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Lane-Shifting Down The Road For Highway

Throughout the summer, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has managed to keep things quiet around the massive interstate interchange project, but that's all about to change with lane closings and detours associated with the overpasses from I-495 North to Baltimore.

Starting Sept. 9, traffic coming around I-495 from Tysons Corner heading to I-95 south will be directed to new lanes closer to the new sound barriers between the highway and the Crestwood neighborhood on Cabin John Road.

"We're shifting everything. It's not a detour, it's just a different pattern," said interchange information specialist Steve Titunik.

The piers in question, which are 120 feet high at the highest point and dominate the current landscape, will support overpasses for traffic coming from the Woodrow Wilson Bridge area to I-95 south. So far, all the piers have been situated in areas that did not affect the existing roads. The next one will need to be right in the path of the existing ramp for traffic coming off I-495.

"We're moving stuff out so we can get the piers in here," he said.

IN THE EARLY morning hours on Tuesday, Sept. 3, traffic from I-395 south heading to the Springfield exit either had to get off at Edsall Road inside the Beltway and then to Backlick Road, or take I-495 north to Braddock Road, get back on the Beltway, take the I-95 south exit and then Springfield. That detour was also associated with the bridge piers.

These changes are part of Phases IV and V. The motorists weren't affected as much back in Phases II and III in the immediate Springfield area, but those phases didn't deal directly with interstate traffic as much.

"When you get inside the Beltway, there's a pronounced increase in time for these projects, it's that much bigger. We're 60- to 70-percent done on Phase IV and 35- to 40-percent done on Phase V," Titunik said.

When the new route for the exit off I-495 goes into effect, traffic going to I-95 south to points past Springfield, the merge over into the highway lanes will increase. Other than that, it is not expected to affect the flow of traffic more than the current configuration.

"It's very large, very wide," Titunik said.

CHARLES TAYLOR'S front yard is about 20 feet from the sound wall, and the new lanes are just on the other side of the wall. Although his view consists of a stone-covered wall, it was how VDOT described it would be when he was thinking about buying his home in the Crestwood community, so there were no surprises.

"They've pretty much done what they said they were going to do," he said, although he knows the back roads and never drives through on the highway.

Candice Currier lives up the street. Knowing the back roads is a way of life in that neighborhood.

"We know enough back roads. When traffic’s backed up, we know how to take the back roads and get home. If I was really concerned, I know where I could find information about it," she said.

Motorists will be able to merge right and pick up the additional exit lanes to I-95 south, farther back toward the Braddock Road exit once the Backlick Road overpass is completed. That will alleviate much of the backup that currently occurs at rush hour with all the southbound cars merging into one lane like they do now. Titunik estimates that overpass will be done in about six months.