While many of the traffic pattern changes in the 495 Express Lanes work zone have been temporary, there’s one coming this week that is permanent and significant.
On Friday, the Virginia Department of Transportation plans to close the right-side ramp from eastbound Route 7 (Leesburg Pike) to the Capital Beltway’s inner loop and turn on a new traffic signal. Thereafter, the eastbound traffic heading for the inner loop will have to make a left turn.
Drivers heading west on Route 7 also will be affected by this change, because they will have the new traffic signal to stop them while the oncoming drivers make their left turns.
The closing of the old ramp will clear room for completion of the connection between the high-occupancy toll lanes and Route 7. But unlike some of the recent traffic shifts along the Beltway, or at the Interstate 66 and Dulles Toll Road interchanges, this change will not disappear once construction is done.
Still, it’s not quite the final configuration. Later this year, a second left-turn lane will be added for the drivers heading to the inner loop.
The Express Lanes are scheduled to be done late this year. But the 14-mile long project is not exactly winding down. This change at Route 7 should be quite dramatic. At least, it will take drivers some time to get used to the new pattern.
Drivers heading for the inner loop will have to remember to stay to the left. Drivers heading west on Route 7 will have to stay alert for the light. (This change does not affect the inner loop entrance for drivers traveling westbound on Route 7 though they will be joining that new traffic from the eastbound side of Route 7 as they head down their ramp.)
Reconstruction of the interchanges in the Tysons Corner area remains the most difficult part of the Express Lanes project, for both drivers and construction crews. This month, the temporary narrowing of the ramp from the outer loop to westbound Interstate 66 greatly added to congestion during the afternoon rush hours.
VDOT officials say they are trying to figure out a way to ease that new problem without going back to the previous configuration, which was causing problems for drivers on the inner loop and westbound I-66.
More about that very soon.