The project to extend the I-495 Express Lanes north toward the American Legion Bridge has been under construction for half a year now, but some McLean residents remain as determined as ever to fight the Beltway’s encroachment into their neighborhoods.
Residents along Live Oak Drive in particular have consistently argued that they will face the most disruptions from the I-495 Northern Extension (495 NEXT) without getting the congestion relief benefits touted by the Virginia Department of Transportation.
The latest blow came at the sight of workers cutting down trees that serve as a buffer between Live Oak and two existing I-495 (Capital Beltway) and George Washington Memorial Parkway ramps.
VDOT says the tree clearings were necessary to make room for the Beltway widening, a new retaining wall adjacent to I-495, and a planned noise wall adjacent to Live Oak Drive. But residents fear the redesigned interchange will be a new “Mixing Bowl,” the tangle of ramps and overpasses where I-495, I-395 and I-95 meet in Springfield.
“VDOT/Transurban are trying to shove through a new ‘Springfield Mixing Bowl’ right here in McLean,” Northern Virginia Citizens Association President Debra Butler said in a recent email to members. “Future demolition and construction will impact both sides of 495 at Georgetown Pike, Live Oak Drive, Langley Swim Club, Scotts Run Nature Preserve with a new ‘McLean Mixing Bowl’ with ramps as high as 271 feet [above sea level].”
Discussions of potential legislation underway
Organized in opposition to 495 NEXT, the association held a meeting at the Langley Swim & Tennis Club on Friday (Dec. 16) to discuss the tree removals and their issues with the project’s size.
Attendees at the meeting included Del. Kathleen Murphy (D-34) and state Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31), who have started talking to Virginia Secretary of Transportation W. Sheppard Miller III about options for addressing resident concerns.
The association has suggested allowing commercial trucks in the I-495 Express Lanes, where they’re currently prohibited, and having them get on and off in Tysons instead of McLean, eliminating the need for some flyover ramps.
VDOT says a planned exchange ramp allowing vehicles to exit the toll lanes at the GW Parkway is intended for all vehicles, though one purpose is to give trucks from Maryland access to the general purpose lanes.
Legislators could also introduce a bill with new controls on public-private partnerships like the one between VDOT and express lanes operator Transurban, improving transparency and limiting their ability to substantially change a project’s design after a public hearing, Butler says.
Murphy confirmed she and Favola are having discussions about potential legislation, but no concrete proposals have formed yet, even with a Jan. 1 deadline to submit bills for the 2023 General Assembly session looming.
“Those are certainly things we are going to bring to the attention of the secretary of transportation to see what possibilities are available, and as soon as we finish those conversations, we’ll have a better idea,” she told FFXnow. Read More
The Fairfax County Police Department is investigating a “cash for gold robbery scheme” involving three Maryland residents who forced a driver on the Capital Beltway (I-495) to give them money for jewelry that was likely fake.
The driver encountered the three individuals while driving home on Oct. 29 near the exit to Bethesda, where he saw them standing on the side of I-495, police said in a news release published today.
The victim stopped to provide aid. A woman said the stranded group needed money to continue their travels. She showed the victim a watch and gold jewelry. She requested cash in exchange for the items. The woman convinced the victim to drive to an ATM. Two men in a black SUV followed the victim and woman. The victim began driving and quickly realized this was likely a scam. The victim stopped in a parking lot and exited his car. One of the men from the other vehicle exited their car and told the victim to sit in the driver’s seat while he drove the victim to obtain money.
The man was driven to four locations around the Tysons area, where the trio forced the man “through intimidation” to withdraw money until his bank accounts were empty, according to the police.
Once the trio left him, the man called 911.
The FCPD says the perpetrators of the scam were identified as 39-year-old Magdalena Mazil, 36-year-old Hagi Voinescu, and 23-year-old Romeo Voinescu — all Baltimore residents — after an officer came across them in a gray Chevrolet Tahoe that “appeared to be disabled” on the Dulles Toll Road near Route 7 in Tysons on Nov. 3.
The officer searched the vehicle and found “large amounts of fake gold jewelry,” police said.
Mazil and Hagi Voinescu were arrested by Baltimore City detectives on Nov. 22, but Romeo Voinescu remains “outstanding,” according to police.
All three individuals are facing charges of abduction and four counts of robbery. The FCPD also obtained warrants for Hagi Voinescu for preventing a person from calling 911.
“Two additional warrants for preventing a telephone call were obtained for Magdalena. An additional warrant for driver failing to report an accident was issued for Romeo,” police said.
Police believe the trio may be connected to other crimes in the area.
“We’re asking anyone with information about the suspects or who may have encountered the suspects to contact us,” the FCPD said.
