Virginia abandons toll project on I-395 inside Beltway to move on I-95 tolls outside Beltway
By Peter Samuel
Virginia secretary of transportation Sean Connaughton says the state is abandoning most of the inside-the-Beltway portion of the I-95/I-395 HOT lanes project. What he calls a new I-95 HOT lanes project will go some 27 miles, 43km south to VA610 in Stafford County. A 2 mile, 3km stub will go just inside the Beltway to Edsall Rd. The rest of the I-395 project, some six miles, 10km to the Pentagon and the 14th Street Potomac River bridges is dead.
The object is to advance the project on I-95 outside the Beltway. Anti-highway officials inside the Beltway in Arlington County have tied the whole I-95/395 HOT lanes project up in two years of litigation over supposed "civil rights" violations and "environmental damage" from offering more choices to motorists.
In a statement today Connaughton says: "We can no longer wait to deliver congestion relief and new travel choices. The Capital Beltway, I-95 and I-395 corridors are home to some of Virginia's most important employment centers and military sites. We are doing what we need to do to get businesses and people across these critical routes moving again."
The corridor is getting extra employees from defense department consolidations at several major sites along the HOT Lanes route, and has considerable residential development.
Transurban-Fluor to continue
A Transurban-Fluor joint venture was selected in November 2005 after a competitive procurement to finance, design, build, operate and toll an upgraded and expanded (2 lanes to 3 reversible) HOV facility in the corridor. Virginia will negotiate with the same group for the shortened facility outside the Beltway on I-95.
The same Transurban-Fluor group are over halfway into construction on a $2 billion widening of 14 miles, 22km of the Beltway itself between the Dulles Toll Road at Tysons Corner and the Springfield Interchange. This widening provides 2+2 HOT lanes in the center of four general purpose lanes each direction.
The I-95 HOT Lanes will have multilane direct connector ramps to the I-495 Beltway HOT Lanes at the Springfield Interchange, so the two HOT lanes projects will provide for continuous managed flow movement - by dynamic pricing over some 43 miles, 69km, the I-95 HOT Lanes project being 29 miles, 46km long.
The project as announced today is a scaled back version of the earlier project outside the Beltway that went beyond Fredericksburg.
From the Springfield Interchange at the Beltway south for 12 miles, 19km to Prince William Parkway the two existing reversible HOV lanes will be widened to three HOT lanes.
South another six miles, 10km from Prince William Parkway to VA238 in Dumfries the existing two HOV lanes will be improved, but not widened. VA238 in Dumfries is where the existing central HOV lanes presently end.
South a further 9 miles, 15km two new hOT lanes will be built to VA610/Garrisonville Road in Stafford County.
Two miles, 3km of the HOV Lanes inside the Beltway on I-395 to Edsall Rd will be improved to provide a transition to the main HOV segment that is being left basically as-is.
Seven new or improved access-egress points are being built along the route.
The rule will be vehicles with three or more occupants will travel toll-free.
All vehicles will be required to have an E-ZPass account and transponder to use the facility, whether they are HOV3 and free or solo rivers or two occupants and toll paying.
VDOT will be supplying a new HOV/toll transponder with a switch so motorists can indicate whether they are eligible for the ride free or toll.
The VDOT materials say a typical toll in peak hours is expected to be $5 to $6 or 17c to 21c/mile.
Transurban/Fluor will help pay for improved enforcement. In the present HOV lanes about 25%, VDOT says, are violators.
Connaughton said today in a conference call with a bunch of journalists that they hope to finalize the permitting and the lease agreement with the concessionaire by early 2012 so a start can be made in the constructions season of next year. Construction would take three years for an opening in 2015.
The new administration wants to move PPP toll concessions forward more efficiently, Connaughton said. A new public private transportation office is being formed at VDOT with the full focus on PPPs. The secretary said previously PPP work was spread over many divisions, and no overall focus.
The severed portion the best
The six northern miles (10km) being excised would have converted two reversible HOV lanes into three reversible HOT lanes, providing peakhour, peak-direction capacity out from the Pentagon southwest. Added to the three (and in one stretch 4) general purpose lanes each direction this would have provided capacity of 9,000 to 10,000 versus the present 6,000 to 7,000 vehicles/hour in three GP lanes and two about half-used HOV lanes.
The segment being dropped is the busiest in the corridor and promised the most toll revenue per mile, while not requiring disproportionate new construction, so the economics of the whole are damaged.
The original Fluor-Transurban proposal highlighted the project as providing a gateway to central Washington DC with imagery of the Capitol and the Washington Monument at the end of the HOT Lanes. They don't seem to have released their traffic and revenue estimates for the project.
A project financing report from a rival team Clark-Shirley estimated 2010 toll rates as averaging 25c/mile in the peak, a shoulder toll of 20c, and 10c off-peak in a northern segment, and 20c peak, 156c shoulder, 7.5c off-peak in a southern segment.
The northern segment (I-395 inside the Beltway) was estimated to carry 25k veh/weekday, 11k toll-paying, 14k HOVs.
In the southern segment only 3k tollpayers were expected in 2010, but 9k by 2015 and over 18k by 2020.
They stated: "The northern section would generate the majority of the revenue especially in the early years of operation."
Total toll revenues for 2010 were put at around $20m. These were described as tentative estimates. New traffic and revenue forecasts are being done.
on the VA/I-95 HOT lanes
on the I-495 Capital Beltway HOT Lanes:
Connaughton letter to counties: