The consulting engineering team assisting the Maryland Dept. of Transportation with its $6-billion Beltway/Interstate-270 Express Lanes plan will receive an additional $45 million to help finalize environmental documents and advance the project toward financial close.

Reynolds, Smith & Hills; WSP and Whitman, Requardt & Associates were awarded a $90-million contract in 2018 to provide engineering, project management, construction management, soil testing, tolling and revenue studies as the state explored options to add managed lanes to most of the I-495/Beltway in Maryland, and to I-270 between the Beltway and Frederick, Md.

Since then, the project’s scope has evolved to a multi-phase program to be implemented as a progressive public-private partnership.

A team led by Transurban (USA) Operations Inc., and Macquarie Infrastructure Developments LLC was selected earlier this year to begin development work for Phase 1, which calls for adding four express lanes to 37 miles of the Beltway and I-270, and expanding the existing Potomac River crossing to eventually link with Virginia’s existing Beltway Express Lanes, also operated by Transurban.

Phase 1 also includes some of the program’s most controversial sections, as evidenced by a host of public review period comments and criticisms regarding the expansion’s potential effect on adjacent residences and environmentally protected areas.

MDOT determined that additional funding was needed to complete the study’s final environmental impact statement and record of decision, both needed for the project to achieve financial close.

The added funds, approved by the state Board of Public Works earlier this month, are to come from a $145-million development rights fee that Transurban-Macquarie will pay the state DOT upon ratification of a 50-year contract for the Express Lanes’ final design, construction and operation. The developer will also pay a “concessionaire fee” to be negotiated with the state. MDOT has said that process could be completed as early as next year.

Meanwhile, the Virginia Dept. of Tansportation and Transurban are nearing financial close on a $600-million design-build contract with The Lane Construction Corp.for a 2.5-mile extension of the existing Beltway Express Lanes from the current endpoint to the Potomac River.

Archer Western Construction LLC also had shortlisted for the contract.

Scheduled to begin construction early next year, the three-year extension project will maintain four non-tolled lanes in each direction, improve connections with the Dulles Airport Toll Road and George Washington Memorial Parkway, and add four miles of new bicycle and pedestrian connections in the corridor. The project also includes upgrades to seven bridges and nine sound walls and new stormwater management facilities, including stream restoration work.

Transurban has also committed to provide $2.2 million annually to support cross-state bus service and other transit improvements aimed at cutting the number of passenger vehicles on the highway.