As we are very well aware, VDOT and its private sector partners, Fluor and Transurban, are rapidly constructing HOT (High Occupancy Toll) lanes on the Capital Beltway/I-495.
This major construction which has mightily inconvenienced just about every driver in Northern Virginia, has but one purpose–to bring relief to our increasingly congested roadways. These days we often cannot get there from here at any time of day. But the HOT lanes project is designed to change all that by adding four lanes to the Beltway between the Springfield interchange to slightly north of the Dulles Toll Road. Widening this 14 mile section of I-495 will allow carpoolers and buses to drive toll-free at all times while charging solo drivers a toll that will vary according to traffic density.
Dynamic toll pricing will be calculated to keep traffic moving evenly throughout the day. The planners of the nearly $2 billion project expect that the drive-time from either Braddock Road or Gallows Road to Tysons Corner will be cut in half when construction is completed.
By the fall of 2011, 58 interchanges, bridges and overpasses will have been replaced as part of Transurban and Fluor’s total $260 million plan to replace the Beltway’s aging infrastructure. Every bridge will be built with pedestrian and bicycle access.I am very pleased that the Washington Area Bicycling Association has been a part of the conversation as this people-friendly access project has proceeded. To finally be able to cross the Beltway by foot or by bicycle is an important and long overdue achievement that will add sorely needed commuting options.While I remain very concerned about the total environmental impact of this construction, I am looking forward to the promised gridlock relief that we will experience when the HOT lanes open in late 2012.
Weekly project updates are available at VAMegaProjects.com and details of exactly how HOT lanes will be implemented can be found at VirginiaHOTLanes.com. Representatives of both Fluor and Transurban have asked me to share information about their Community Grants Program.In a laudable effort to be good neighbors, these corporations have offered to make grants to “local organizations that sustain, enhance or protect the local environment and neighborhoods.” ACCA’s (Annandale Christian Committee for Action) Childcare services and the Annandale Chamber of Commerce have already benefited from this opportunity. Interested organizations can download or fill out an application at www.virginiahotlanes.com/grants.
The general Assembly’s new and optimistic speed limit legislation became law on July 1st. Yes, we voted to raise the speed limit on I-95 from 65mph to 70mph. I use the word ‘optimistic’ because VDOT must study the 65mph sections of I-95, recommend the speed limit increase and then post new signs before drivers are legally allowed to accelerate to 70mph; and because whether the speed limit is 65 or 70 doesn’t make much difference when drivers are stuck in gridlocked commuter traffic. Nevertheless, 295 in the Richmond area from the I-95 interchange in Prince George County to the 60 interchange in Henrico County is now 70 mph.
VDOT is currently conducting several studies evaluating a higher speed limit on 66 between Gainesville and the 234 bypass (Prince William Parkway). Raising the speed limit on the HOV lanes between Dumfries and the Pentagon is also under evaluation. VDOT’s final recommendations will be made by the end of this calendar year. To keep up with our changing speed limits, go to virginiadot.org., to Info Center, to FAQ, to speed limits.
A Final Word
According to Austin Bogues of the Daily Press, the Chairman of the State Transportation Committee, Senator Yvonne Miller of Norfolk has said that “local leaders are not keeping their General Assembly members informed of transportation needs.” While this statement may not be true of the vocal residents of the 38th District because we are confronted with dramatic transportation problems on a daily basis, please do let me know your transportation needs at [email protected]
Delegate Kory represents the 38th District in the Virginia House of Delegates. She may be emailed at [email protected].