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A single lane a positive sign for E-ZPass commuters on I-95

STAFFORD — It took $50 million to build one lane, and today it opened.

The 95 E-ZPass Express Lanes have been extended just past Garrisonville Road. Now, drivers have the option of getting off on Garrisonville Road, or staying in the express toll lanes — or in this case lane — to head south and merge back into the main travel lanes of Interstate 95 before Courthouse Road.

“We know we have more work to do on I-95, as recent congestion reports have reminded us, but this Express Lanes extension is the first step in a series of projects to unlock gridlock along I-95 through the Fredericksburg region,” said Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne in a press release.

Before today, this area has been a contention point on the Express Lanes when carrying drivers south to Fredericksburg. Traffic had to merge down to one lane to exit the express lanes via a flyover ramp before Garrisonville Road, at what was the end of the toll lane facility.

The merge caused major backups in a toll lane that can cost as much as $20 or more to use, one way. 

The new lane adds capacity to the express lanes and is one of the multiple projects in the works to hopefully break up some of the congestion — recently ranked as some of the worst in the nation.

The new lane will carry drivers north in the mornings and south in the afternoons each weekday, south on Saturdays from midnight to 2 p.m., and then north from 4 p.m. to midnight. On Sundays, the lane will carry drivers north.

It will operate under the same rules as the rest of the 95 E-ZPass Express Lanes — tolled at all times by electronic E-ZPass, and vehicle with three or more occupants ride free.

Virginia taxpayers picked up half of the tab for the cost of the new lane, while operators of the E-ZPass Express Lanes Australian-based Transurban paid the other $25 million.

“It’s a great example of a public-private partnership that works to benefit the traveling public, and it relieves the state of investing funds that could go to other projects,” said David Birtwistle, CEO of the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance.

Those other projects include improving intersections and widening the secondary roads that get drivers to the main highway corridors.

“I disagree with the statement the “state is out of the roadbuilding business’ because of public-private partnerships,” said Birtwistle. “There’s a robust road building plan for the next six years. The problem is that the need exceeds what the public can raise to fund these projects.”

The new lane could also carry a future commuter bus service that would move even more people, he added.

A separate project to extend the E-ZPass Express Lanes 10 miles south of Route 17 in southern Stafford County is in the development phase. It would include a new access point to the express lanes near the Route 17 and I-95 interchange, and near a new diverging diamond interchange under construction at Courthouse Road.

There’s also a plan to add a new access point to the express lanes near the Russell Road overpass at Quantico.

The I-95 E-ZPass Express Lanes opened in December 2014. The lanes carry 146,000 cars per day near Garrisonville Road, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Photo: VDOT

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