$1.4B for HOT lanes get green light


Congestion relief on the Beltway around Alexandria is one step closer following financial agreement last week between the state and international toll road group Transurban and Fluor Enterprises.

Under the plan, Transurban and Fluor will finance, design, construct, and operate High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes on a 14-mile section of the Capital Beltway. HOT lanes are built next to existing freeway lanes to provide drivers with the option of faster, more reliable travel.

Two additional lanes will be built in each direction between the Springfield Interchange and just north of the Dulles Toll Road in Fairfax County, expanding the capacity from eight lanes to 12.

When built, the inner two lanes in each direction will deliver free-flowing traffic conditions by using toll prices to manage the flow of traffic choosing to use the lanes.

Buses and carpools will travel for free, while vehicles with fewer than three occupants can choose to pay a toll to access the HOT lanes and avoid congestion. Tolls will vary based on real-time traffic conditions to manage the number of toll-paying customers entering the HOT lanes and keep them congestion free.

Transurban and Fluor will replace aging bridges and overpasses throughout the Beltway corridor and provide opportunities for carpooling and express bus service for the first time.

The D.C. region is one of the most congested areas in the US and is rated second worst among the 14 largest regions in the country in annual hours of delay per rush hour traveler, according to the 2007 Annual Urban Mobility Report.

Using the Beltway HOT lanes could cut commuting time in half from Springfield to Tysons Corner during rush hour, saving the average traveler 24 minutes a day and it is anticipated that drivers will be able to travel at twice the speed of the regular lanes during rush hour.

The project will be developed and operated as a partnership between the government and the private sector

Transurban and Fluor will invest $350 million of private equity, making the Capital Beltway project the largest private sector investment in a Greenfield (new build) toll road Public Private Partnership in the US to date.

Financing includes a $409 million capital contribution from the State of Virginia, and a $587 million loan from the Federal Government’s Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program, which is designed to encourage new investment in needed transportation infrastructure.

“This is a landmark project in the evolution of Public Private Partnerships in the US,” said Michael Kulper, Executive Vice President Transurban North America. “Working together, the public and private sectors will deliver one of the most advanced toll roads in the country.”