Northern VA 495Express toll and traffic management systems being tested ahead of December opening
By Peter Samuel
2012-08-13: Concessionaire Transurban-Fluor begins some weeks of testing of their toll and traffic management systems on the toll express lanes of the I-495 Capital Beltway in northern Virginia. The testing involves hired drivers driving circuits according to scenarios planned to test the equipment at different speeds and with different densities of traffic.
Tim Steinhilber, Transurban-Fluor's general manager of the 495 Express Lanes is quoted in a press release today: "The full functionality of the 495 Express Lanes' tolling and traffic management system is essential to the success of the 495 Express Lanes. This testing phase is critical to ensure that our systems are ready to deliver faster and more predictable travel to drivers."
The 495 Express Lanes consist of 2x2 lanes with their own on and off ramps along 14 miles of the Capital Beltway between the Dulles Toll Road at Tysons Corner and the I-95 Springfield Interchange. Only at each end can Beltway traffic on the mainline choose between the free general purpose lanes and the Express Lanes.
Elsewhere choices are made on entry to interchanges.
2x6 lanes with 2 Express separated from 4 general purpose lanes
The twin Express Lanes are mostly located on continuous pavement with four general purpose lanes alongside in each direction, and they are separated by soft divider pylons. (see rendering nearby)
Under test will be:
- traffic sensors, including electromagnetic loops in the pavement and lasers overhead which will detect vehicles to trigger RF exchanges with transponders or in case of vehicles without a transponder, cameras, this equipment also classifying vehicles and gathering data on traffic densities and speeds which are inputs for the toll setting algorithms
- electronic message signs located ahead of each Express Lanes access point informing drivers of the toll so they can decide whether to use the Express Lanes or take their chances in the free general purpose lanes
- E-ZPass readers
- front and rear toll cameras
- closed-circuit and automatic incident-detection cameras
- back office toll and traffic systems at the operations center in Alexandria where the data is processed
HOV3s with switchable transponder to go free
Vehicles with 3 or more persons will be entitled to free trips but they will need a special switchable E-ZPass transponder to allow the driver to 'declare' to the toll system when they are eligible by high occupancy for the free ride.
They want motorists to know it is "only testing" now
Transurban-Fluor don't want Beltway motorists to think the Express Lanes are open yet and they have appealed to the media here to tell people this is TESTING ONLY.
They say test cars will be marked as such.
At this stage tests will be in a section of the project between Gallows Road and Tysons Corner ramps.
Later TUVRheinland with TTi will be doing more systems testing.
(CORRECTION: our first report suggested wrongly that TUV Rheinland/TTI are already involved. The on-road testing starting this week is purely a Transurban-Fluor affair, we're now told. Both groups put out their announcement of testing within hours of each other, so gave the impression they were describing the same procedures - editor)
There is no firm opening date for the Express Lanes yet but the target month is December.
TOLLROADSnews 2012-08-13 CORRECTION Aug 14 15:00