Virginia Launches $1B in I-95, Capital Beltway Projects
Virginia officials have announced a $1-billion package of four highway expansion projects—including three to be designed and built by toll highway specialist Transurban Group—which they hope will unclog often-congested stretches of Interstate-95 and I-495, the Capital Beltway, in the northern part of the state.
Virginia’s Dept. of Transportation will design, build, maintain and fund a fourth project, a new non-tolled access lane on I-95 in Woodbridge.
The program, which Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced on Jan. 29, encompasses agreements with Transurban for two new projects and one unveiled earlier.
Virginia and Transurban have signed deals in recent years for several other toll highway projects on northern Virginia Interstates, including segments of I-95 and the Beltway.
The new projects include a $550-million, 2.5-mile extension of four non-toll lanes and two tolled Express Lanes in each direction on the Beltway from their present terminus near the Dulles airport access road to the American Legion Bridge across the Potomac River.
The second Transurban project is a $45-million, new ramp to allow reversible traffic and linking the I-95 Express Lanes at Opitz Boulevard to an outlet mall and a hospital.
The third Transurban project, previously announced, is a $325-million, 10-mile extension of the I-95 tolled Express Lanes’ current southern endpoint to Fredericksburg. Northam’s office said that project—which officials have dubbed “Fred Ex"—"has been finalized and is on track for commercial close this spring.”
Jeffrey Southard, executive vice president of the Virginia Transportation Construction Alliance, says, "Clearly, we're excited about the opportunities that such projects present for our members." He adds, "More importantly, there is a tremendous opportunity here to reduce congestion and improve mobility and connectivity in northern Virginia, and that's paramount."
A Transurban spokesman said in an email that the company, working with VDOT, will seek design-build bids for the Capital Beltway project and hasn't decided yet what type of contracting it will use on the Opitz Boulevard project.
Regarding the schedule, he added, "While the timeline for delivery of the improvements will continue to be refined, construction could begin as early as 2020."
Besides the Transurban projects, VDOT plans a new lane in Woodbridge to ease congestion at the I-95 bridge over the Occoquan River. “The Occoquan bottleneck is the worst traffic problem in Virginia,” said State Senator Scott Surovell (D) in a statement. Virginia DOT will be responsible for designing, building, maintaining and funding that project.
Amy Wight, assistant secretary of transportation in Northam's office, said via email that the Occoquan lane project's expected construction cost is about $30 million "and will be funded by a portion of the cost savings from the Fred Ex project."
Virginia Transportation Secretary Shannon Valentine said in a statement, “These negotiations have resulted in a more than $1 billion investment in transportation infrastructure in these vital regions of Virginia.”
Story updated on 2/4/2019 with cost estimates for three projects, on 2/1/2019 with comments from Virginia Transportation Construction Alliance and on 1/31/2019 with additional information about the projects from Transurban and Gov. Northam's office.