If you find trips on the Capital Beltway into Maryland nightmarish now, imagine what they would be like without any transit options.
That’s the scenario posed by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) in a new study on the value of the region’s transit network, including Metro, local bus services like Fairfax Connector and the Virginia Railway Express (VRE).
Released today (Thursday), the study found that the American Legion Bridge — the only direct link between Fairfax County and Maryland — would need to carry 24,653 or 8.2% more vehicles per day in 2025 if there was no transit (325,619 vehicles) compared to the projected traffic volume with transit (300,965 vehicles).
The other bridges across the Potomac River would see even bigger differences, led by a 39.2% increase on the Arlington Memorial Bridge.
“These bridges are congested today, and congestion will increase in the future. Without transit, however, the capacity constraint on the bridges would be substantially greater,” the study report says.
The report notes that rush-hour traffic on all of the Potomac crossings is projected to exceed capacity in 2025 regardless of transit availability. The American Legion Bridge would exceed capacity by 3,651 vehicles under the “base” conditions and by 7,379 vehicles under the “no transit” scenario — a 102% difference.
Construction is underway to widen the Capital Beltway (I-495) by adding two toll lanes in each direction from the Dulles Toll Road to just south of the American Legion Bridge. The Virginia Department of Transportation has forecast that the 495 NEXT project will move approximately 2,500 more people per hour in both directions, starting in 2025.
However, Maryland’s plans to replace and expand the bridge remain in limbo following the exit of its private partner. Replacing the American Legion Bridge would allow the Beltway to move 5,400 more people an hour, VDOT has said, but the endeavor will cost an estimated $1 billion.
According to an NVTC spokesperson, the study’s calculations incorporated the 495 NEXT project, but it didn’t include the possibility of future bus service between Tysons and Bethesda, as proposed by both Fairfax Connector and Metro.
“Our study evaluated the difference between what’s currently planned for 2025 and a scenario in which all transit in Northern Virginia is removed,” NVTC said. “That means the proposed future route from Tysons to Bethesda, using the American Legion Bridge, was not included since it won’t be in service by then.” Read More
(Updated at 11:40 a.m.) One person was killed early this morning (Tuesday) after their vehicle apparently drove off the Capital Beltway (I-495) near the Springfield Mixing Bowl and crashed onto railroad tracks below.
An initial investigation indicates that a Kia was headed west on I-495 towards northbound I-395 when it veered off the interstate near exit 170B, according to Virginia State Police, which responded at 1:19 a.m.
“The vehicle went over the side cement barrier and landed on the railroad tracks below. The impact of the crash caused the vehicle to immediately catch fire,” the VSP said in a news release.
In an update at 11:48 a.m., police confirmed that the person who died was the Kia’s driver and lone occupant.
Some ramps at the interchange were closed, but the scene has now been cleared, and Virginia Railway Express trains are up and running, WTOP reported shortly after 6:30 a.m.
“The remains have been transported to the Office of the Medical Examiner in Manassas for examination, autopsy and positive identification,” the VSP said.
NEW: Early reports a car went off of I-395N ramp from Beltway & onto railroad tracks below. Vehicle is on fire. Follow @WTOPtraffic for details. @ffxnow @CordellTraffic @RealTimeNews10 #traffic #vatraffic @SafetyVid pic.twitter.com/T6G2gGQUqN
— Dave Statter (@STATter911) May 2, 2023
Springfield: Mixing Bowl ramps 495 EB (Outer Loop) to 395 NB and 495 WB (Inner Loop) to 395 NB closed due to crash. Pls use alternate route.
— VDOT Northern VA (@VaDOTNOVA) May 2, 2023
Photo via Google Maps
A pickup truck carrying multiple vehicles became consumed by fire after crashing on the Capital Beltway (I-495) in the Rose Hill area early this morning (Friday).
Virginia State Police responded to the crash near the Van Dorn Street exit at 3:50 a.m., according to a news release.
“At this stage of the investigation, it appears a pickup truck had been traveling west on I-495 when it ran off the road, struck the Jersey wall and came to rest in the eastbound lanes of I-495,” the VSP said. “The impact of the crash caused the vehicle to become engulfed in flames.”
Two people were transported to the MedStar Washington Hospital Center with injuries described as serious.
In a tweet, the Virginia Department of Transportation initially said the crash involved a tractor-trailer before revising the description to a “multi-vehicle crash.”
Police now say that there were multiple vehicles but only one driver.
“The pickup truck was pulling a trailer that was loaded with two other vehicles,” police said.
As the morning rush hour got underway, delays built up to a mile in each direction, but all lanes reopened before 7:30 a.m.
An investigation of the crash by state police is underway.
Correction: this was a multi-vehicle crash and did not involve a tractor trailer.
— VDOT Northern VA (@VaDOTNOVA) April 28, 2023
(Updated at 2:10 p.m.) Construction on the widening of the Capital Beltway (I-495) can continue while a lawsuit filed by McLean residents works its way through the court system, a federal judge ruled this morning (Friday).
The Northern Virginia Citizens Association had urged U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema to issue a preliminary injunction against the project that would halt all work until further environmental analysis is conducted.
The ruling, which came after a 10 a.m. hearing at the district court in Alexandria, gave an initial victory to federal and state transportation officials and express lanes operator Transurban, who have argued that the additional review sought by residents is unnecessary.
“We remain confident that this project is in compliance of all environmental regulations and associated requirements and approvals, Transurban Director of Corporate Affairs and Marketing Tanya Sheres said in a statement to FFXnow. “Alongside our project partners, we continue to focus on minimizing impacts to communities as we work to deliver the expanded travel choices, environmental enhancements, and improved safety that the more than 230,000 daily travelers of this corridor are relying upon.”
Filed on March 16, the NOVA Citizens Association’s complaint detailed health and environmental impacts of construction on the I-495 Northern Extension (495 NEXT) project, which is adding 2.5 miles of express lanes from the Dulles Toll Road in Tysons past the George Washington Memorial Parkway in McLean.
The Federal Highway Administration approved an environmental assessment for the project in 2021, finding that it would not have a significant impact and allowing it to proceed.
However, the NOVA Citizens Association says that subsequent design changes to stormwater facilities and ramps at the GW Parkway interchange should’ve necessitated another review with an opportunity for public input.
“Defendants’ activities will irreparably damage Plaintiff’s neighborhood and the surrounding human and natural environment in violation of federal law,” lawyers for the association wrote in a memo on their injunction request. “The Project’s adverse effects already vastly exceed the scope of what the Virginia Department of Transportation (“VDOT”) submitted and the Federal Highway Administration (“FHWA”) approved.”
In declarations opposing an injunction, VDOT and FHWA officials argue that the changes to the GW Parkway design reduced its impact on nearby residential properties and were accounted for in a Interchange Justification Report Addendum approved by FHWA on Jan. 14, 2022.
“The revised configuration of the GWMP interchange lessened the overall impacts of the Project by eliminating conflicts with large utility transmission towers and reducing the need for right-of-way acquisition,” VDOT Northern Virginia Megaprojects Director Susan Shaw said.
According to Shaw, a relocation of ponds by the GW Parkway interchange improved stormwater management, including avoiding work adjacent to the Potomac River, and the changes stayed within the scope established by the completed environmental assessment.
A one-year delay of construction on 495 NEXT, which broke ground in March 2022, would cost VDOT an additional $16.4 million in management and oversight costs, Shaw estimated. If the delay goes into a second year, another $17.2 million would be added to that bill.
“If the Project is enjoined, the current work would need to be suspended in its current condition, with accommodations as needed to ensure the safety of the traveling public,” Shaw wrote. “This would require the lane closures, concrete barriers, temporary environmental controls, to remain in place with all the traffic congestion and disruption those active work zone features create. The duration of construction impacts would be extended, such as noise, dust, traffic delays, and lack of full shoulders.”
