Any extension of the I-495 Express Lanes along the south side of the Capital Beltway should support additional transit options, Fairfax County leaders stressed in a recent letter to the Virginia Department of Transportation.
VDOT is currently studying options for completing the I-495 toll lanes by expanding them from the I-395/I-95 interchange in Springfield to Maryland Route 210 in Prince George’s County, an approximately 11-mile span that crosses the Woodrow Wilson Bridge in Alexandria.
At a meeting on Nov. 21, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a letter to Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sheppard Miller emphasizing the importance of accommodating transit in the project, which is intended to relieve congestion on what VDOT has said is the most heavily traveled segment of the Beltway.
“The County is appreciative that the Commonwealth is assessing solutions on the only interstate segment in Fairfax that does not have a transit benefit at this time,” the board’s letter said. “It is critical that additional travel choices are available in the Capital Beltway Corridor to move the most people as efficiently as possible in this region.”
VDOT staff presented several preliminary concepts at a public meeting on Sept. 12, including the addition of one or two general-purpose or express lanes in each direction or two reversible express lanes that would change direction with rush-hour traffic.
Staff said it has also explored adding a dedicated transit lane for buses and making adjustments that wouldn’t require new construction, such as supporting new bus routes or allowing the existing I-495 shoulders to be used as travel lanes during peak traffic periods. However, the congestion relief benefits would be limited without more space on the highway, according to the study team.
Taking a slightly more open stance than officials in Alexandria City, the Board of Supervisors didn’t comment on specific concepts, but it urged VDOT not to pursue any option that would rule out the possibility of future rail service over the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.
Opened to traffic in May 2008, the bridge was designed with a median to accommodate future transit, not with the expectation of toll lanes, Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay noted at the Nov. 21 meeting.
“From an equity standpoint, I do appreciate the fact that this is on the table, because this remains the only piece of interstate highway in Fairfax County that currently has no transit benefit whatsoever,” McKay said. “I acknowledge a failure of past efforts when projects were done to literally cut off this part of the county from the same types of transportation options that other parts of the county now have, including the communities that are sandwiched between the Springfield interchange project and the Woodrow Wilson project.”
According to the board’s letter, Fairfax County staff would support “an interim phase” without rail while Metro continues exploring how to increase capacity on its Blue, Orange and Silver lines, a study that has been underway since 2019 and could conclude by the end of this year. Read More
A vehicle fire has snarled rush-hour traffic on the Capital Beltway in Springfield.
A truck caught fire around Backlick Road just west of the Springfield Mixing Bowl, where I-495 meets I-395. The left and express southbound lanes on I-495 were closed for the fire, creating traffic backups that extended about two miles, as of 5:21 p.m., according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.
The Virginia State Police confirmed that the fire wasn’t related to a crash, and no injuries have been reported.
There was no indication of what caused the fire, Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department spokesperson Ashley Hildebrandt told FFXnow.
As of 5:24 p.m., the fire had been extinguished, according to Hildebrandt.
Watch: This is the truck fire currently jamming the Capital Beltway (I-495S) heading from Braddock Rd to Springfield. @ffxfirerescue and @VSPPIO handling. Via @SafetyVid. @ffxnow @matthewyoung31 @CordellTraffic #safety #firefighters #traffic #vatraffic #truckfire pic.twitter.com/wJ6j2hg6lF
— Dave Statter (@STATter911) December 5, 2023
Springfield: SB 495 (Outer loop) just west of the Mixing Bowl, a vehicle fire blocks the left lanes and express lanes. One right lane gets by. Expect delays. pic.twitter.com/nuaGp3EmoT
— VDOT Northern VA (@VaDOTNOVA) December 5, 2023
Traffic camera photo via VDOT
A driver was killed and a motorcyclist seriously injured in two separate crashes in Fairfax County this morning (Thursday).
The fatal crash occurred around 12:30 a.m. on the Capital Beltway (I-495) near Eisenhower Avenue in the Rose Hill area, according to Virginia State Police.
