0
Votes

HOT Lanes Proposed for I-95, Again

Fluor Daniel's plan is the second for the congested corridor.

<bt>Following up on its proposal to add High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes on the Beltway, the engineering firm of Fluor Daniel released a proposal last month to widen the I-95/I-395 corridor. Fluor's plan would convert the two existing HOV lanes to HOT lanes and add a third lane. The proposal comes three months after another group of engineers and contractors released a similar proposal to build HOT lanes on I-95.

The HOT lanes system would let cars carrying three or more people use the lanes for free, while cars with fewer than three people would have to pay a sliding toll.

The total 56-mile network put forward by Fluor would extend from the 14th Street Bridge to Massaponax. Gary Groat, Fluor's director of project development, said the project would cost about $1 billion. Funding would come from bond sales, Groat said, which would be repaid with toll revenue generated from the lanes.

"There would actually be no additional money needed from the state or federal government," he said.

The earlier proposal, submitted by a group of contractors including Wilbur Smith Associates, Clark Construction, English Construction and Dewberry Davis, would cost between $400 and $500 million and run from the Springfield Interchange to Route 17 in Stafford County. That proposal would also not require any government investment. Jim Mills, special design leader for Wilbur Smith, did not return calls this week for comment.

GROAT SAID Fluor's project would be more effective at reducing congestion on the 95/395 corridor.

"We feel like we're a full solution rather than a partial solution," he said. "We feel that 56 miles is necessary to really solve the transportation problem. ... If you just do a portion of it, it's like building half a Beltway."

Fluor has also proposed adding two HOT lanes in either direction on the Beltway. That project would cost $693 million and require a $91 million investment from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).

Groat said his company decided to expand the project and link the Beltway HOT lanes with those on I-95 and I-395 because "there's a real interest in having a regional HOT lanes system."

Fluor's I-95 project would be completed by 2010, one year after the Beltway HOT lanes.

"Obviously there's a lot of interest in this corridor, given the fact that we've got the HOT lanes proposal on the Capital Beltway," said Tom Farley, VDOT administrator for Northern Virginia. "I think it's clear that the 95/395 corridor is an overly stretched facility. The traffic is just horrendous, and it's getting worse each day, so the question is what can we do about it."

A VDOT technical committee will evaluate both proposals "to see which one of both or neither are feasible," said Farley.

Groat said the Fluor proposal would include new express bus stations and park-and-ride lots. He said the company would commit an additional $500 million in toll revenue to local bus companies to help them expand their service in the new lanes.

Supervisor Dana Kauffman (D-Lee) said HOT lanes on 95/395 could improve congestion.

"If it passes the sniff test as a good business deal for the state, I think it could be a significant transportation improvement," he said.