Commonwealth Transportation Commissioner Philip Shucet has directed the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to enter into negotiations with Fluor Daniel for a comprehensive agreement to improve the Capital Beltway (I-495) in northern Virginia. VDOT is working with Fluor Daniel under the Public-Private Transportation Act (PPTA). The PPTA allows Virginia to partner with the private sector to build projects more efficiently and with less state money.
"I have reached a decision to enter into negotiations after careful review of the PPTA advisory panels recommendation and all supporting documents," said Shucet. "VDOT and the private sector are moving forward to improve traffic flow on the heavily congested beltway. The private sector is able to share in the risk of funding this project, which otherwise would be practically impossible if VDOT had to rely on traditional funding sources to improve the beltway."
Fluor Daniel proposes to build two high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes in each direction on a 14-mile segment of the Capital Beltway, from north of the Springfield Interchange to north of the Dulles Toll Road. According to the proposal, HOT lanes would be free to car-poolers, buses and emergency vehicles; cars carrying only one or two people would pay a variable toll to use the lanes. Large trucks would not be allowed to use HOT lanes.
Shucet is keeping open the option of including the construction of Phase 8 of the Springfield Interchange and having the private sector take over toll operations and maintenance as part of the comprehensive agreement. The project will be coordinated with Maryland and the Federal Highway Administration.
While the private sector would bear much of the financial risk of improving I-495, Shucet said that Fluor Daniel will explore options to further reduce, if not possibly eliminate, the states share in financing the project.
"This has the potential of being the most successful PPTA project Virginia has ever undertaken because the private sector is willing to take a substantial share of the financial risk and possibly all of the risk to improve mobility on I-495," added Shucet.
A schedule is being worked out for negotiations. Should they be successful, a comprehensive agreement would follow. The agreement would set the framework for future decisions on the project, such as design and construction.
No improvements can be made to the beltway unless they are part of a federally approved environmental impact study. An independent review of possible improvements to the Capital Beltway is under way. The environmental study is scheduled for completion by the end of this year.
For more information go to www.virginiadot.org