Detectives can be contacted at 703-691-2131. The department also accepts anonymous tips by phone (1-866-411-TIPS), text (type “FCCS” plus tip to 847411) and online through Crime Solvers.
The FCPD offers cash rewards of $100 to $1,000 to tipsters who provide information that leads to an arrest.
(Updated at 3:40 p.m.) One person was killed this morning in a multi-vehicle crash on the Capital Beltway (I-495) in Tysons.
The Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department had reported that one person had sustained injuries considered life-threatening, but the fatality wasn’t confirmed until just after 10 a.m. by the Virginia State Police.
VSP said it responded to the crash in the northbound lanes of I-495 near the exit for Route 267 at 6:52 a.m.
According to VSP, the driver of a 2019 Ford F-150 pickup — identified as Robert A. Blakely, 71, from D.C. — was “ejected from his vehicle” and died at the scene. A passenger in another vehicle received treatment for minor injuries.
The crash shut down the northbound Express Lanes and multiple general lanes on I-495 at the Dulles Access Road for hours during this morning’s rush hour, prompting vehicles in the toll lanes to be diverted at Route 7.
By 9 a.m., traffic backups extended approximately 9.8 miles to the end of the Express Lanes in North Springfield, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation’s traffic cameras.
This is the second major crash on the Beltway in as many days. During yesterday’s evening rush hour, a man died after being struck by an SUV near the Braddock Road exit. He had gotten out of the tractor-trailer he was driving following a collision with a sedan.
Units on scene of a multi-vehicle crash on I495 NB at Dulles Access Rd in Mclean area. One life-threatening injury. NB Express Lanes and multiple lanes of I495 NB closed for unknown duration. Expect delays. Seek alternate route. View Map: https://t.co/ooNN1smrhc #FCFRD #traffic pic.twitter.com/AQysAWs8dn
— Fairfax County Fire/Rescue (@ffxfirerescue) December 1, 2022
Update: delays now extend past Little River Turnpike, with debris cleanup in progress. Reconstruction will occur at a later time. Expect general lanes to begin opening soon, followed by express lanes. #VATraffic #DMVTraffic https://t.co/im0z6oJxRN
— VDOT Northern VA (@VaDOTNOVA) December 1, 2022
(Updated at 11:35 a.m. on 12/5/2022) A tractor-trailer driver died tonight after being hit by an SUV on the Capital Beltway (I-495) near Braddock Road.
According to Virginia State Police, the tractor-trailer driver had exited his vehicle after he collided with a sedan on northbound I-495 approaching the Braddock Road exit in North Springfield, sending the sedan into the left shoulder of the toll lanes.
“The driver of the tractor-trailer exited his vehicle and was running across the Express Lanes towards the sedan when he was struck by an SUV traveling north in the Express Lanes,” VSP said in a news release.
Troopers responded to the crash at 7:53 p.m., and the tractor-trailer driver was taken to Inova Fairfax Hospital, where he ultimately died. Police have identified him as Richard F. Alburger, Jr., 41, of Summit Hill, Pennsylvania.
Alburger was attempting to change lanes when his 2019 Freightliner tractor-trailer struck a 1985 Buick Century, according to police.
“Due to the impact of the crash, the Buick spun and struck the bollards and jersey wall on the left side of the road,” VSP said, noting that the drivers of the Buick and the SUV weren’t injured.
All northbound I-495 lanes were closed to traffic, as police investigate the crash. A Fairfax Alert said to expect extended delays.
CRITICAL INJURY PEDESTRIAN STRUCK: I-495 North (Beltway Inner Loop) just past Braddock Road (Exit 54). ~7:45PM Wednesday, pedestrian struck at the scene of a previous minor crash. Pedestrian transported to an area Trauma Center in critical condition. #VATraffic #DCTraffic
— Cordell (@CordellTraffic) December 1, 2022
If you plan on driving the newly extended I-66 Express Lanes next month, make sure there are at least two other people in the car to avoid paying a toll.
The entire length of the I-66 toll lanes will shift from HOV2 to HOV3 in early December, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) recently announced.
Starting Dec. 5, only those with traveling with three or more people will be able to use the lanes for free. This is a change from the previous standard of two or more passengers.
Single riders or those traveling with just two passengers will have to pay a toll, with the price varying based on traffic volumes (known as “dynamic tolling”).
The change will apply to the entire 32-mile length of the I-66 Express Lanes, including the existing 9-mile section inside the Beltway (I-495) from Dunn Loring to Route 29 in Rosslyn. A new Beltway ramp to I-66 just opened this week.
That portion of I-66 operates as HOV on weekdays during peak hours and in peak directions. Otherwise, the express lanes are free and have no occupancy requirement.
