Northern Virginia commuters who have endured extra congestion at the Capital Beltway/Route 267 interchange during the big reconstruction project are about to get a break.
New ramps will open this weekend to provide a direct connection between the eastbound Dulles Airport Access Highway and the Beltway’s inner and outer loops.
Even before the start of construction for the 495 Express Lanes project, this interchange could be a nightmare for drivers on both the airport highway and on the Dulles Toll Road.
The access highway, the free route to Dulles International Airport for airport users, is in the middle of the eastbound and westbound lanes of the toll road, one of the main east-west routes for commuters and an important connection with the Beltway.
Approaching the Beltway, the drivers on the airport highway must cross over many lanes of toll road traffic to reach the ramps for the inner and outer loops.
That’s not good for drivers on either roadway. At a minimum, all the lane changing causes congestion, and it can be dangerous as lane-changing drivers look over their right shoulders to pick up oncoming cars while trying not to plow into the traffic ahead of them.
It’s one of the most difficult highway merges in the D.C. region.
The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which operates Dulles Airport, put up $50 million for the new ramps, so they could be built as part of the express lanes project.
Now the Virginia Department of Transportation, which has been supervising the construction, is ready to turn over the ramps to the airports authority, and the ramps are scheduled to open to drivers on Saturday.
While the most direct benefit goes to drivers coming from the airport, this traffic shift will take some of the pressure off toll road drivers as well, because they no longer will have to deal with that crossing traffic.