A Potomac River crossing could eventually be added to Virginia’s network of DC-area high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes, according to a VDOT study prepared for the state’s Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB).
The plan would extend the nearly three-year old I-495/Capital Beltway Express Lanes beyond their current terminus into Maryland on an expanded American Legion Bridge, and up to the I-270 spur near Bethesda, a distance of approximately 8 miles. During morning and evening rush hours, this stretch is typically among the most congested segments of the region’s overburdened highway network, and will only become more heavily used over the next 25 years according to the report.
VDOT is already studying the feasibility of incorporating HOT lanes on I-66 inside the Capital Beltway, a primary east-west corridor to downtown Washington, D.C. Currently limited to high-occupancy vehicles (HOV) during rush hours, the corridor is often jammed before and after the restrictions are in effect. Earlier this year, VDOT opened 29 miles of HOT lanes along I-95 south of the Beltway, incorporating 20 miles of once-dedicated HOV lanes with 9 miles of new construction.
Both the I-95 and I-495/Capital Beltway projects were P3s, constructed by the joint venture of Transurban/Fluor Corp.-Lane Construction Co., under separate design, build, finance, operate, and maintain contracts with VDOT.
Should Virginia decide to pursue a northward expansion of the Beltway HOT lanes (a CTB decision could come as early as September), it will have to gain the buy-in of its neighbor to the north for the idea to go anywhere, both figuratively and literally. Because the Potomac River lies entirely within Maryland, that state is responsible for maintaining the American Legion Bridge.