Construction on 495 NEXT is currently projected to continue into 2026, with the new express lanes set to open later in 2025.
Police are still looking for a driver who fired multiple gunshots at other vehicles on the Capital Beltway (I-495) in the Annandale area on Sunday (March 19).
The shooting was preceded by “aggressive driving behaviors” by occupants of a Mercedes and a silver Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck that were traveling north on I-495 shortly after 5 p.m. that day, according to the Virginia State Police.
“Words and gestures were exchanged between the two vehicles,” the VSP said in a news release today (Friday). “As the two vehicles passed under the Route 236 overpass on I-495, the front seat passenger in the Mercedes fired multiple rounds at the Silverado. The Mercedes then continued north on I-495.”
While the Silverado wasn’t hit, a bullet struck a vehicle headed south in the I-495 Express Lanes. Police confirmed that there were no injuries.
The VSP Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s Fairfax Field Office shared a photo that it believes shows the Mercedes driven by the shooter. The photo was taken from a video captured by a driver who isn’t involved in the shooting incident.
“The suspect vehicle has been identified as a matte-finish charcoal gray Mercedes E-Class AMG sedan with a sunroof and tinted windows,” police said.
The VSP hopes to “generate additional leads on the suspect vehicle,” advising anyone who potentially witnessed the shooting and “road rage behaviors,” or who might know the people involved to call 703-803-0026 or email email@example.com.
“Anonymous tips are welcome,” police said.
Virginia State Police joined with the Fairfax County Police Department last week for a “Road Shark” campaign intended to step up enforcement and educational efforts to combat aggressive driving.
The initial phase of the campaign lasted one week, from March 13-19, but it’s expected to resume three more times this year.
Image via VDOT/Twitter
Police took two people into custody yesterday (Thursday) after a reported armed robbery in Great Falls turned into a dizzying pursuit from Tysons to Herndon and back again.
Officers were called to the Safeway at 9881 Georgetown Pike at 12:05 p.m. for a report of a man and a woman stealing merchandise, the Fairfax County Police Department says. The suspects allegedly pointed a gun as they left the store.
According to the initial police dispatch, the individuals took Tide detergent from the store. The vehicle tag was traced to a man with an outstanding felony warrant for robbery in Prince William County.
“The two left in a car with a child in the backseat. Officers saw the car and attempted a traffic stop that resulted a pursuit,” FCPD spokesperson Sgt. Jacob Pearce said.
Per scanner traffic, the chase began on southbound I-495 (Capital Beltway) at Georgetown Pike before exiting to the westbound Dulles Toll Road toward the airport, as officers asked for a helicopter to assist.
After feinting an exit multiple times in the Reston area, the driver turned off at Centreville Road in Herndon and swung back around to the eastbound toll road. The screech of tires can be heard on the police radio.
“Do not PIT the vehicle,” a supervising officer said, referring to a maneuver used by law enforcement to stop moving vehicles. “At most, try to bring the car to a stop slowly. I do not want any reckless driving behavior to endanger the child’s life inside the car.”
The pursuit continued into the Dulles Toll Road’s airport lanes and exited onto Route 7 (Leesburg Pike), where the driver jumped a curb to cross from the eastbound to the westbound lanes.
After turning onto Trap Road, back onto the toll road, and off at Dolley Madison Blvd in McLean, the chase made its way onto the Beltway and finally ended in the northbound lanes near Lewinsville Road, where the driver was arrested.
📸: Wreck on 495.https://t.co/ZCXBmMXPPj
— Henry Bright (@HCBright10) March 23, 2023
The woman was also taken into custody, according to the FCPD.
“No injuries were sustained as a result of the incident,” Pearce said. “The child is safe and is currently with caregivers. No crashes were reported during the pursuit. Detectives are actively investigating. The names and charges will be released once charged.”
Close to 40 police vehicles were involved in the chase, including both local and state agencies, according to a tipster who said they followed part of the saga on Route 7 and the Dulles Access Road. At one point, an officer said on the radio that there were “too many vehicles” in the pursuit.
