Virginia is shifting gears in its plans for new High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes in its crowded I-95/I-395 corridor, eliminating the six-mile I-395 segment from the project. The state will now move forward with an estimated $1 billion public-private initiative to extend and widen existing HOV lanes along I-95 south of the Capital Beltway, resulting in a 29-mile combined HOV/HOT route that will link to HOT lanes already under construction on the Beltway’s west side.
State Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton blamed a lawsuit filed by Arlington County, one of two jurisdictions in the I-395 corridor, for delaying the original project longer than the state could afford to wait, especially with the scheduled BRAC-related move of more than 6,400 Department of Defense workers into a new complex adjacent to the Seminary Road interchange later this year.
“We can no longer wait to deliver congestion relief and new travel choices,” Connaughton said in a statement. Instead, the state will add a single-lane reversible ramp to the existing I-395 HOV lanes at the interchange. That project will be constructed in conjunction with the redefined I-95 HOV/HOT project, which could begin as early as next year should a financing plan come together in the next few months.
But the new ramp is hardly likely to allay concerns about BRAC’s potential effect on the already congested I-395 corridor. Last month, members of the state’s Congressional delegation criticized the Pentagon’s assessment of transportation impacts and requested additional funding for road and transit improvements.
Despite dealing with a contentious lawsuit, Virginia has hardly cooled on HOT lanes and other P3-powered toll ventures for transportation infrastructure. The I-95 HOV/HOT lanes may well be extended further south to Fredericksburg, the unofficial southern frontier of the state's sprawing DC suburbs. Three design-build-operate consortiums are vying to build a 55-mile toll alternative to U.S. Route 460 between Suffolk and Petersburg, while an unsolicited proposal to expand the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel is currently being evaluated by the state.
UPDATE 2/7: A Congressional report recommends that the Pentagon provide additional funding to offset BRAC-related transportation effects in the DC area.
UPDATE 2/8: In a hardly surprising move, Arlington County drops its lawsuit contesting the HOT lanes.