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.

 The County contends that the HOT lanes project as originally envisioned would unfairly burden adjacent minority and low-income neighborhoods, and that further environmental assessments of traffic, noise, and air quality issues are necessary. 

“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.