Commonwealth Transportation Commissioner Philip Shucet signed a comprehensive agreement with Fluor Enterprises, Inc. and Transurban (USA) Inc. to improve the Capital Beltway (I-495) in northern Virginia. The agreement establishes a business relationship between the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and the private sector to move ahead on future project decisions, such as construction and operations.
PPTA allows Virginia to partner with private companies to build projects more efficiently, with the private sector sharing in the financial risk of project construction and operations.
“This sets a new benchmark for public private partnerships in Virginia because Transurban and Fluor are willing to invest their own money and resources to improve mobility in one of the most congested areas in the U.S.,” said Shucet. “We have other steps to take before construction can begin, but we set the framework for a productive long-term business relationship.”
“The signing of the comprehensive agreement brings Virginia one step closer to providing transit and HOV services to the Beltway,” said Governor Mark Warner. “This is an important milestone.”
The project would add 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. The project would also include Phase 8 of the Springfield Interchange, which would add a carpool connection to the Beltway from I-95/I-395. HOT lanes would be free to carpoolers, buses and emergency vehicles. All others would pay a variable toll to use the lanes. Large trucks would not be allowed to use HOT lanes.
When fully built, construction of the four HOT lanes is estimated to cost $900 million, which would be paid for primarily by revenues from the HOT lanes. Transurban’s investment would be at least 15% of the cost. As a result of Transurban’s investment, the state would bear no financial risk in the construction of HOT lanes or their operation.
Construction of Phase 8 of Springfield interchange is estimated to cost $85 million. Public fund allocations to build Phase 8 are under construction in the working draft of the Commonwealth Transportation Board’s Six-Year Improvement Program.
Before construction can begin. Transurban and Fluor will pay for and complete an in-depth traffic and revenue study and more detailed engineering, which are underway. The study will determine if HOT lanes are economically viable and help to set a fair and equitable toll structure.
The Federal Highway Administration must issue a Record of Decision on the environmental impact study for a widened road and the project must be included in northern Virginia’s constrained long-range plan.
Should the traffic study and other steps above proceed successfully, then construction could begin in late 2006 or early 2007.