The 495 Express Lanes along the Capital Beltway aren’t meeting projections, according to a preliminary report from Transurban, the Australia company that put up most of the $1.5 billion to build the additional four lanes and numerous overpasses and ramps from Springfield to the Maryland border.
In a report to its shareholders, Transurban said initial traffic is below expectations and “adjustment to traffic patterns and motorist preferences will be required.” Just how that would be accomplished wan’t specified. The lanes opened November 17 so it is still early in the life of the project, the company noted.
Transurban says it’s getting about 24,000 vehicles a day in the toll lanes, 93% of them toll-paying single-occupant vehicles, the rest carpoolers and buses that travel for free. That’s less than half what had been projected back in 2007 when the company committed to build the project. Then it was expecting 66,000 cars per day during the first year.
Of course, a lot has happened since 2007, including the worst recession in decades and a marked increase in telecommuting and flextime. Traffic remains fierce, however, as this week’s Texas Transportation Institute confirmed in its latest report, which found the D.C. area with the worst traffic in the country.
Perhaps also not foreseen in early projections were the rapidly rising tolls on the Dulles Toll Road and the Greenway in Loudoun County. Both are used by many commuters traveling to and from the Tysons area and some observers think that “toll fatigue” may set in by the time those travelers reach the Beltway.
In its report to the Australian Stock Exchange, Transurban says the 495 Express Lanes toll systems and operations are “functioning well” and says it will take at least six months to fully evaluate the system.