“A tractor-trailer and a Honda sedan collided in the southbound lanes of Interstate 95 near Eisenhower Ave,” the VSP said in a brief news release. “Both vehicles came to a stop on the left shoulder.”
The sedan wound up “under the front of the tractor-trailer,” trapping the car’s driver, according to scanner traffic on Open MHz.
The sedan driver, an adult woman, died at the scene, police said. As of 6:37 a.m., police were still in the process of notifying the woman’s family.
“The crash remains under investigation,” a VSP spokesperson said. “The Virginia State Police Fairfax Division Crash Reconstruction Team and Motor Carrier Safety Team responded to the scene to assist with the investigation.”
— Alan Henney (@alanhenney) November 9, 2023
Just a few hours later, around 4:25 a.m., Fairfax County police and emergency medical services responded to a reported hit-and-run that critically injured a motorcyclist on Richmond Highway at Fairfax County Parkway in Fort Belvoir.
“Male motorcyclist hit by a red sedan. Driver of sedan fled the scene,” the Fairfax County Police Department said in a tweet at 5:32 a.m. “Motorcyclist was taken to hospital w/ injuries considered life-threatening.”
According to the police scanner, a dispatcher reported that the motorcyclist “was down” in the roadway and said “their leg is gone.” The responsible vehicle reportedly sustained “heavy front-end damage.”
“It’s going to look like fleeing vehicle shouldn’t have any headlights at the moment,” an officer said at 4:34 a.m. “They’re all on the ground here.”
Southbound Richmond Highway at the intersection was closed for the police investigation. The roadway has now reopened after the vehicle and driver responsible for the crash were located, the FCPD said at 9:12 a.m.
The motorcyclist remains hospitalized, according to police.
Officers on scene of a hit & run crash at Rt.1 & Rt. 286 in Ft. Belvior. Male motorcyclist hit by a red sedan. Driver of sedan fled the scene. Motorcyclist was taken to hospital w/ injuries considered life-threatening. (1/2) pic.twitter.com/70qU9eSRRv
— Fairfax County Police (@FairfaxCountyPD) November 9, 2023
(Updated at 9:30 p.m. on 10/26/2023) Several Republicans campaigning to represent parts of Fairfax County in the General Assembly have vowed to change up Virginia’s interstate tolling system if they’re elected on Nov. 7.
With the McLean Metro station in Tysons as a backdrop, the candidates unveiled a “Tolling Equity and Relief Plan” last Friday (Oct. 20) that they argued would reduce congestion and lower the cost of using the Express Lanes on I-66 and the Capital Beltway (I-495).
Crafted by former Congressman Frank Wolf, who represented Virginia’s 10th district from 1981 to 2015, the proposal calls for frequent Express Lanes drivers to get rebates from toll and state tax revenues, lower high-occupancy vehicle requirements, and standardization of toll rates on I-66 inside and outside the Beltway.
“We are hearing many complaints about the high cost of the tolls — especially on the new I-66 express lanes but also I-495 and other toll roads, which is adding to the cost of living of Northern Virginia families,” said Ken Reid, who organized the press conference. “Government must do its part to give the region’s motorists a break.”
A former Loudoun County supervisor, Reid is vying for the State Senate District 37 seat against Saddam Azlan Salim, who won the Democratic primary in June over longtime Sen. Chap Peterson. The district includes Tysons, Vienna, Oakton, Merrifield and the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church.
Other candidates who endorsed the proposed legislation include:
- Mark Springman, competing for Senate District 34 against incumbent Scott Surovell
- Matt Lang, competing for Senate District 38 against Sen. Jennifer Boysko in a district reshaped by redistricting
- Kristin Lee Hoffman, competing for House District 6 against Del. Rip Sullivan
- Maxwell Fisher, competing for House District 8 against incumbent Irene Shin
- Nhan Huynh, competing for House District 9 against incumbent Karrie Delaney
- James Thomas, competing for House District 10 against incumbent Dan Helmer
- Ed McGovern, competing for House District 18 against Del. Kathy Tran
According to a press release from Reid’s campaign, the Tolling Equity and Relief plan would offer rebates to commuters who use the I-66 and/or I-495 Express Lanes more than 30 times a month, similar to a SunPass toll relief program that took effect in Florida this year.
