Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) Commissioner David Ekern recently signed the interim agreement that advances a private-sector proposal to bring innovative high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes to I-95 and I-395. The interim agreement with Fluor-Transurban, under the Public-Private Transportation Act of 1995, will advance the required preliminary work on the project.
The proposed 56-mile HOT lanes project between Massaponax and Arlington will expand the existing HOV lanes and will extend HOV lanes south to Massaponax. HOT lanes allow drivers of low-occupancy vehicles to pay a toll to use HOV lanes. Carpoolers, buses and other transit operators would use the lanes for free.
"This is a significant milestone as VDOT looks to find creative ways to address congestion in the Fredericksburg and Northern Virginia regions. HOT lanes, and the additional transit infrastructure incorporated into this interim agreement, will give motorists new choices to shave time from their commute," said Ekern, who was appointed as VDOT commissioner in September. "One of my top priorities is to work with the private sector and our federal, state and local partners to speed innovative 21st century traffic-management improvements to the congested areas of the state."
The interim agreement requires Fluor-Transurban to complete required preliminary engineering work; an operation plan including enhancements to transit infrastructure such as park-and-ride lots and bus stations; and an in-depth traffic and revenue study. The results of this work will determine if the HOT lanes are operationally and economically viable and will help to set tolls that will manage congestion. Private partners will use the toll revenue to finance construction and operation of the HOT lanes, as well as to provide funding for additional transit in the corridor.
Additional provisions in the agreement ensure that new technology added for this project is compatible with VDOT technology for both tolling and operations. Also included are the construction of six park-and-ride facilities and enhancements to 12 bus stations along the corridor.
"Finding new ways to improve the quality of life for Northern Virginia residents is an absolute necessity in an area growing as quickly as we are," said Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerry Connolly. "There is no single solution to the congestion problem, but incorporating a project like this can be a powerful tool in our efforts to address Northern Virginia congestion."
The interim agreement also outlines the federal environmental review process that must be completed before construction. No proposed improvements can be made to the I-95/395 corridor unless they go through the required state and federal environmental laws and regulations. This process involves additional public-participation opportunities.
In September, Secretary of Transportation Pierce Homer established a Transit/HOV Stakeholder Committee to provide local jurisdictions and transit providers with opportunities for feedback on information collected during the environmental and feasibility studies.
The project also will address recent decisions by the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission to move a large number of federal employees to locations within the I-95/I-395 corridor. The design of the HOT-lanes system will incorporate congestion-management and infrastructure improvements taking into account the areas where BRAC improvements are planned.
"One of the worst bottlenecks on I-95 is the where the existing HOV lanes end," said Stafford County Board of Supervisors Chairman Robert Gibbons. "We need to move quickly to address this bottleneck to keep our economy moving and protect the quality of life for citizens of the Fredericksburg region. This is especially important as the BRAC decisions move thousands of additional military and civilian jobs to this region."
A comprehensive agreement will follow the interim agreement if milestones are met. The comprehensive agreement will be negotiated by VDOT, working with various technical expertise, including transit operations.