The privately financed 10-mile extension of Virginia’s I-95 Express Lanes is set to partially open this month, expanding access in a corridor that in recent decades has experienced increased congestion from both commuter and through traffic.
Developed and operated by Transurban North America for the Virginia Dept. of Transportation, the reversable, dynamically tolled Express Lanes are located in the median between I-95’s north- and southbound mainline travel lanes. The current $670-million project, built by the construction joint venture of Branch Civil and Flatiron Construction extends the Express Lanes from the current terminus in Stafford County to just north of U.S. Route 17 near Fredericksburg. The extension will connect with another major I-95 capacity expansion effort—VDOT’s non-tolled Rappahannock River Crossing project.
Two additional access points to the Express Lanes are scheduled to be opened later this year, while the left-lane northbound entrance for I-95 travelers will be augmented with flyover ramp to provide local traffic access in 2024. When complete, the 39-mile Express Lane corridor will provide a direct connection with the I-95/395/495 junction in Springfield. Transurban also operates express lanes serving the I-395 spur to Washington, D.C., and the west side of the I-495 Capital Beltway.
Launched in late 2019, the Express Lanes extension was slowed by concentrations of Potomac Formation soils, which are prevalent along the I-95 corridor, according to Transurban. A variety of mitigation measures were employed including nearly 7,500 densified aggregate piers between 15 to 20 feet deep in 3-ft-diamter holes and backfilled with aggregate; nearly 2 million sq ft of geogrid fabric, placed in multiple layers throughout the embankment; more than 2,000 cu yds of soil over-excavation and replacement; and approximately 130 slope stability piles.
A dispute between Transurban and the joint venture over responsibility for the resulting costs and schedule impacts led to an October 2021 arbiter’s ruling in favor of the contractor. Both sides agreed to a settlement that added $100 million to the original $565 million contract.
The Rappahannock River Crossing project aims to accommodate growing 1-95 traffic volume from both through travelers, as well as population growth around Fredericksburg. Built in two $132-million phases by Wagman Heavy Civil Inc., the project includes two new 1,200-ft bridges over the Rappahannock River to complement existing I-95 structures, which have undergone rehabilitation and repair, along with additional travel lanes and interchange upgrades.
VDOT says the second phase is on track for completion in spring 2024 and, as with the first phase, will be delivered on budget. Leonard Coleman, the agency’s project manager, credits the success of the complex effort to “a solid partnership with Wagman Inc. with clear communication, a shared goal and a collaborative approach.”