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Governor says HOT lanes project to Garrisonville signed, work to start soon

By Chelyen Davis

Virginia has signed a deal for construction of HOV/HOT lanes on I-95 to Stafford, and work is expected to begin in the next month.

Gov. Bob McDonnell announced the deal Tuesday, saying the project — which is supposed to be finished by late 2014 — will support almost 8,000 construction jobs and create $2 billion in economic activity.

A group of private companies will build 29 miles of express lanes, from Garrisonville Road in Stafford to Edsall Road in Fairfax County.

The project also calls for additional park-and-ride access; by the end of 2014, there should be 1,000 spaces at Staffordboro Boulevard in Stafford and 1,000 spaces in Fredericksburg at Gordon Road. There will also be additional spaces in Prince William and Fairfax counties.

State leaders said the project — when added to the existing HOV lanes on 95 and a project to build express lanes on 495 in Northern Virginia — will help ease congestion in one of the most crowded transportation corridors in the country, and help move people more efficiently around Virginia’s biggest employment hub and several military sites.

The private companies — Transurban DRIVe and Fluor Enterprises Inc. — will operate as 95 Express Lanes LLC, and they’ll be footing most of the bill for the $925 million project.

Under the agreement with the Virginia Department of Transportation, 95 Express Lanes will provide $854 million of the projected $925 million cost. Some of that — $300 million — is an anticipated federal loan.

Virginia will pay $71 million in public money, less than the $97 million projected earlier.

The state keeps ownership of the infrastructure and will oversee the private company’s activities, while 95 Express will have a 76-year concession period on the road.

McDonnell, long a supporter of public-private partnerships for infrastructure, said the state is “taking bold action to move more people with fewer cars by giving them more transportation choices that will save time and money, and improve the environment.”

The HOV/HOT lanes will connect to existing HOV lanes at Dumfries. Motorcycles, vanpools and vehicles with three or more people in them can ride the lanes for free; those with fewer passengers can use the lanes by paying a toll. Drivers will need an E-ZPass to pay the tolls; there won’t be traditional tollbooths.

According to the governor’s release, the toll costs will vary, depending on traffic conditions. The release said that would help manage the number of cars using the express lanes. A typical trip in rush hour could cost about $5 to $6 in tolls.

Some of the toll money will help pay for a safety and enforcement program, expected to “significantly reduce HOV violators” and help disabled vehicles.

Full details of the comprehensive agreement between the state and the private group will be available by Aug. 7.

According to the governor’s press release, key components of the project construction include:

–Extending nine miles of existing HOV lanes from Dumfries to Garrisonville Road in Stafford County, which alleviate one of the region’s worst traffic back ups

–Expanding existing HOV lanes from two to three lanes for 14 miles between Prince William Parkway to vicinity of Edsall Road on I-395

–Making operational improvements to the existing two HOV lanes for six miles from Route 234 to Prince William Parkway

–Adding eight new or improved access points to and from HOV/HOT network at key interchanges

–Expanding and adding commuter parking lots