The deal essentially moves forward a 10-mile extension from Garrisonville Road (Route 610) in Stafford County to Route 17 in the Fredericksburg area. It also builds on McAuliffe’s transportation legacy, greatly focused on expanding tolling facilities to relieve traffic in some of the state’s most congested corridors and generating funds for other transportation projects.
McAuliffe’s four-year term ends Saturday.
“This deal will not require any upfront taxpayer investment for construction, and will provide $277 million by the time the express lanes are open that will be invested in the corridor to advance critical transportation projects,” McAuliffe told the Commonwealth Transportation Board on Wednesday morning.
About 45 miles of express lanes have opened on interstates 495 and 95 within the past five years, and the state last month opened another 10 miles of HOT lanes on Interstate 66, inside the Capital Beltway.
On I-66 outside the Beltway, construction is set to begin this year on a $2.3 billion expansion that will add 22.5 miles of toll lanes by 2022, from the Beltway to University Boulevard in Gainesville in Prince William County. And construction is also underway this year along an eight-mile stretch of Interstate 395, where today’s high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes are being converted into toll lanes.
With the addition of the Fredericksburg extension, these projects will deliver the next major milestone in the state’s vision to create a network of more than 90 miles of HOT lanes in Northern Virginia by 2022. In the I-95/395 corridor alone, there will be 50 miles of toll lanes from the Washington line to Fredericksburg.
“When I took office four years ago, I made a commitment to radically change how we do transportation in Virginia,” McAuliffe said.
By growing its network of toll lanes, officials say, the state is not only increasing the capacity of its transportation network, but also giving drivers more options. Solo drivers willing to pay can use the toll facilities, they say, while the lanes are free to drivers who carpool.
Construction on the 10 miles to Fredericksburg is expected to begin in spring 2019, and be completed in the fall 2022. The plan is to add two reversible lanes.
Transurban, the company that operates the 495 express lanes and 95 express lanes, is slated to pay the state the $277 million by the time the express lanes are open, McAuliffe said.
Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne, who is taking a new role as finance secretary in the incoming administration of Gov.-elect Ralph Northam (D), said after the construction of the northbound bridge over the Rappahannock, the state will have $232 million left. The Commonwealth Transportation Board will need to decide how to spend the rest of the funds in the corridor, he said.
“This project addresses an area that traffic data company, INRIX, named ‘worst traffic hot spot’ in the nation,” Layne said. “Expanding the express lanes 10 miles south will bring much-needed relief from the existing bottlenecks along the I-95 corridor, improve reliability for commuters and freight, enhance road safety and set up the regional economy for future growth.”