On Sunday night, electronic signs were changed to warn drivers about the new pattern and extra colored reflectors were added to the barriers that separate the high-occupancy toll lanes from the regular lanes.
Even after the changes, two crashes occurred Monday morning, raising the three-day total to six.
So on Tuesday morning, drivers will wake up to newly extended lane markings intended to minimize unsafe lane changes.
In the coming days, crews will add markers to the pavement more than a mile before the express lanes to remind commuters that they need an E-ZPass in the left lanes.
The high-occupancy toll lanes represent a new way to manage traffic and build new highways at a time of increasing congestion and stagnant transportation funding. Tolls rise to control demand for the lanes and ensure a predictable trip over the 14-mile route.
Virginia worked with private companies, Transurban and Fluor, to build the lanes. Now, both the state and Transurban, which has a contract to operate the lanes, are working to address the problems highlighted by the six crashes, which occurred in just under 72 hours.
Every crash has occurred near the entrance to the northbound express lanes between the Springfield interchange and Braddock Road on the inner loop of the Capital Beltway.
“Considering the change in the traffic pattern, it’s nothing that I’d say is too out of the ordinary,” said Corinne Geller, spokeswoman for the Virginia State Police. “The unique part about it is that they’re all in the same place.”
Transurban is working with the Virginia Department of Transportation and the state police to alert travelers that they’re approaching toll lanes.
“As expected, this has been a big transition for Beltway drivers,” said Jennifer Aument, a spokeswoman for Transurban. “What we’re seeing out there is what you’d expect with a traffic shift of this magnitude.”
Officials were ready for issues stemming from a major traffic shift, Geller said. The state police had additional troopers assigned to the area so they could quickly respond to incidents.
“We anticipated that there would be some growing pains and that there would be a learning curve for motorists driving out there,” Geller said.
Area drivers know all too well that accidents happen on the Beltway. Still, six crashes in one spot is not typical, particularly in such a short stretch of time.
During a similar span of time earlier this month, seven accidents were reported on I-495 between the Springfield Interchange and the American Legion Bridge, according to the state police.
Some Beltway drivers said everyone using the highway needs to be aware of the new lanes, even if they’re not using them. “It does concern me that someone could swerve and lose control,” said Richard B. Rogers, 39, a lawyer in Northern Virginia. “If I were using the general purpose lanes on the Beltway, I think I would make a point of staying all the way to the right.”