VDOT also notes that, in order to use the lanes during rush hour, drivers need an E-ZPass transponder.
The state transportation agency said in a press release that the new requirements are “consistent with HOV requirements on the other express lanes in Northern Virginia.”
In a statement to FFXnow, a VDOT spokesperson said consistency and federal environmental standards were the biggest reasons for the change:
This change supports the National Capital Region’s Transportation Planning Board’s policy to change HOV-2 to HOV-3 throughout the region in order to move more people with fewer vehicles and comply with the federal Clean Air Act Amendment. This change is also consistent with the other express lanes in Northern Virginia on I-95, I-395, and I-495, and is aligned with Virginia’s policy that HOV-3 be the requirement for toll-free travel on all privately-operated express lanes in Virginia. This rule applies to I-66 Express Lanes Outside the Beltway, which are operated by I-66 Express Mobility Partners under a public-private partnership with the Commonwealth.
The switch from HOV2 to HOV3 was first approved in 2016 by Virginia’s Commonwealth Transportation Board.
The portion of the express lanes inside the Beltway opened five years ago, accompanied by a good amount of griping about the high toll prices.
The 22-mile section outside of the Beltway is almost fully operational after about six years of work. A 9-mile stretch from Route 28 in Centreville to Route 29 in Gainesville opened in early September, and the westbound lanes from I-495 in Dunn Loring to Route 28 became operational yesterday.
The eastbound lanes could open as early as tomorrow, a few weeks ahead of schedule, VDOT says. Work in the corridor will continue through mid-2023 on other elements of the Transform 66 project, including new interchanges and a parallel shared-use path.
A version of this story appeared earlier on FFXnow’s sister site, ARLnow.
Updated at 3:25 p.m. — The switch to the new I-495 North ramp to I-66 is now scheduled to be implemented tomorrow night and will be in place early Wednesday morning (Nov. 16), VDOT says.
Earlier: The Capital Beltway is getting a new ramp in Dunn Loring, as the Virginia Department of Transportation prepares to open another segment of the extended I-66 Express Lanes.
A new, permanent ramp and exit from the northbound I-495 Express Lanes to the general purpose lanes on I-66 West was scheduled to open this morning, VDOT announced Friday (Nov. 11).
The ramp is located on the right side of the Beltway, about 500 feet north of the existing ramp, and loops around the interchange.
The existing ramp closed today but will reopen on or around Saturday (Nov. 19) as the new connection from the 495 North Express Lanes to the new 66 Express Lanes West, according to VDOT, though the exact date could vary depending on the weather.
The department announced last week that the westbound I-66 toll lanes from I-495 to Route 28 in Centreville will open to traffic this Saturday, with the eastbound lanes following by the end of November.
The Transform 66 Outside the Beltway project has been in the works since 2016, adding 22 miles to the I-66 toll lanes while reconfiguring interchanges and creating a shared-use trail in the corridor. A 9-mile stretch of lanes opened between Gainesville and Centreville in September.
Starting Dec. 5, the entire I-66 Express Lanes system will require vehicles to have three or more occupants to qualify as high-occupancy so they can use the lanes toll-free.
Starting next week, all drivers traveling north on the Capital Beltway through Tysons will share the same exit to get to the westbound Dulles Toll Road.
The existing Exit 45 will be closed around Wednesday, Nov. 16, so construction can begin on a new bridge for the Beltway (I-495) over the toll road ramps, the Virginia Department of Transportation announced Thursday (Nov. 3).
Both general-purpose and express traffic looking to get onto the toll road’s westbound lanes will instead be directed onto a 495 Express Lanes ramp, located about one-third of a mile south of the old exit.
“To facilitate this new travel pattern, I-495 will be reduced from four to three lanes for a stretch of approximately one-half mile near the I-495 and Dulles Corridor interchange,” VDOT said. “…Due to this change, drivers traveling on southbound Route 123 will not be able to access westbound Dulles Toll Road from northbound I-495.”
The new configuration will be in place through early 2025, as work continues on the 495 Express Lanes Northern Extension (495 NEXT) project, which is extending the lanes 2.5 miles from Tysons to the George Washington Memorial Parkway interchange in McLean.
The redesigned Dulles Toll Road interchange will include two new ramps from I-495 North, one going east and one going west. Three stormwater ponds are also being constructed inside the ramp from the westbound toll road to the Beltway.
Active construction began on 495 NEXT in late May and is expected to continue into 2026.
The ongoing widening of I-495 from Tysons to McLean will require the permanent taking of 1.15 acres from Scott’s Run Nature Preserve.
