A guide to toll lane construction projects related to Capital Beltway

Robert Thomson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 25, 2010; C02

Get a look at this show while it lasts. When the high-occupancy toll lanes project is done by late 2012 or early 2013, there won't be much highway construction on this scale around Washington.

But drivers on the western side of the Capital Beltway will have much to amuse them this year.

All along that 14-mile line between Springfield and just north of the Dulles Toll Road, the view seems to change each day as the pace of construction accelerates.

New bridges are being completed. Traffic is shifting onto them, and demolition is beginning on more old bridges, which will be replaced by wider ones to accommodate the wider Beltway.

Even though four lanes remain open on each Beltway loop during rush hours, commuters are almost certain to encounter delays.

Some stem from slight shifts in the lanes or from the gawk factor as drivers slow to take in the workers' progress. But there also will be numerous off-peak lane closings, and sometimes complete shutdowns of the Beltway loops.

Many drivers use this portion of the Beltway as a connector, linking one big part of their commute to another. So they touch only part of the elephant that has become one of the biggest highway projects in the nation.

To them, the $1.4 billion in construction that began in 2008 is about lane closings at Chain Bridge Road, or a shortened merge onto the outer loop between Little River Turnpike and Braddock Road, or about reconfigured ramps leading from Interstate 66 onto the inner loop.

Our map, looking at construction scheduled for this spring and summer, highlights the work's impact on drivers at many of the 12 interchanges.

Work is intensifying at Braddock Road, Little River Turnpike, Gallows Road, Route 50, Lee Highway, Chain Bridge Road, Oak Street, Leesburg Pike and I-66. The recent shift of traffic to the new Little River Turnpike bridge over the Beltway was the first of many movements from old bridges to new bridges. But the shifts will involve continuing disruptions until the job is done.

For example, during the next year and a half at the turnpike bridge, drivers will have two westbound lanes rather than three. And drivers heading from the inner loop to the westbound turnpike will find there is no merge area.

There will be lane closings and detours in this area throughout the spring and summer as the old bridge is demolished.

Once all the Beltway bridges are widened and the four new lanes are paved, traffic will be shifted onto them next year and the four center lanes will be closed. Those are the lanes that will be rebuilt into the HOT lanes.

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