Photo via @notaveryh/Twitter. Hat tip to Alan Henney, Henry Bright and KKirkhart.
(Updated at 11:55 a.m.) A group of McLean residents opposed to the extension of the I-495 toll lanes past their neighborhoods have turned to the courts in a bid to halt the project, now in its second year of construction.
The Northern Virginia (NOVA) Citizens Association filed a lawsuit with the U.S. District Court in Alexandria on Thursday (March 16) alleging that major revisions to the project design violated federal law, resulting in “significant on-going environmental harms” to residents.
The Virginia Department of Transportation, Secretary of Transportation W. Sheppard Miller, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), private toll lanes operator Transurban, and Transurban subsidiary Capital Beltway Express LLC are named as defendants.
“As a result of Defendants’ actions, NOVA and its members are experiencing significant adverse environmental impacts caused by the Project,” the complaint says, arguing that the road construction and loss of trees will contribute to noise, light, air pollution, water quality, erosion and health issues.
In the works since 2018, the I-495 Northern Extension project (495 NEXT) is adding 2.5 miles of express lanes from the Dulles Toll Road in Tysons past the George Washington Memorial Parkway in McLean, reconfiguring many of the bridges and interchanges within that span.
The GW Parkway interchange has been a particular point of concern for the NOVA Citizens Association, whose members fear that their neighborhood along Live Oak Drive will be destroyed to accommodate planned ramps and stormwater management ponds.
According to the complaint, VDOT unveiled significant changes to the project design in September 2021 and June 2022 — months after the FHWA approved its environmental assessment, an evaluation of the project’s potential impact required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
The changes — including a consolidation of stormwater facilities, a narrowing of Live Oak Drive to 22 feet wide, and the relocation of an I-495 Express Lanes exit ramp to the GW Parkway — were substantial enough that additional environmental review should’ve been conducted, the association contends.
“The major changes to the stormwater control plan, the expansion of impermeable surfaces, and the greatly expanded deforestation will result in a significant increase in the release of stormwater which is contaminated with pollutants onto the properties of members of the association,” the complaint says.
The complaint also raises concerns about the safety of narrowing Live Oak Drive, especially for kids traveling to Cooper Middle School and the nearby Langley Swim & Tennis Club, and a reported plan to place a 5G cell tower on one resident’s property.
In a Feb. 24 declaration supporting the complaint, Live Oak Drive residents Pritesh and Marisha Patel wrote that the noise and pollution from the 495 NEXT construction has caused “irreparable harm” to their family, particularly their 11-year-old son, who has asthma. Read More
A person in a sedan reportedly fired multiple gunshots at other vehicles on the Capital Beltway (I-495) in the Annandale area yesterday afternoon (Sunday).
The Virginia State Police received a report at 5:10 p.m. of “an individual in a sedan firing several shots at vehicles while traveling north” on the Beltway near the exit to Little River Turnpike, according to a news release.
The gunfire hit one vehicle, but no injuries were reported, police said.
“The northbound travel lanes were temporarily closed so troopers could search for shell casings and any additional evidence related to this incident,” the VSP said.
According to police, the vehicle was seen continuing north on I-495. Traffic was detoured onto a service road for Little River Turnpike for about half an hour as police investigated.
The VSP Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s Fairfax Field Office is still investigating the incident.
“Anyone who may have witnessed the shooting and/or have information related to this incident is encouraged to call the Virginia State Police at 703-803-0026 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org,” police said.
#Fairfax: NB I-495 shut down at Little River Turnpike (Rt 236) for @VSPPIO activity. Traffic being detoured via Rt 236 service road, then back on to I-495. Activity not expected to last long. Expect delays. #VaTraffic pic.twitter.com/fbKcrq48u7
— VDOT Northern VA (@VaDOTNOVA) March 19, 2023
(Updated at 2:50 p.m. on 3/16/2023) Virginia’s extension of the I-495 Express Lanes past the George Washington Memorial Parkway in McLean remains on track for a 2025 opening, even as its counterpart across the Potomac River faces another setback in its efforts to widen the Capital Beltway.