As compensation, the Virginia Department of Transportation has proposed building a new park for the Fairfax County Park Authority on a 1.83-acre site at the corner of Georgetown Pike and Balls Hill Road that it currently uses as a maintenance yard.
“This is a commitment that we made and worked very closely with the park authority to provide all the features that they require,” VDOT Megaprojects Director Susan Shaw told the Board of Supervisors’ transportation committee last Friday (Sept. 30).
According to a draft agreement dated July 12, VDOT will dedicate a 1.27-acre portion of its property to a park with seating, bicycle racks and a repair station, “passive open space,” and a plaza at the head of a 10-foot-wide connection to a trail along Georgetown Pike.
The trail is part of a regional network that VDOT has committed to providing as part of the I-495 Northern Extension (495 NEXT) project, which is extending the interstate’s toll lanes about three miles from the Dulles Toll Road toward the American Legion Bridge.
“The expanded trail network will likely exacerbate the currently stressed parking situation at the [Scott’s Run] Preserve, a very popular park in Park Authority’s system that became overwhelmingly popular during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the agreement shared with FFXnow says.
To support that increased demand, VDOT’s proposed park will have a circular parking lot with 25 spaces, four of them designed as ADA-accessible. The department will also construct a 5-foot-wide sidewalk along Balls Hill Road, leading into the park.
VDOT needs to obtain “a right of entry” by Nov. 15, but the park authority has been “very helpful in working together with us,” Shaw said.
“There are still some final steps. It’s very tight, but we feel like we’re on track to meet that Nov. 15 date,” she said. Read More
A cell tower by the Capital Beltway in McLean must be removed before the end of this year to make way for the road’s widening, leaving Fairfax County and state transportation leaders scrambling to prevent future service disruptions.
The 135-foot-tall monopole stands right next to I-495 at the Old Dominion Drive bridge, which will be replaced by a new two-lane bridge with a shared-use path as part of the Virginia Department of Transportation’s I-495 Northern Extension (495 NEXT) project.
VDOT determined that the tower needs to be relocated “well over a year ago,” but no progress has been made to identify a temporary or permanent new site, Megaprojects Director Susan Shaw told the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on Friday (Sept. 30).
“The providers to date have said that there is no temporary location that’s acceptable to them,” she said. “…We’re all working very hard to try to resolve it, and I think we’ve tried to provide a lot of ideas for where they might find acceptable locations on VDOT right of way, but again, we’re not experts. It’s very specific technically in terms of what would work for them and maintaining the kind of service that they have.”
Construction on 495 NEXT is underway, but work hasn’t started yet on the Old Dominion bridge.
American Cell Towers, which owns the monopole, initially faced a Sept. 30 deadline for the removal, but that has been extended to Dec. 31. The tower has to be decommissioned in November so that the utilities can be taken off and the structure dismantled, according to Shaw.
In conversations with AT&T and T-Mobile, the providers that use the pole, VDOT was told that service along the Beltway won’t be affected, but service for the surrounding communities “would be degraded,” particularly during periods of peak demand, Shaw said.
AT&T confirmed that some of its customers “may experience intermittent wireless service disruptions near Old Dominion Drive and the Capital Beltway.”
“We, like other carriers, are being forced to remove our antennas so that they can widen the Beltway,” an AT&T spokesperson said. “We apologize for the inconvenience, and we are working with state and Fairfax County officials to identify an alternative site for our equipment. In the meantime, we have optimized other nearby sites to try and extend coverage until this is resolved.”
The provider added that people who experience disruptions can utilize its Wi-Fi Calling service instead.
While the availability of other cell carriers in the area suggests 911 calls won’t be affected, Shaw said the providers told VDOT they “couldn’t guarantee” that there would be no impact. American Towers didn’t immediately respond to FFXnow’s requests for comment. Read More
(Updated at 11:55 a.m.) Virginia State Police are investigating a fatal motorcycle crash that occurred on I-495 South in the Annandale area last Friday (Sept. 23), the agency announced today (Thursday).
According to police, 25-year-old Carlos Javier Velez Mantalvo from Orlando, Florida, was riding a 2006 Honda CBR600 motorcycle, going south on I-495 early that morning.
Near the Gallows Road exit, which leads to the Inova Fairfax Hospital campus, Velez Montalvo “rapidly” reduced his speed, “lost control and laid the motorcycle down in the roadway,” state police said.
“The operator then slid across the pavement away from the motorcycle,” VSP said in a news release.
Police responded to the crash at 2:02 a.m. Velez Montalvo was transported to the nearby hospital, but he succumbed to his injuries.
Police say he was wearing a helmet when the motorcycle crashed.
Photo via Google Maps