The plan would also reinstate HOV-2 “at certain hours” on both interstates. Drivers were able to use the I-66 Express Lanes for free if they had at least two passengers until last December, when the Virginia Department of Transportation raised the requirement to HOV-3.
Per the press release, the plan would allocate toll revenue to widening I-66 to three lanes in each direction from the Dulles Access Road in Pimmit Hills to the Nash Street tunnel in Rosslyn.
“No funds would go to bike trails or other modes of transit until that project is done,” Reid’s campaign said.
Virginia currently uses I-66 and I-395/95 toll revenue for a Commuter Choice grant program that supports road and public transit improvement projects in those corridors. Recently funded projects include a north entrance for the McLean Metro station and Fairfax City’s first Capital Bikeshare stations. Read More
A McLean woman died Saturday (Oct. 21) after crashing into another car while driving in the Capital Beltway (I-495) Express Lanes.
According to state police, Annette M. Ozaltin, 44, was heading south in the northbound I-495 toll lanes when her 2013 Toyota Prius struck a northbound 2018 Chevrolet Cruze head-on around 2:07 a.m.
“The impact of the crash caused the Toyota to spin around, run off the left side of the interstate and strike the cement Jersey wall,” the Virginia State Police said in a news release last night (Sunday).
The crash occurred in Annandale near the 51-mile marker, just south of the Gallows Road interchange.
Ozaltin was taken to Inova Fairfax Hospital, where she died from her injuries that morning.
The Chevrolet driver has been identified as 34-year-old Stephanie Leiva from Dumfries. She was transported to a hospital “for treatment of serious injuries,” police said.
Both women were wearing seatbelts at the time of the crash, according to police.
“The crash remains under investigation,” the VSP said.
This appears to be the 32nd fatal crash to occur within Fairfax County this year and the fourth on I-495, according to state data. As of last night, October fatalities, including Saturday’s crash and a hit-and-run that killed a pedestrian on Richmond Highway on Oct. 6, haven’t yet been counted in the Department of Motor Vehicles database.
Annandale: NB 495 (Inner Loop) just south of Gallows Rd, two left lanes and the express lanes are closed due to a crash. Reconstruction is on scene. Expect delays. pic.twitter.com/HcxEtiV0Le
— VDOT Northern VA (@VaDOTNOVA) October 21, 2023
(Updated at 12:35 p.m.) A pedestrian died last night (Sunday) after being hit by a driver on the Capital Beltway (I-495) near Merrifield, Virginia State Police say.
The state police responded to calls about a pedestrian being struck on a northbound I-495 service road to Route 50 around 9:14 p.m., according to a VSP spokesperson.
Identified as Douglas C. Haskett II, a 55-year-old Ashburn resident, the pedestrian was hit by the driver of a Chevrolet Traverse, who fled the scene. Haskett died at the scene, according to police.
A dispatcher asked for any unit on the Beltway that could “check on a pedestrian walking in the road,” according to scanner traffic on Open MHz.
“There’s people standing on that ramp north to 50,” the dispatcher told the responding troopers.
Troopers shut down the ramp from Gallows Road, reporting that there were “multiple vehicles” on the scene. However, the vehicle responsible for the crash was not present, a trooper told the dispatcher.
At 9:39 p.m., a Fairfax County police officer said they had “received a call from a citizen who believes he might be the hit-and-run driver,” according to the scanner.
“During the course of the crash investigation, state police were notified by Fairfax County Police that they had received a call from the driver of the Chevrolet,” VSP spokesperson Corinne Geller confirmed in an update around 12:20 p.m. today (Monday).
The call came from a parking garage in the Mosaic District. Upon locating the Chevrolet in the garage, troopers arrested the driver — Brian C. Diffell, 46, of Falls Church — and charged him with a felony count of hit-and-run.
