Big news on the transportation front from Gov. Ralph Northam’s office.
Virginia and Transurban Sign Agreements to Invest More Than $1 Billion in Northern Virginia Transportation
~ Four projects reduce congestion and improve connectivity on I-495 and I-95, including the Occoquan Auxiliary Lane ~
RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that the Commonwealth of Virginia has signed agreements with private partner Transurban to deliver critical transportation solutions along Interstate 495 and Interstate 95. Months of close collaboration and negotiation between the Commonwealth and Transurban have resulted in a deal for four transportation infrastructure projects that will create significant value for citizens and businesses throughout Northern Virginia and Fredericksburg.
“My administration is committed to creating opportunity for Virginia families and businesses in every corner of the Commonwealth, and that requires having a safe, reliable transportation network,” said Governor Northam. “I am pleased to announce these four projects that will bring significant improvements to I-495 and I-95, easing congestion, enhancing safety, and driving economic growth.”
The projects are:
- A 2.5-mile extension of the 495 Express Lanes north to the American Legion Bridge to reduce congestion. The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and Transurban have signed a Project Development Agreement for the Capital Beltway Express Lanes Northern Extension (Project NEXT), which includes direct connections with the George Washington Memorial Parkway and the Dulles Toll Road. Four general purpose (GP) lanes and two new Express Lanes will run in each direction of the Capital Beltway starting from the current terminus near the Dulles Access Road and ending at the American Legion Bridge. With no public funding by the Commonwealth, the Express Lanes network will be extended to the Maryland border, helping address one of the worst bottlenecks in the region and reduce cut-through traffic in local McLean neighborhoods.
- Addition of a new, reversible ramp connecting the existing 95 Express Lanes at Opitz Boulevard to provide improved access to Potomac Mills and Sentara Virginia Medical Center. The ramp will offer Express Lane drivers the option to exit directly onto Opitz Boulevard. Transurban will be responsible for the design, construction, maintenance, and all associated costs, creating greater accessibility for the residents and business community.
- Construction of a new southbound Occoquan auxiliary lane on Interstate 95 in Woodbridge to address the traffic bottleneck at the Occoquan Bridge. The Occoquan Auxiliary Lane will connect the southbound Route 123 ramp onto I-95 with the off-ramp at westbound Prince William Parkway. The Commonwealth and Transurban have agreed the improvements will not require any compensation payment to Transurban.
“Transurban has a long history of working with the Commonwealth to collaboratively solve major transportation challenges,” said Transurban President Jennifer Aument. “With expanded capacity and new connections to commuter routes and commercial centers, we are committed to delivering transportation solutions that keep travelers moving faster and safer throughout Northern Virginia.”
VDOT is advancing required environmental studies to support these projects, and the partners will commence extensive engagement with the community and local stakeholders as they develop more detailed design plans. While the timeline for delivery of the improvements will continue to be refined, construction could begin as early as 2020.
- In addition, the proposal for the Fredericksburg Extension Project (Fred Ex), a project consisting of a 10-mile extension of the 95 Express Lanes to Fredericksburg, has been finalized and is on track for commercial close this spring. Since the project was initially announced in January 2018, contract negotiations, a competitive design-build procurement, and more favorable financing options have advanced the deal, enabling Transurban to deliver to the Commonwealth a payment of between $54 to 98 million to fund additional transportation improvements depending on final teams of TIFIA, a low interest federal loan. In addition to the existing three general purpose (GP) lanes, Fred Ex will provide two reversible Express Lanes of new capacity, which will be available at no charge to HOV 3+ and transit riders. The project is expected to increase capacity on this section of I-95 by 66 percent during peak periods. Construction is planned to begin later this year with the facility opening to traffic in the fall of 2022.
“These negotiations have resulted in a more than $1 billion investment in transportation infrastructure in these vital regions of Virginia,” said Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “Working collaboratively, we are delivering on our commitment to reduce congestion, improve safety, and increase reliability for those we serve.”
In total, Transurban has committed more than $1 billion over the next five years to fund enhancements to the regional transportation network. Competitive design-build procurements are being used to further ensure best value for Virginia taxpayers.
“The I-95 bottleneck at the Occoquan Bridge has been a source of personal frustration and time stuck in traffic—valuable time that could be spent with family,” said Senator Jeremy McPike. “With funding now in place, VDOT will begin the design and construction that our community has sought for years. I applaud Governor Northam and Secretary Valentine for their commitment and leadership to making improvements and identifying funding to start this project immediately.”
“The Occoquan bottleneck is the worst traffic problem in Virginia and has been one of my top priorities since I was elected to represent Prince William County in 2015,” said Senator Scott Surovell. “I am ecstatic that Governor Northam’s administration and Transurban were able to negotiate a way to expedite construction on this critical improvement. Everyone wins in this deal.”
“I am delighted that Governor Northam and his team have found a way to expand capacity on I-495, heading up to the American Legion Bridge,” said Senator Barbara Favola. “This improvement demonstrates Virginia’s commitment to easing traffic throughout the region and provides further incentives for Maryland to help address congestion on the Bridge.”
By 2022, the Commonwealth of Virginia will have in place 90 miles of connected Express Lanes network throughout Northern Virginia and Fredericksburg. Together with general purpose (GP) lanes, rail, commuter rail, transit, ferries, and trails, these multimodal travel options are creating a future of more seamless mobility for residents, commuters, and businesses.