The high-occupancy toll lanes on the western side of the Capital Beltway are scheduled to open late in 2012. The D.C. region hasn’t seen anything like them. Will they become the way of the future?
Travelers still ask about — and complain about — what’s going on in the 14-mile work zone between Springfield and the Dulles Toll Road interchange. But they’ve also begun to ask how the lanes will function when they finally open.
The HOT lanes managers will spend months preparing drivers to use them. And even before the lanes open, drivers will experience some improvements at the interchanges being rebuilt to accommodate the new lanes.
After a half century of discussion and debate, opening 18 miles of the Intercounty Connector was a top transportation story of 2011. But it opened in segments, and the biggest part didn’t open till the end-of-the-year holidays were upon us.
This year, we should see whether drivers really take to the new toll road or decide they will stick with the congestion and delay on the old routes. Many drivers probably will test out the connector and pick the portions of it that work for them under particular circumstances. Most times, it won’t be a question of paying $4 to use the entire highway at rush hour, but rather a choice to pay 70 cents to travel from southbound Interstate 95 to southbound Route 29, cutting a corner off the Capital Beltway when traffic reports say it’s especially congested.
The repeated rounds of heavy rain this fall pushed back the Woodrow Wilson Bridge project’s goal of opening new lanes on the Capital Beltway near Telegraph Road in Virginia. Important parts of the remaining work on the Beltway require warmer weather, so expect to see the lanes in their current configuration through the winter.
Then in late spring or early summer, a new portion of the THRU lanes will open in the zone between west of Route 1 and west of Telegraph Road. During the summer, the LOCAL lane segment also will be completed. This work will eliminate the three-lane bottleneck on the Beltway west of the Wilson Bridge, the obstacle that has prevented many drivers from enjoying the full benefits of the new, wider bridge.
Federal base realignment
More employees are scheduled to arrive at the Mark Center, off Interstate 395 in Alexandria. Some changes have been made in the signal timings and lane markings nearby, but the main planned improvement is a new HOV ramp at I-395 and Seminary Road. The Virginia Department of Transportation has scheduled a public meeting on that project for Jan. 25.
Meanwhile, the Maryland State Highway Administration will begin to upgrade intersections near the newly consolidated Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Rockville Pike in Bethesda. Several projects are scheduled to start this spring.