, but will continue to make Northern Virginia a more attractive place to work and live. The Express Lanes will open the region for business by providing better access to key employer centers and delivering the infrastructure needed to grow businesses and create additional jobs.”

The 495 Express Lanes are two new high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes in each direction on the Virginia side of the Capital Beltway from the Springfield Interchange to just north of the Dulles Toll Road (approximately 14 miles). Construction of the 495 Express Lanes supported more than 16,000 jobs and generated nearly $3.5 billion of economic impact state-wide.

The Express Lanes will provide drivers in Northern Virginia with a faster, more predictable trip on the Capital Beltway. The project will also provide drivers with a seamless connection to the I-95 Express Lanes – under construction to be completed in late 2014 – creating a region-wide high occupancy vehicle (HOV) network and connecting major employment centers.

Key benefits

Key project benefits of the 495 Express Lanes project include:

  • First-time introduction of HOV and reliable transit options to the Beltway and Tysons Corner
  • Replacement of more than $260 million of aging infrastructure, including 58 bridges and overpasses
  • Replacement of existing sound walls and construction of 80,000 linear feet of new sound walls to double existing noise reduction tools for surrounding neighborhoods
  • Construction of carpool ramps connecting I-95 with the Beltway to create a seamless HOV network
  • Upgrades to 12 key interchanges and new access points at Route 29/Lee Highway, Westpark Bridge and Jones Branch Drive

photo“The 495 Express Lanes will provide congestion relief and new travel choices to one of Virginia’s busiest roadways,” said Transportation Secretary Sean T. Connaughton. “The project represents a package of transportation improvements that will provide a critical connection to jobs and commerce while reducing congestion and providing Virginians with transportation options to reach their destinations faster.”

The 495 Express Lanes are being delivered through a landmark public-private partnership between the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration, and Transurban-Fluor.

The partnership with private partners Transurban and Fluor enabled the Commonwealth to leverage private-sector expertise and introduce innovative new financing tools. The success of the project was aided by the Virginia State Police, Fairfax County Police, state and local elected officials, community groups and key area employers.

“Our partnership with the private sector on this project helped to put private capital to work to make the project an affordable option for Virginia,” McDonnell said. “The Express Lanes project is not only a model for congestion relief and new travel choices, it is a model for how to deliver innovative infrastructure projects in tough economic times.”

The unique private-public partnership:

  • Enables Virginia to deliver greater outcomes from tax dollars, shifting long-term risk and cost to the private sector
  • Serves as a model for other Virginia transportation projects – upgrading critical infrastructure, improving safety and creating new economic development zones to get Virginia travelers and businesses moving
  • Serves as a beacon in establishing the Virginia Office of Public-Private Partnerships to challenge all agencies to examine opportunities to put private innovation and capital to work to help meet Virginia’s needs

“We are proud to deliver this new transportation option on-time and on-budget with our private partners Transurban-Fluor,” said VDOT Commissioner Greg Whirley. “The Express Lanes will provide reliable travel on the Capital Beltway in Northern Virginia and open up carpooling opportunities to Tysons Corner – one of the largest employment centers in the region.”

One of the country’s most innovative and complex project financings, the 495 Express Lanes is funded through a contribution from the Commonwealth, private equity, private activity bonds and a federal loan through the government’s TIFIA program.

The project was approved and funded in 2007 after a series of public meetings and environmental studies. Construction began in the summer of 2008. The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) owns and oversees all aspects of the Express Lanes while Transurban (USA) Operations Inc. operates the lanes through a concession agreement.

The 495 Express Lanes will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Dynamic pricing based on real-time traffic conditions will manage the demand for the lanes, keeping the Express Lanes moving. All drivers will need an E-ZPass® to use the Express Lanes – there are no toll booths or options to pay cash. Carpoolers traveling HOV-3+ will need an E-ZPass® FlexSM to ensure a toll-free trip on the Express Lanes. Other drivers may pay a toll for a faster, more predictable trip.

For more information, visit www.495expresslanes.com.


About the Author

Truman Lewis
A former reporter and bureau chief, Truman Lewis has covered presidential campaigns, state politics and stories ranging from organized crime to environmental and consumer protection.