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Road work starting for I-66 traffic management program

The image shows what drivers are likely to see when the Active Traffic Management system is activated in 2015. (VDOT image)

Beginning Friday, the Virginia Department of Transportation’s traffic management program for Interstate 66 will become more visible to travelers.

For the next four months, most of the impact on traffic will involve overnight construction to install 36 gantries along the interstate between the Capital Beltway and Route 29 in Centreville. But after that, drivers will experience the Active Traffic Management system that has been under development for several years.

The theory: Without rebuilding the highway, the system of sensors, cameras, central computers and highway signs will give drivers more information on incidents ahead, potential delays and how best to handle them. Drivers might respond to advisories that they change lanes, consider an alternative route or just slow down because of trouble ahead.

The smart highway will only be as smart as the drivers who use it. Slowing down well ahead of a crash, or moving away from a blocked lane, can ease the traffic flow for everyone — if drivers are willing to make those moves where traffic is still flowing freely.

This will be one of the most interesting traffic stories of 2015. But before we get to that, the gantries must go up. The initial work is scheduled for 12:01 to 2 a.m. Friday on eastbound I-66 at mile marker 53 in Centreville. At some point during that two-hour window, all eastbound traffic will be brought to a complete stop for up to half an hour, VDOT said.

After that early Friday start, the road crews generally will work Sunday through Thursday nights. VDOT said they will focus first on both sides of the interstate between Routes 29 and 50, mile markers 52 to 58. These also will involve some traffic stops. Regular drivers should watch for message boards along I-66 announcing upcoming shutdowns.

There won’t be any closings during the Thanksgiving travel days, or on other upcoming holidays, VDOT said.

This isn’t the only I-66 project travelers will hear about during 2015. The Virginia government has a study underway that is likely to add I-66 outside the Beltway to the network of high-occupancy toll lanes on the Beltway and I-95/395.