HOT lanes construction to begin soon

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The five-year, $1.4 billion project to add four high-occupancy toll lanes in each direction on Interstate 495 will likely begin soon.

The final step before construction can begin is a Virginia Department of Transportation public hearing on the project design this April.

During peak hours, it is estimated that driving on the minimum 45-mile-per-hour HOT lanes could cost commuters upwards of $1 per mile on the 14-mile stretch between the Springfield interchange and the Dulles Toll Road exit. The lanes will be free for carpoolers and buses.

During morning and evening peak hours, it is conceivable that driving the HOT lanes could cost drivers more than $30 per day.

There’s no upper limit [on tolls], and that’s so we can ensure that the 45 mile an hour speed limit is met, said Jennifer Aument, spokeswoman for Transurban, one of the companies involved in a public-private partnership with the state to build and operate the toll lanes. Drivers will always have the option to drive on regular lanes for free, she added.

HOT lanes are designed to flow easily, perpetually at 45-miles-an-hour, during heavy traffic. Those toll costs fluctuate depending on the level of congestion and time of day.

At a minimum, the price per mile could cost 10 cents.

With an 80-year term to operate the HOT lanes, private transportation companies Fluor and Transurban put $1 billion on the table for the project through bonds, federal funds and private funding.

The project will replace more than $260 million in aging road infrastructure, including more than 50 bridges and overpasses.

The state contributed $409 million and a revenue-sharing deal with the developer will pay the state a percentage of profits, should the endeavor prove a financial success.

Part of that revenue sharing will pay for the full salaries and equipment for up to nine Virginia State Troopers to oversee the nine tolling areas along I-495 on a full-time basis. If caught, toll violators could be charged between $50 and $250.

VDOT will spend $58 million over the next six years for public relations outreach, and that’s a lot of money that won’t see one inch of pavement, said VDOT spokesman Steve Titunik.

The project is one of VDOT’s multiple mega projects that will be under construction over the next decade. Other projects include the widening of I-95, the troubled Dulles Metrorail project and road improvements related to the Army’s base realignment in Springfield.

One mega project recently completed, the Springfield Interchange, was a success and we’re going to have a success here, Titunik said. 

HOT Lanes Details

  • Free to HOV-3, buses, motorcycles and emergency vehicles
  • No 18-wheelers allowed
  • Electronic tolling for drivers with an E-ZPass
  • Minimum 45-miles-per-hour speed
  • Construction to begin in April 2008 and will be completed by spring 2013

For more, go towww.virginiahotlanes.com

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