This is a shortened version of the earlier HOT lanes proposal for the I-95 corridor. In February, the state lopped off the top, announcing it that would not build the originally planned portion north of the Capital Beltway along Interstate 395.
Instead, the state proposed a 29-mile project between Garrisonville Road in Stafford County and Edsall Road, just north of the Beltway. VDOT said construction could begin as early as spring and probably would take three years to complete.
The new environmental assessment covers a 46-mile route that also ends at Edsall Road but begins about a mile south of Route 17 (Mills Drive) in Spotsylvania County. That southern portion could be built later and is not a part of the current program.
The HOT lanes corridor is in the median of I-95 and consists of a two-lane reversible, limited-access express route from the southern end to just north of the Prince William Parkway interchange (Exit 158). There, it would expand to three lanes, ending at the Beltway, with a transition to the I-395 high-occupancy vehicle lanes and general-purpose lanes near the Edsall Road interchange.
The I-95 HOT lanes would connect with the 14 miles of HOT lanes under construction on the western side of the Beltway, which are scheduled for completion at the end of next year. The operations would be similar. Drivers who don’t meet the carpool requirements would be charged a variable toll, depending on the level of congestion. But the I-95 proposal has generated much more debate than the Beltway route.
The Beltway program involves construction of four new lanes. The I-95 plan partially replaces the HOV lanes. Those are among the most successful HOV lanes in the nation, thanks in good measure to the informal system of carpooling known as slugging. Even though three carpoolers would still ride for free, many slugs think that allowing solo drivers to use the express lanes for a fee will undermine the incentive that makes slugging successful.
The only alternative included in the study is doing nothing. That means leaving three to four general-purpose travel lanes in each direction and a two-lane HOV route within the median from just south of the Route 234 (Dumfries Road) interchange to the Beltway.
That doesn’t mean there are no other alternatives, just that they weren’t considered in the study. In theory, Virginia could choose to add capacity by widening I-95 in some areas without the financial aid of a public-private partnership, just as VDOT did recently along the six miles between Route 123 and the Fairfax County Parkway. The state could choose a program more heavily dependent on transit to reduce congestion, or modify land-use planning and encourage telecommuting to reduce the demand for I-95.