Express Lanes Development
The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) began looking at solutions to the growing congestion on the Capital Beltway between Springfield and the American Legion Bridge in the 1980s. An early plan for a traditional expansion of the Beltway met significant community opposition, as it was unaffordable, would have required taking more than 350 homes and businesses along the Beltway, and would do nothing to provide new opportunities for bus service or carpooling.
In 2002, a better idea was proposed – build four new high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes. The streamlined HOT lanes would require much less space and reduce the home removal for the project from 350 to just eight. HOT lanes would add much needed new lanes to the Beltway, while also creating a network for buses and carpools to travel. A public-private partnership with tolls would help fund the improvements.
In 2004, Transurban (USA) Development Inc. joined team to serve as concessionaire and long-term operator of the HOT lanes. After a competitive procurement, the team was selected to deliver and operate the new HOT lanes.
After a series of public meetings and environmental studies, the project was approved and funded in 2007. Construction began in the summer of 2008. The Express Lanes were completed on November 17, 2012 and are now open.
Improvements via Innovative Funding
The public-private partnership delivered the most significant package of improvements to the Capital Beltway in a generation - providing congestion relief and new travel choices to one of Virginia's busiest roadways. Improvements include:
- Two new HOT lanes in each direction from the Springfield Interchange to just north of the Dulles Toll Road (14 miles)
- First-time introduction of HOV and reliable transit options to the Beltway and Tysons Corner
- Replacement of more than $260 million of aging infrastructure, including more than 50 bridges and overpasses
- Replacement of existing soundwalls and construction of new soundwalls to double existing noise reduction tools for surrounding neighborhoods
- Construction of carpool ramps connecting I-95 with the Beltway to create a seamless HOV network
- Upgrades to 12 key interchanges and new access points at Merrifield and Tysons Corner
The 495 Express Lanes Project represents one of the country’s most innovative and complex financings. The Project is funded through a contribution from the Commonwealth, private equity, private activity bonds and a federal loan through the government’s TIFIA program. Effective risk sharing between the public and private sectors, a unique phased approach to facilitate financial close during tough economic times and the use of innovative federal financing tools make the project a pathfinder.