By Robert Thomson
Monday, February 14, 2011; 10:22 AM
The westbound I-66 High Occupancy Vehicle ramps at Monument Drive and Stringfellow Road in Fairfax County will open to all traffic on weekends and during off-peak hours beginning at 10 a.m. Monday, Feb. 28.
The ramps have been open only for HOV traffic during rush hours, but drivers have long asked why they can't be open to all traffic at other times, just as HOV lanes are. (Travelers were asking about it last week during the Monday online discussion.) The change has been in the works since last year, and the date was announced this morning in a statement from Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell.
"Opening these ramps is a low-cost solution to improve commute times for thousands of congestion-weary commuters in Fairfax County," he said in the statement. "Anyone who travels I-66 midday or weekends knows that congestion in this area is just as common outside of the traditional rush hours. Now motorists will have easier access to shopping centers, office parks and residential areas near the two exit ramps."
Until Feb. 28, the long-standing rules remain in place: The Monument Drive and Stringfellow Road ramps are open only to HOV-2 traffic eastbound from 5:30 to 9:30 a.m. and westbound from 3 to 7 p.m. The ramps are closed to traffic during off-peak hours and weekends.
Starting Feb. 28, the ramps will be open to all traffic, except during the HOV hours. New overhead digital message signs will alert drivers to the status of the ramps as they approach on westbound I-66. Traffic signs and signals at the top of the exit ramps have been modified, and traffic signals near the interchanges will be retimed to accommodate the new traffic.
The Virginia Department of Transportation predicts that the change will Improve travel times for many drivers, provide alternative routes to avoid the work zone at the Fairfax County and Fair Lakes parkways where VDOT is building a new interchange through 2013, and give bus riders as well as motorists direct access to the Stringfellow Road park-and-ride lot.
VDOT anticipates that up to 5,800 vehicles a day will use the Stringfellow Road ramp and 2,400 vehicles a day will use the Monument Drive ramp. The cost of opening the ramps, with the new signs, is about $200,000, VDOT said. The change has the approval of the Federal Highway Administration.