“The investigation remains ongoing and in consultation with the Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney,” Geller said.
— VDOT Northern VA (@VaDOTNOVA) September 25, 2023
(Updated at 2:15 p.m.) A crash involving three vehicles, including a Virginia State Police vehicle, has partially shut down the northbound Capital Beltway (I-495) near Merrifield, including all express lanes.
According to state police, the crash appears to have occurred around 12:36 p.m. when a trooper responded to a disabled vehicle in the northbound express lanes just south of Route 50.
“A multi-vehicle crash occurred several minutes later involving a box truck that overturned partially onto a state police patrol vehicle,” a VSP spokesperson said. “There is one reported injury in the box truck. The trooper was not injured.”
The trooper reported that he “got hit” and requested additional units, including a medic, at 12:50 p.m., according to scanner traffic on Open MHz.
Four people have been transported to the hospital, the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department says.
“One patient was extricated,” the fire department said in a 1:49 p.m. tweet. “Four patients were transferred. 3 with non life-threatening injuries and 1 with serious injuries.”
State police and FCFRD units remain at the scene to investigate.
Traffic from the blocked I-495 toll lanes is being diverted into the regular travel lanes. The north left and left center lanes are also closed, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation’s traffic cameras.
As of 1:36 p.m., traffic backups extended approximately 1.4 miles.
#FairfaxsBravest are on scene of a three vehicle crash on the I-495N Express Lanes prior to Rt. 50. One patient was extricated. Four patients were transferred. 3 with non life-threatening injuries and 1 with serious injuries. I-495N is shut down except for the far right lane. pic.twitter.com/xqLYy3tGp8
— Fairfax County Fire/Rescue (@ffxfirerescue) September 20, 2023
Multi-Vehicle Crash. I-495 NB (IL) at US-50 (Ex 50/Arlington Blvd). Fairfax County, VA. 2 left main lanes blocked, 2 right main lanes open. All I-495 NB Express Lanes blocked. Delays start after VA-236 (Ex 52/Little River Turnpike), approximately 1.5 miles.
— MATOC Alerts (@MATOC) September 20, 2023
All lanes on northbound 495 Express Lanes near Rte 50 are blocked due to incident. Drivers on Lanes being diverted off to regular lanes.
— VA Express Lanes (@VAExpressLanes) September 20, 2023
(Updated at 9:35 a.m. on 8/22/2023) Maryland has renewed its commitment to replacing the American Legion Bridge and adding express lanes on the Capital Beltway, much to the relief of Northern Virginia transportation officials.
The Maryland Department of Transportation has applied for a federal grant to fund the initial phase of its project to widen the Beltway (I-495/I-270) and reconstruct the aging bridge, which provides the only road connection between Fairfax County and Montgomery County, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore announced today (Monday).
The announcement is the first indication of how Maryland will proceed since private express lanes operator Transurban backed out in March over concerns about delayed environmental approvals, lawsuits and the change in leadership after Moore succeeded Larry Hogan in January.
Since Hogan and then-Virginia governor Ralph Northam announced an agreement in 2019 to replace the heavily used American Legion Bridge, Maryland’s cooperation has been seen as critical to the success of Virginia’s I-495 Northern Extension (495 NEXT) project, which is now under construction and will extend the Beltway’s toll lanes from the Dulles Toll Road in Tysons to the bridge north of McLean.
“Governor Moore’s plan ensures these long-awaited improvements will become a reality. This is great news for area travelers and the economic competitiveness of our entire region,” Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance President Jason Stanford said in a statement. “The Alliance applauds Governor Moore for finding a multimodal solution to address one of the region’s worst bottlenecks and move more people through one of our most congested corridors.”
The Virginia Department of Transportation has estimated that 495 NEXT will move 2,500 more people per hour in both directions when the express lanes open in 2025. However, it would move 5,400 more people an hour with Maryland’s project in place.
Skeptics of 495 NEXT, including Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust, have argued that widening I-495 in Virginia without a concurrent widening in Maryland will only push the existing congestion further north, leaving McLean residents to deal with the traffic, environmental and neighborhood impacts without getting any of the supposed benefits.
