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Has work on 95 gone off the rails? Nope

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The incomplete express lane guardrails will be double-sided before the work is done. SCOTT SHENK/THE FREE LANCE–STAR

What’s up with the new guardrails being installed along the express lanes in the median of Interstate 95?

The sections that have gone up so far in the new center lanes south of Quantico appear to have been installed backward—with the posts facing traffic and the rail on the opposite side of the pavement.

Some commuters think it’s a big-time blunder.

“Classic oops,” said one area driver in an email. “Hope they do not continue with this mistake.”

Could a gaffe like that be made on a nearly $1 billion project that includes such high-tech equipment as video cameras and sensors that read transponders in cars zooming along at 55 mph or faster?

No. It’s not a mistake.

What drivers see along the express lanes project is only part of the picture.

“That guardrail is not done yet,” said Michelle Holland, spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Megaprojects, which oversees major projects such as the express lanes. “We are following guidelines which require us to put in two guardrails … one on the outer side of the road and one on the inner side to protect traffic.”

Tony Dorsey, spokesman for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, said it’s “not uncommon for state DOTs to put up double guardrails. It’s a pretty common practice… used all over the country.”

He added: “It really does strengthen the structure. But it’s really about keeping vehicles from crossing” from the outside main lanes as well as the express lanes.

The express lanes project will convert the High Occupancy Vehicle lanes into an electronically tolled road system.

The lanes will be extended nine miles from Dumfries south to Garrisonville. The current HOV lanes north of Dumfries to Washington will be expanded from two to three lanes. The entire project covers 29 miles.

Work is expected to be completed by the end of the year with the lanes likely opening early in 2015.

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436