Now nearly 50 miles, the Interstate-95/Interstate-395 Express Lanes make up the longest reversible road in the United States. It provides faster, more reliable travel choices between Washington, D.C., and northern Virginia’s rapidly growing suburbs.
Located in one of Virginia’s busiest areas, the need for an extended road to ease travel at peak hours was evident. The express lanes connect to Transurban’s 395 express lanes, and together they provide 63 miles for high-speed travel.
The reversible lanes provide travelers with congestion relief northbound in the morning and southbound in the evening. Reversal occurs midday and overnight, causing minimal traffic interruption during the two-hour operation that engages 298 gates along a corridor with 22 gantries and 349 detection points that collect over 2,000 data points per mile.
Construction to the $670 million project began in 2019 and dovetailed with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) Rappahannock River Crossing projects at one of the most congested sections of I-95 at Route 17.
The Rappahannock River crossing added three new travel lanes northbound and southbound at the river, plus a fourth northbound lane for the most congested segment. It also created an additional off ramp and added pedestrian access to local roads nearby.
As work on the projects progressed, the 95/395 project team demonstrated their ability to coordinate and overcome challenges that could otherwise prove compromising.
The team encountered Potomac Formation soils—a highly plastic clay that required additional engineering and design modifications. Initially, the Fredericksburg Extension was intended to be complete before the Rappahannock River crossing would be constructed. Because of the delay due to soil and construction complexity, all parties had to re-evaluate how to move forward.
“The soil issue was extensive and more complex than initially anticipated,” said Jeff Taylor, vice president of project delivery at Transurban North America. “But with our partners at VDOT and the Branch-Flatiron Joint Venture we were able to generate an engineered solution. I often equate the situation to changing the engine out of a plane while it’s flying. The project was in mid-flight when the issue arose, and the best possible outcome was delivered.
“When challenges arise, you see the benefits of a public-private partnership: all parties coming to the table to find a path forward, protect taxpayers, and stay focused on delivering the infrastructure that is changing how people and goods are moving.”
Following the discovery, the parties implemented a new plan that swapped elements of work between projects to facilitate a practical and efficient approach. In the end, offering a phased opening offered minimal impact to travelers and maximized benefits to the overall project.
As a pivotal part of the region’s infrastructure, the project’s benefits include:
- Increased highway capacity of 66% along the 10-mile extension.
- Saving an expected 35-minute average during rush hour from Washington, D.C. to Fredericksburg, Va.
- Free travel for HOV-3 and buses, with an additional $60 million in transit funding from I-395 express lane tolls via the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission Commuter Choice Program.
- High-speed national security corridor with new direct access to Marine Corps Base Quantico.
- Generating an estimated $1 billion in economic impact and 9,000 jobs.
- Investments in more than 80 local nonprofit organizations through the project’s grant program.
“VDOT’s partnership with Transurban in bringing the 95 Express Lanes Fredericksburg Extension to life means hundreds of thousands of Stafford area residents have the benefit of a faster, more reliable trip along I-95,” said VDOT Commissioner Stephen Brich. “The Extension’s completion couldn’t have been possible without constant collaboration and communication, building on the alliance we forged over a decade ago based on the shared goal of keeping Virginians moving.” RB
Project Name: 95/395 Express Lanes
Project Location: Virginia
Contractors: Branch Civil & Flatiron Construction
Cost: $670 million
Length: 10 miles
Completion Date: December 2023