Woman dies in crash at Beltway express lanes entrance

[This post has been updated.]

A 72-year-old woman from South Carolina was killed Tuesday in a three-vehicle crash at the northbound entrance to the 495 Express Lanes on the Capital Beltway in Springfield, Virginia state police said.

HOT lanes entrance
Post map shows the southern section of the express lanes for inner loop drivers. Tuesday’s crash occurred at the Springfield entrance.

According to the police account, the minivan she was driving braked suddenly at the toll lanes entrance on the left side of the Beltway’s inner loop. A Jeep behind the minivan swerved and was able to avoid colliding with it, but a Mercedes sedan wasn’t able to stop and hit the back of the minivan. The impact spun the minivan around, and it struck the Jeep. The Mercedes struck the concrete barrier on the left side of the express lanes and caught fire.

The crash occurred shortly before 3:44 p.m. Tuesday, when state police were called to the scene. The driver, Mary Jane Treacy, of Bluffton, S.C., and her husband, Thomas M. Treacy, 78, were taken to Fairfax Inova Hospital. She died a short time later. He was treated for his injuries, which police said were serious but not life-threatening.

The drivers of the Jeep and the Mercedes also were taken to the hospital for treatment of injuries that were not life-threatening, police said.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation by state police, and no charges have been filed in connection with it.

The site of the crash was a cause for concern among Virginia’s transportation and safety officials when the Beltway express lanes opened in November 2012. In those early days, drivers got into crashes while making sudden maneuvers to avoid entering the toll lanes. Officials responded by adding more warning signs and lengthening the approach to reduce the last-second lane changing.

Transurban, the company that operates the express lanes, will commission an outside party to conduct a safety audit to see if further action is necessary, Transurban spokesman Mike McGurk said Thursday.

As part of the incident review, he said, the outside auditing company will be able to look over engineering and design drawings of the area, police reports, any video footage from before, during or after the incident; and any data that can be provided by the Express Assist crews that respond to emergencies in the lanes. “We intend to provide all relevant material to the company by next week,” McGurk said in an e-mail. “The company is expected to review the material, conduct site visits to the incident location and compile and deliver their findings by the end of the month.”

Drivers approaching the express lanes entrance on the inner loop pass under a series of signs marked “E-ZPass EXPRESS.” Several include lighted message boards that indicate the toll to three destinations along the 14-mile length of the toll lanes. The entry point is on the far left side. It begins with a series of dashed white lines setting off the two express lanes, followed by a solid white line, then a double white line and then white bollards that separate the tolled lanes for the rest of their route to north of Tysons Corner.

Robert Thomson is The Washington Post’s “Dr. Gridlock.” He answers travelers’ questions, listens to their complaints and shares their pain on the roads, trains and buses in the Washington region.
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