95 Express Lanes open, Stafford County has a new traffic headache

When one solution to traffic congestion opens, another problem can appear.

In this case, a new backup has formed on Interstate 95 north on weekday mornings. Just before the entrance to the 95 Express Lanes, there is major congestion as drivers slow to read all of the signs warning them they need an E-ZPass to enter the toll lanes.

Drivers also need to merge left to enter the lanes – a move that’s counterintuitive as many drivers are used to entering and exiting highways from the right.

“VDOT is aware of congestion that has developed on Interstate 95 northbound on weekday mornings in Stafford County, leading up to the new Express Lanes entrance just north of Exit 143/Aquia and Garrisonville. This is a new congestion pattern that has developed after the opening of 95 Express Lanes in December 2014,” said Kelly Hannon, Virginia Department of Transportation spokeswoman.

We were tipped off about the new delay when we spoke with commuters at the newly expanded Staffordboro Commuter Lot just off Route 610 in North Stafford. They told us drivers now use back roads in Stafford County, from Route 17 to get to Route 610, to avoid the congestion on I-95. Once on Route 610, they pull into the Staffordboro lot, park, and then catch a ride to work.

“We are concerned about the congestion and are discussing long-term solutions that could reduce this queue in the future. However, any reduction will likely require new vehicle capacity and construction, and would take time to develop,” added Hannon.

One solution to the problem is adding a fourth lane to I-95 from Centerpoint Parkway near the Stafford Regional Airport to Route 610, in North Stafford. A similar project dating back to 2008, widened a six-mile stretch of I-95 from the Occoquan River to Newington at a cost of $123 million.

Former Delegate Mark Dudenhefer, who now seeks reelection, is a proponent of widening the highway in Stafford.

“When the Express Lanes moved down there, I knew that wasn’t going to be the end all, be all solution for traffic problems in the area,” said Dudenhefer.

He is also keen on funding the construction of collector-distributor lanes between Route 3 in Fredericksburg, across the Rappahannock River, to Route 17 in Stafford County. Those lanes would allow drivers traveling between the two major thoroughfares the option of using the collector-distributor, or CD lanes, without merging onto the mainline of I-95. The lanes would be similar to CD lanes on I-95 exit 156 at Dale City.

Much of the environmental work on the collector-distributor lanes has been complete. A public hearing on the project, to include a new Rappahannock River crossing, is slated for later this summer.

“We can’t put new lanes on the bridge we have now, so we’d have to put a new crossing over the river,” said Hannon.

When it comes to widening a portion of I-95, there has been some preliminary work engineering work done on this project, such aerial surveying.

Both of these projects, however, were put on hold and, like many other projects across the state – including the Bi-County Parkway in Prince William County – must be scored by the Commonwealth Transportation Board through what’s known as the HB-2 process. It’s a way for the state to prioritize the most important transportation projects that relieve congestion, say state officials.

Dudenheher charges state transportation officials are playing politics with highway funding by forcing these projects through the HB-2 process.

“It was highly political, and now we’re all suffering,” said Dudenhefer.

In the meantime, Virginia transportation officials are working with Transurban, which operates the I-95 E-ZPass Express Lanes, to find temporary solutions to the problem.

“Together we are working on several immediate solutions to provide relief, including dynamic pricing and dynamic messaging to encourage users to exit the facility earlier to balance traffic in the general purpose lanes and Express Lanes,” said Hannon.

8 thoughts on “95 Express Lanes open, Stafford County has a new traffic headache

  1. However, any reduction will likely require new vehicle capacity and construction, and would take time to develop,

    In other words, Stafford County is screwed for the next 10 to 15 years.

    1. STAFFORD SUCKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WE are SOOOOOOOOO Screwed it makes me sick. I a moving up north where its more crowed to avoid traffic. Chew on that oxymoron for a while. SCREWWWWWWWWW STAFFFFFOOOOOOORRRDDDDDDDDDD.

  2. The construction of the HOT lanes has done little to improve the traffic problem in our area. The only measurable accomplishment I have seen over the past 5 months is the former 234 bottleneck has been moved a few miles to the south and now occurs at Garrisonville Rd. (610). This will continue to happen until the agency in charge of road planning and construction realizes… you can not funnel the two lanes of the HOT lanes into the main highway lanes at the same location as an entrence or exit ramp of the main lanes! In doing this you have effictivly reduced three lanes of travel to one single lane at a point where drivers are accelerating or decelerating to get on or off the highway.

    If the HOT lane were to be extended to a point 2 to 3 miles south of exit 136 and a “flyover” type merge were to be constructed at that point this would remove the enterence/exit ramp from the equation. As for bringing three lanes into one, this can be desolved by extending the distance of the merge to approximately two miles where over the course of that distance one lane is reduced. Practically this would take place as the two HOT lanes merge into one another prior to the flyover, then after traversing the flyover commuters would have a two mile stretch of roadway to merge onto I 95 to continue south.

    Regarding the morning commute… if the same “fluover” right hand exit from the main lanes of travel were to be erected allowing for a safe merge out of the mane lanes and onto the HOT lanes this would eliminate this backup also.

    My 2 cents

    1. Why not extend the southbound express lanes to at least exit 130 or 133 with filtered exit ramps at 143 and 133? With that being said, I don’t even want to think about the montrousity of congestion that will be approaching within the next 2-3 weeks with the onset of the summer travelling season. Finally, why oh why isnt there an I-95 Bypass???

  3. Any solution to the I95 congestion problem is only to create more congestion in the future. The only real solution is to build an entirely new interstate highway from Fredericksburg (or even Richmond) to north of Baltimore.

  4. Stafford and its insane lack of roads plan and simply stinks. My commute from 17 to Quantico has been a living hell since this stupid HOV extension. Nearly $1 billion to essentially go one more exit and in the process, disrupting the traffic pattern to thousands. What an absolute EPIC FAIL!!!!!

  5. There is no solution to the traffic on I95.

    Doesn’t matter if you extend the HOT lanes all the way down to the 126 or 130. If it is a toll rd people will be too cheap to get an EZPass and pay the tolls, if it’s HOV that only helps 3+.

    Why aren’t people curious about WHY the congestion is there to begin with? People seem to believe it’s just traffic going to Stafford or Fredericksburg, which yes, there is traffic going that way but, it’s not like traffic is backed up into the mainline waiting to get off at their exit.

    Ever been stuck in traffic going south and it just magically clears at the 130? What happens to go from stop and go to wide open? Again, it’s not like half the interstate volume is getting off at those exits.

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