This weekend in Northern Virginia, in an important development for the entire Metropolitan Washington region, the "495 Express Lanes" will open to the public. These lanes are the first major improvements to the Capital Beltway in a generation, and Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez was on hand last Tuesday to help Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell celebrate the new lanes.
These Express Lanes offer drivers the option of paying a toll or carpooling to ride in faster-moving traffic. The toll will fluctuate depending upon how many vehicles are already using the lanes. This will reduce congestion for all Beltway travelers--even those who remain on the untolled main roadway. And that means visitors, commuters, and commerce can move more efficiently around the D.C. metro area for decades to come.
The 14-mile corridor of four new lanes--two in each direction--will improve access to Tysons Corner--Virginia's largest employment center--Inova Fairfax Hospital, and Dulles International Airport. The project will also significantly expand the region's high occupancy vehicle (HOV) network by linking with the planned I-95 HOV/HOT lanes, I-66, and the Dulles Toll Road.
In addition to offering motorists a new transportation option, the 495 Express Lanes are valuable as a model of innovative financing.
This is a great example of what TIFIA is designed to do, which is to help projects use federal dollars to secure other funding in the private market. TIFIA has been a very popular and successful program, and DOT is happy to play a role in helping good projects move forward.
As Administrator Mendez said, "Transportation is about connecting people, places, and markets, and that's what the Capital Beltway has been doing for decades. But at DOT we're always looking to make those connections better, and that's what the new HOT lanes we supported will do."
It's all part of President Obama's vision of an America Built to Last, strengthening our infrastructure while creating jobs and growing the economy. We're realizing that vision in Northern Virginia, and through TIFIA and other programs, we're realizing it in communities across the nation.