The 95 Express Lanes will open on Dec. 14 to allow people the opportunity to get used to the new traffic patterns. The lanes will operate under current High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) rules until the official opening of the Express Lanes on Dec. 29, which is when tolling will begin.
A ribbon cutting ceremony was held today, Dec. 10, to celebrate the ceremonial completion of the Express Lanes. Mike McGurk, a spokesman for Transurban, the company that built the express lanes in cooperation with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), said people should prepare now for the official opening on Dec. 29. “They need to take steps to prepare today,” McGurk said of drivers who plan to use the Express Lanes. “Get an EZPass because it will be required on the Express Lanes.”
Carpoolers, with three or more passengers will continue to be able to use the lanes for free, but will need an EZPass Flex pass to do so, McGurk said.
Chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, Corey A. Stewart, spoke at the recent ceremony and said that the idea of a toll road concerned area carpoolers who worried that the new system would restrict their travel. “As it turns out, Transurban was able to work with all of us … to alleviate those concerns. We are now convinced that … the lanes will not damage the carpooling system in Northern Virginia, but in fact, is going to add significant improvements to it.”
Scott Charlton, the CEO of Transurban, said the variable toll lanes, where tolls increase incrementally as traffic increases in volume, will make commutes faster and provide options to commuters. “The 95 Express Lanes are using the latest technology to improve safety, provide travelers faster and reliable travel and, of course, travelers will always have a choice.”
Anthony Foxx, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, said he’s experienced traffic on the corridor on his way home to North Carolina. “I’ve been stuck in traffic, and I’ve been late for dinner. I know what it means for folks to have the kind of efficient movement of traffic to get them where they want to go. Every day, roughly 200,000 people pass through this stretch of I-95. These folks are commuters. They’re students who are on buses. They’re people who don’t need a study to know that this stretch of highway is one of the country’s most congested.”
Foxx went on to say that people in Northern Virginia “get it” when it comes to traffic and said similar express lanes could serve as an example for other areas. “This effort that you have undertaken should be a model for the rest of the country.”
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe echoed Foxx and said the cooperation between VDOT and Transurban should be a model for future projects. “Today’s ribbon cutting is a testament to public private partnerships, or P3s. The I-95 Express Lanes project is a great example of how P3s are supposed to work. The agreement we signed with Transurban brings $840 million of private financing and capital to the table, putting their money to work for Virginia travelers.”
McAuliffe thanked Stewart, as well as Fairfax Chairman Sharon Bulova and Stafford Chairman Jack Cavalier, for their work in making the Express Lanes possible. “This would not have happened today without the work of our three local jurisdictions.”
U.S. Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, both former Virginia governors, also attended the ceremony.
McGurk said people should visit 95expresslanes.com to learn more about the new rules of the road.