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More Lanes in Store for I-95 and I-395

By Robert Thomson
Sunday, February 25, 2007

D ear Dr. Gridlock:

First off, I would like to congratulate the team that is responsible for the improvements to the Springfield interchange. As a person who travels from Woodbridge to Tysons Corner and back every day, I expected the worst.

But only a few commutes were worsened by the construction. As they are near finishing, it is a joy to be able to flow through the interchange without the headaches that used to be associated with it.

Now on to the problem. While the commute from Tysons Corner -- 495 to 95 south -- through the interchange works great, the problem has been pushed farther south. As soon as you get through the interchange, traffic on 95 south comes to a standstill.

Scott Jackson

Woodbridge

Your route is part of the most intensive highway program in our region. The Virginia Department of Transportation is going to add a fourth lane in each direction on I-95 from Route 123 at the Occoquan River to the Fairfax County Parkway/Route 7100. The eight-mile-long widening is scheduled to get underway in early 2008 and take four years, said Joan Morris, a VDOT spokeswoman in Northern Virginia.

Motorists can expect lane closures at off-peak hours, but there will be no closures for rush periods during construction.

But wait, Scott, there's more. The state is working with a private consortium called Fluor-Transurban on two projects that will create extra lanes for carpoolers and drivers willing to pay a toll to move faster. These are called HOT lanes, for high occupancy or toll.

VDOT and the private group signed an interim agreement last fall to create HOT lanes along I-95 and I-395. The next step is a federal environmental review, which will be the subject of some public information meetings this spring.

That project isn't as far along as the one to create HOT lanes along the Beltway between Springfield and Georgetown Pike, with three exits in Tysons. Much of the environmental work on that project is done, said Jeff Caldwell, a VDOT spokesman in Richmond. VDOT hopes to work out financial and logistical details within the next few months so construction can begin by the end of the year.

Seeing a Silver Lining

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

No information has been released to explain how Metro will accommodate riders from the planned Silver Line along the Dulles corridor after they arrive at the East Falls Church Station. I am a daily user of the Orange Line, and this leaves me wondering if the planned line will adversely affect Orange Line riders. Three possible scenarios come to mind:

· Scenario 1: Silver Line starting at Dulles and ending at the East Falls Church Station. It would be a miracle for a trainload of people to get off at the East Falls Church Station and hop onto the packed Orange Line train.

· Scenario 2: Silver Line from Dulles merging at East Falls Church Station and then sharing tracks with the Orange Line to downtown Washington. However, Orange Line trains share heavily used tracks with Blue Line trains from Rosslyn into the District and are almost bumper-to-bumper during the rush hour.

· Scenario 3: Silver Line from Dulles merging at East Falls Church Station, sharing tracks with the Orange Line to Rosslyn, then switching to the Blue Line to Arlington National Cemetery, staying on the Virginia side of the river only.

One problem: If people want to change trains from the Silver Line to the Orange Line to head into the District at Foggy Bottom or farther in, they will be hard-pressed to find room on the Orange Line trains.

Will the Silver Line be a flop? I hope that Metro already has a much better plan worked up that will not include any of the scenarios mentioned above.

Tony Battisti

Chantilly

That's a pretty good description of the basic scenarios and the challenges. Given that the line is scheduled to open through Tysons in 2012 and through Dulles in 2015, Metro isn't about to put out a train schedule. And who knows if it will be called the Silver Line.

We aren't done figuring out how 100,000 commuters will get in and out of Tysons during the construction phase.

But certain things are pretty likely. Forget Scenario 1: The trains won't turn around until they get to Stadium-Armory after traveling through downtown Washington. Forget Scenario 3: Passengers boarding the train at Dulles International Airport won't be heading for Arlington Cemetery.

Steve Feil, the chief of Metro's rail operations, thinks he can make a version of Scenario 2 work, with a more sophisticated system of train management than Metro has now.

Dr. Gridlock appears Thursday in the Extras and Sunday in the Metro section. You can send e-mail questions and comments todrgridlock@washpost.com. Include your name, home community and phone number.

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