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Express lanes signs to appear soon on I-95

The 95 Express Lanes in the middle of I-95 should be open by the end of December. (Robert Thomson/The Washington Post)

Drivers who use the HOV lanes on I-95 are about to see some of the new signs that will guide travelers along the new 95 Express Lanes when they open in December.

Unveiling the signs doesn’t mean the High Occupancy Vehicle lanes have gone away. No exact date has been set for the conversion to high-occupancy toll lanes. The familiar HOV rules will still apply until the conversion, even as new “Express Lanes” signs are gradually unveiled over the next few weeks. And drivers who have E-ZPass transponders in their vehicles are not being tolled.

Susan Shaw, director of Northern Virginia Megaprojects for the Virginia Department of Transportation, said in a statement that there are two reasons for getting started with the signs now: 1) Unveiling them will help drivers get familiar with the new system, which will operate a bit differently from the 495 Express Lanes on the Capital Beltway. 2) There are a lot of signs — about 300 — and crews need to start the process of displaying them.

Express Lanes signs already have appeared in the nine-mile stretch at the southern end of the new lanes. That’s the newly built zone that is not yet open to any traffic. Farther north, the new signs will start to become more obvious this weekend and beyond.

By the time the express lanes open, drivers will see a variety of signs that fall into these categories.

Entry/Exit signs. The entry signs will have a purple banner — a different look from the 495 Express Lanes — that shows the E-ZPass logo and the words, “EXPRESS ONLY.” The exit signs will be the more familiar-looking green boards with white lettering.

Rules of the road signs. These will show the basic rules on using the new lanes: Everybody needs an E-ZPass, the regular kind or the E-ZPass Flex that allows for the free ride when carpooling with two or more passengers.

Toll signs. These have electronic displays that show the current tolls to three destinations along the 29-mile express lanes route.

Express Lanes End/HOV Lanes Begin signs. I think these are the ones we’ll wind up discussing the most, because they illustrate something drivers do not experience when using the Beltway express lanes.

Around Edsall Road, just beyond the Beltway, northbound drivers on the 95 Express Lanes will see signs marking the transition from the E-ZPass only lanes back to the I-395 HOV lanes that continue on toward the District line.

This will be a decision point. Toll-paying drivers will need to exit into the regular lanes of I-395.

The carpoolers can continue on into the HOV lanes, just as they would today. On the southbound trip, the carpoolers in the HOV lanes will need to remember that they need the E-ZPass Flex to continue on once the express lanes begin.

I’ve been asking drivers to send their questions to me about how the lanes will work, and I’d like to renew that request here. Use the comments field below, or send an e-mail to

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