A proposed 11-mile Capital Beltway widening project is moving forward as the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) suggests nine construction alternatives.
Concepts outlined as part of a $6.8 million study “include congestion pricing along new 495 Express Lanes, dedicated bus lanes and technological enhancements to combat traffic snarls from the Springfield interchange to east of the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge,” the Washington Post has reported. “The study is the Washington region’s most recent attempt to combat growing road congestion as Virginia pursues expanding its 90-mile network of express lanes.”
The proposed highway widening also would complete the final leg of a tolling system on Virginia’s portion of the Beltway, the newspaper reported.
Express lanes have been effective in Northern Virginia, and would provide relief to the Beltway’s southern areas through additional lane capacity while adding travel choices, said Susan Shaw, the VDOT’s director of megaprojects. Virginia’s high-occupancy toll system gives free access to carpoolers and transit users.
“These (express lanes) do serve as a transit way for buses and carpools to provide services, congestion-free, and that’s a really critical element of these systems,” Shaw said at a recent meeting. “Today, those vehicles are sitting in traffic just with everybody else.”
VDOT says it will decide on a preferred option next spring. “The agency will take into account factors such as whether an option offers continuity to nearby express lanes, reduces congestion, improves safety and is consistent with regional transportation plans,” The Post reported.
VDOT also is adding tolled lanes to a 2.5-mile stretch from the Dulles Toll Road interchange to the American Legion Bridge, where it would connect to Maryland’s proposed toll lanes.
David Broughton, a Maryland Department of Transportation spokesman, said the state is looking forward to working with Prince George’s County and Virginia on a plan for the corridor that includes multiple modes of transportation — not just personal vehicles.
“We appreciate Virginia taking the lead in advancing this regional conversation about the future of the southside of I-495 and the Woodrow Wilson Bridge,” he said in a statement. “This is a critical corridor for our region’s mobility now and into the future. We believe that the future of this corridor is multimodal.”