If success has a thousand fathers, political leaders and their senior officials must be very confident in the future of the Capital Beltway’s 495 Express Lanes. Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) presided over a virtual ribbon-cutting and balloon drop that drew several hundred of them to the Sheraton Premiere at Tysons Corner on Tuesday morning.
The event, a pre-opening ceremony since the high-occupancy toll lanes aren’t scheduled to open till about 2 a.m. Saturday, was so big that it needed a few dozen ribbon cutters, many of them appearing on a big screen for pre-recorded cuttings. The first to make the cut was Sen. Mark R. Warner (D), who as governor had pursued the HOT lanes concept for Northern Virginia’s major commuter routes.
In the following ceremonial cuttings, members of the construction team, Fairfax County leaders, cycling advocates and environmentalists were represented. Finally, the governor led the biggest ribbon cutting of them all at the front of the hotel ballroom. Nearby stood Rep. Gerald R. Connolly (D), who was chairman of the Fairfax County Board when the project got going.
Commuters won’t see any of these ribbon cuttings. The HOT lanes are scheduled to open over the weekend so they can be ready for drivers in the Monday morning commute. Drivers will then decide how big a success these lanes really are.