A driver complained during my online chat Monday about a new configuration at the Capital Beltway interchange where drivers exit to Interstate 66. Here’s what the commenter said:
“Hi Doc! Ever since the closing of the left exit from the inner loop to I-66 west, there has been a significant traffic back up on the right exit. The new configuration is the source of the problem.
“The two-lane exit ramp has to merge with the two lanes of I-66 West into a total of two lanes — that’s four lanes merging in to two in the span of about a 1/4 mile. Chaos ensues at all hours of the day. I’ve driven through the area at noon, 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. on weekdays and weekends, and the traffic is bad. Are there any plans once the construction is done to alleviate this? Will there be more merge lanes or a longer merge area?”
I said I didn’t know of any plans to further expand the exit ramp beyond the widening done to accommodate the traffic that had been using the now-closed left exit from the Beltway to westbound I-66. Some additional traffic may be diverted once the high occupancy toll road project is done, because the HOT lanes will have a left exit to I-66 west.
But Jamie Breme, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Megaprojects office, pointed out to me today that there’s more work coming on the I-66 part of the interchange.
She said the traffic pattern on I-66 west at the interchange is still a temporary one. Workers must demolish the old bridge piers for the now-closed left exit from the Beltway before they can build the final lane configuration for the area.
The old bridge piers are in the way of the future lanes, she said. Once the bridge piers are gone, crews will start to build the new lanes. Ultimately, there will be three through lanes and one HOV lane for I-66 at the interchange. Expect to see that next spring, she said.
Reconstruction of the Beltway interchanges at I-66 and the Dulles Toll Road has been a particularly challenging part of the HOT lanes project, both for the project managers and for commuters. See more about the challenges and upcoming changes in our recent Commuter page feature.