Noting that many details of Moore’s plan have yet to be shared, such as what kind of “managed lanes” will be involved, Foust called the announcement “great news” as a sign that Maryland is committed to helping address congestion on the American Legion Bridge.
However, assuming it secures the necessary approvals and funding, the Maryland project will still likely take years to complete, Foust said in a statement.
The estimate I have seen is that the project could be complete in eight years (by 2031) if all goes well. Unfortunately, that means commuters who cross the American Legion Bridge, and residents of the communities around the bridge, will continue to suffer from the impacts of severe congestion for at least that long unless something is done in the interim. Given the miserable traffic conditions around the bridge, eight years is too long to wait for any relief. That is why I believe VDOT needs to deliver interim solutions that mitigate the congestion impacts over the bridge and in the surrounding neighborhoods.
The 495 NEXT project was designed to seamlessly connect to a version of an American Legion Bridge project that we now know will not be built. In addition to very nasty congestion, established neighborhoods along the path of the 495 NEXT project are being severely impacted by construction activity. Given the dramatic change of plans and potentially major reduction of scope for the Maryland project, I believe VDOT should determine whether and by how much it can reduce the scope of disturbance of its project to help mitigate those construction-related impacts on the adjacent communities.
Shifting away from the public-private partnership that Hogan sought and that has built Virginia’s growing express lanes network, Moore emphasized in his announcement that Maryland’s project will incorporate transit and other multimodal improvements, including pedestrian and bicycle access. Read More
Updated at 6:30 p.m. — All lanes on I-495 have reopened.
Earlier: The northbound express lanes of the Capital Beltway (I-495) are partially closed at the Dulles Toll Road in Tysons after a crash involving four vehicles.
Virginia State Police responded to the “chain reaction crash” near the Dulles Toll Road at 4:33 p.m., a VSP spokesperson said.
No injuries have been reported, according to police.
Multi-Vehicle Crash. I-495 NB (Inner Loop/Express Lanes) at VA-267 (Exit 45/Dulles Toll Road). Fairfax County, VA. All lanes of the Express Lanes are blocked. The Main Line is not impacted. Delays are less than 1 mile.
— MATOC Alerts (@MATOC) August 17, 2023
UPDATE: Multi-Vehicle Crash. I-495 NB (Inner Loop/Express Lanes) at VA-267 (Exit 45/Dulles Toll Road). Fairfax County, VA. Express Lane traffic now gets by using the left shoulder. Follow authority direction.
— MATOC Alerts (@MATOC) August 17, 2023
(Updated at 11:05 a.m. on 8/7/2023) Traffic on the Capital Beltway will be periodically stopped overnight at Georgetown Pike in the latter half of next week.
Lasting up to 30 minutes at a time, the stoppages are required to enable crews to relocate utilities at the interchange as part of the 495 NEXT project, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.
The stoppages will occur between midnight and 5 a.m. next Wednesday through Saturday (Aug. 9-12). In between each stoppage, one lane in each direction will temporarily reopen so traffic can be cleared.
(Correction: Due to a typo, this story initially said the stoppages would last until 5 p.m. instead of 5 a.m.)
“In the event of inclement weather, the stoppages and associated work will be postponed to the following night,” VDOT said. “Travelers should anticipate delays and consider taking an alternate route.”
Under construction since March 2022, the I-495 Express Lanes Northern Extension project is extending the Beltway’s toll lanes 2.5 miles north from the Dulles Toll Road in Tysons past the George Washington Memorial Parkway in McLean.
Earlier this year, McLean residents with the Northern Virginia Citizens Association sought to halt construction with a lawsuit challenging the project over its reported impacts on their health, neighborhoods and the environment.
A federal judge ruled on April 7 that work could continue during the litigation.
VDOT anticipates opening the extended express lanes in late 2025 and completing the full project in 2026.
“Drivers are urged to slow down and use caution when traveling through the 495 NEXT work zone,” VDOT said.