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VDOT looks at extending I-95 Express Lanes to Fredericksburg

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — From 50,000 feet, the 10-mile stretch of the Interstate 95 E-ZPass Express Lanes proposed by the Virginia Department of Transportation is known as “Component 3A” of the Atlantic Gateway project launched by Governor Terry McAuliffe (D-VA) last year.

From ground level, the new express lanes extension proposal is a step in the right direction according to Lorenza Cooper who said: “they’re not extending is as far as it needs to go.” Cooper, was one of the attendees looking over the express lanes maps and fliers at a VDOT public information meeting March 21 at Freedom High School in Woodbridge. He is a Stafford resident that uses the existing lanes when he has to but admits the tolls are something he’s not comfortable with. “I only take small segments since it’s so expensive,” Cooper said.

The 10-mile extension VDOT will run from Route 610 in North Stafford to Route 17 in, just north of the Rappahannock River outside Fredericksburg. There are three major access points in the new plan: at Russell Road near Quantico; Courthouse Road, or Exit 140; and Route 17. The Russell Road access point isn’t even in the new stretch but is needed for those headed to Quantico. As with the other express lanes on I-95 and I-495, there are tolls for vehicles with one or two occupants, but those with three or more can ride toll-free.

The meeting was just to test the waters and let residents know what is on the planning tables, said VDOT spokesperson Kelly Hannon.

“Now is a good time for people to express what they’d like to see,” she said, although the attendance at the meeting was sparse. Another meeting was held the following night in Fredericksburg.

A slideshow laid out more of the particulars, but the work will not begin until spring 2019, followed by the first toll in 2022, said Michelle Shropshire, VDOT Assistant Administrator in the Fredericksburg District.

Transurban, the Australian-based company that was the private partner in Virginia’s first two express lanes projects on I-495 and later on I-95 and 395, was mentioned but nothing is etched in stone.

Krishna Potturi, a VDOT project manager, said that selecting Transurban was a “possible option.”

Construction is underway on a two-mile stretch south of Route 610, and it is not scheduled to be completed for until late in the year. The southbound exits are scheduled to be open in late 2017, followed by the northbound exit in the summer of 2018.

As for the Atlantic Gateway project, which is centered on “partnering to unlock the I-95 corridor,” as stated on the Governor’s and VDOT’s website, will use rail, road and transportation demand management strategies to untangle the congestion. Two sections of the project deal with I-395 and I-95 directly, including “Component 3A.”

Next up for the express lanes is public hearings in the fall of 2017, which are similar meetings but are a little further on in the planning process. Cooper’s OK with anything that makes his commute better, though. If dishing out a few dollars to jump on an open lane is the option, “I’m a fan of the option, yes,” he said.

They’re even calling it a “MegaProject,” – a term resurrected from the 495 Express Lanes and the 95 Express Lanes a few years ago.

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