Private toll lanes operator Transurban pulled out of Maryland’s project to add toll lanes on its side of the Beltway and replace the American Legion Bridge on Friday (March 10), citing “significant delays to environmental approvals, changing political landscape and environmental lawsuits that remain unresolved.”
While that project is now in limbo, the Virginia Department of Transportation says Transurban’s departure won’t affect its I-495 Northern Extension (495 NEXT) plan, which is entering a second year of construction this month.
“Virginia’s 495 NEXT project to extend the Express Lanes on the Beltway is independent of the Maryland project,” VDOT told FFXnow. “…While VDOT will continue to coordinate with Maryland as they determine how to best deliver the Maryland project, we do not anticipate changes to the 495 NEXT project.”
The Virginia project has long been plagued by fears that Maryland won’t follow through on the so-called Beltway Accord that then-governors Ralph Northam and Larry Hogan announced in 2019 to replace the American Legion Bridge, which opened in 1962 and last expanded in 1992.
(Correction: This story previously said the bridge hadn’t been updated since it originally opened, but it was widened to 10 lanes in 1992. Hat tip to boywaja)
Where Virginia officials have embraced them as a means of addressing traffic congestion, express lanes have faced fierce opposition in Maryland from residents, environmental groups and local leaders, particularly in Montgomery County from as far back as 2005.
Despite that tangled history, which has included court battles, delays and a downsizing, VDOT expressed confidence in a statement to FFXnow that Maryland will ultimately move forward with its Beltway toll lanes, noting that the project has gotten federal approval.
Our colleagues in Maryland have told us that they remain committed to congestion relief in the corridor and have expressed their intention to deliver their project in accordance with the federally approved Record of Decision, which is a managed lanes project. Virginia will continue to coordinate with Maryland as they determine their next steps to alleviate one of the region’s worst traffic bottlenecks.
The department maintains that, even on its own, 495 NEXT will reduce congestion and provide new travel options. In addition to adding 2.5 miles of toll lanes to the region’s roughly 90-mile network, the project includes a shared-use trail and could usher in bus service between Tysons and Maryland.
An environmental assessment from 2020 found that 495 NEXT will move 2,500 more people per hour in both directions and reduce travel times by up to 24 minutes for northbound drivers, according to VDOT.
“By increasing the person-carrying capacity of I-495, drivers will have less incentive to use neighborhood cut-through routes, reducing traffic on local roads,” VDOT said. “The 495 NEXT project will also improve safety throughout the corridor, and replace aging bridges and other existing infrastructure.”
McLean residents and Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust, who represents the area, have argued that failing to extend the toll lanes into Maryland will result in traffic getting bottlenecked at the American Legion Bridge, forcing their neighborhoods to bear the project’s costs for minimal benefits.
Construction on 495 NEXT is expected to continue into 2026, with the express lanes opening to traffic by late 2025.
One person got trapped and needed to be extracted from a vehicle in a crash on the Capital Beltway (I-495) in McLean this morning (Tuesday).
The Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department reported at 9:05 a.m. that it had units on the scene of the multi-vehicle crash on northbound I-495 at the George Washington Memorial Parkway interchange.
“Occupant being evaluated by EMS. Only one lane open on I495 NB. Expect delays,” the department tweeted.
As of 9:25 a.m., traffic backups extend nearly 7 miles, almost to the I-66 interchange in Dunn Loring, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation’s traffic cameras.
Units on the scene of a multi-vehicle crash on I-495 NB at George Washington Memorial Parkway. One occupant was trapped and extricated by #FCFRD crews. Occupant being evaluated by EMS. Only one lane open on I495 NB. Expect delays. #traffic pic.twitter.com/H6uVm4cXyK
— Fairfax County Fire/Rescue (@ffxfirerescue) March 14, 2023