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The newly constructed I-66 Express Lanes from Gainesville to Centreville will open ahead of schedule (courtesy FAM Construction)

If you’re driving along the highways in Northern Virginia, do you usually hop into an express lane or do you prefer to tough it out in the normal lanes with the rest of the proletariat?

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) announced last week that the new I-66 Express Lanes running from the Beltway down to Centreville are set to fully open today (Tuesday).

“[VDOT and partners] announced today that the westbound direction of the new 66 Express Lanes from I-495 (Capital Beltway) to Route 28 in Centreville remains on schedule to open on or about this Saturday, Nov. 19,” VDOT said in a release. “The eastbound direction of this same 13-mile section of express lanes is expected to open by the end of November and could open as early as next Tuesday, Nov. 22, depending on weather and other factors.”

Along with the expansion, this month marks the 10-year anniversary of the express lanes opened on I-495. Since Express Lanes started being added to the highways around Northern Virginia, they’ve become largely ubiquitous along I-495, I-95 and I-395.

Intended to allow faster travel, the lanes charge vehicles based on demand, which can lead to eye-popping tolls. In two weeks, drivers will need to have at least two passengers to use the I-66 lanes for free, an increase from the current HOV-2 requirement.

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A mini-van takes the new I-66 Express Lanes in the Centreville area (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

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.

Hours of operation for I-66 Express Lanes inside of the Beltway (screenshot via VDOT)

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.

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I-495 North is getting a new ramp to the I-66 West general purpose lanes, while the existing ramp will lead to the new I-66 Express Lanes (via VDOT)

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.

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The I-66 Express Lanes at the Vienna Metro station, as of September (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

The extended I-66 Express Lanes outside the Capital Beltway will open ahead of schedule, the Virginia Department of Transportation says.

Previously scheduled to arrive in December, the lanes will open in the westbound direction from I-495 in Dunn Loring to Route 28 in Centreville as soon as Saturday, Nov. 19, VDOT said in a news release snuck in just before a three-day weekend.

The eastbound lanes along that 13-mile stretch of road are expected to open by the end of November.

“Updates will be provided to the public as final construction progresses. All work is weather dependent, and inclement conditions could affect the final opening schedule,” VDOT noted.

Construction to extend the I-66 toll lanes 22 miles outside the Beltway has been underway since summer 2016. Toll lanes opened inside the Beltway in December 2017.

Nine miles of express lanes west of Centreville opened in early September, also coming sooner than anticipated. Tolling on that section, which extends to Gainesville, began on Sept. 24.

As with the existing express lanes around Northern Virginia, the new I-66 lanes will charge tolls that vary based on traffic volumes and speed. Vehicles that meet the high occupancy requirements can use the lanes for free, but they need to have an E-ZPass Flex set to “HOV On.”

The I-66 Express Lanes currently have an HOV requirement of two or more occupants, but that will increase to three or more occupants along the entire corridor, starting Dec. 5, according to VDOT, which says the new rule will be consistent with other toll lanes in the region.

Here’s more from VDOT on how drivers can prepare for the express lane openings:

Obtain an E-ZPass to pay tolls, or an E-ZPass Flex to travel toll-free as HOV. Drivers can obtain an E-ZPass at ezpassva.com, by calling 877-762-7824, or in person at many Giant and Wegmans grocery stores in Northern Virginia, as well as at AAA offices, Fairfax Connector stores, and DMV Customer Service Centers.

Become familiar with other payment options available through I-66 EMP such as paying online, via the mail, by calling 833-643-2867, or in person at the 66 Express Lanes Customer Service Center in Manassas. Payment options other than E-ZPass will incur administrative fees. More information can be found at Ride66express.com.

More information about the I-66 Express Lanes can be found at Ride66express.com.

Though the express lanes will open to traffic soon, work on some interchanges and a shared-use trail alongside the highway will continue. The overall project is scheduled for completion by mid-2023.

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CRC’s MetroWest town center development plan (via CRC Companies/Fairfax County)

The Fairfax County Planning Commission will soon decide whether to remove a condition that could allow construction to start on the planned town center at MetroWest.

The proposed buildings would bring up to 900 residential units and retail amenities to the 56-acre community south of I-66 and the Vienna Metro Station.

According to an application submitted in January, developer CRC Companies asked the commission to remove a condition, also known as a proffer, that limits how much a housing developer can build without providing the 300,000 square feet of office space.

The original MetroWest plans were approved in 2006, and the proffer was put in place to guarantee different uses for the space. However, CRC has argued that the real estate market has changed since it was approved, making office space less viable.

The developer also said the proffer hinders the development of retail and open space for existing residents.

During the planning commission’s public hearing on the amendment last week (Oct. 20), McGuireWoods managing partner Gregory Riegle announced that construction on the first phase of the town center would begin soon.

“We are literally within weeks or months of starting to construct the first phase under the governing proffers and understanding that this has always been an important project,” Riegle said. He also briefly explained why developers are requesting a change to the existing proffer.

“The reasons for this change are perhaps self-evident, given well-documented realities about an objective oversupply of office space combined with decreasing demand,” he said.

Riegle noted that the amenities, size and scale, retail, and the required urban design would not change if the proffer were revised.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission deferred the final decision to its meeting tomorrow.

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The I-66 Express Lanes connecting Route 29 in Gainsville to Route 28 in Centreville are set to open this weekend, ahead of schedule.

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) made the announcement Friday (Sept. 2), touting that the opening of the western part of its highway widening project will help congestion on I-66 “sooner than originally planned.”

“We are pleased to join our 66 Express Lanes project partners in opening the first segment of one of Virginia’s largest megaprojects ahead of schedule,” VDOT Commissioner Stephen Brich said in the press release. “By opening the western segment of the new 66 Express Lanes early, we are able to start delivering congestion relief to I-66 travelers sooner than originally planned.”

The 9-mile stretch of road opening this weekend connects the Route 28 interchange in Centreville to Prince William County. Officials said opening that section now will help motorists get used to the new traffic patterns before the rest of the lanes open later this year.

Extending to the Capital Beltway interchange in Dunn Loring, the remaining 13 miles of express lanes are scheduled to open by December.

“This is an important step in opening the new 66 Express Lanes, allowing customers to begin to experience the benefits that the new managed lanes and project enhancements will provide, and helping to ensure a great customer experience when the full corridor opens at the end of the year,” Javier Guiterrez, CEO for the private contractor I-66 Express Mobility Partners, said.

Overall, the nearly-complete $3.7 billion project mostly centered in Fairfax County will bring widened roads with toll lanes and potentially make room for mass transit projects, while also rebuilding a number of bridges spanning the highway.

There will also be 11 miles of shared-use trails between Fairfax and Prince William counties.

Work began in late 2017 and is expected to finish in mid-2023, though the remaining express lanes will open to traffic a few months prior to that.

I-66 will still have three general traffic, toll-free lanes in the eastbound and westbound directions. The project is adding two high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes in each direction.

Buses, carpoolers, and motorcyclists will be able to use those lanes for free, while all other motorists will pay a toll based on real-time traffic conditions. The lanes expand the 10 miles of toll lanes between the Beltway and D.C. that opened in 2017.

The project also includes the construction of dedicated on- and off-ramps at Route 234/Sudley Road, Route 28, and Braddock and Walney Roads. Drivers will be able to access the Express Lanes from several general-purpose lanes, including near Route 28.

The I-66 Express Lanes construction is a result of a public-private partnership between VDOT and I-66 Express Mobility Partners, which will maintain and operate the HOT lanes under the 50-year agreement.

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I-66 construction in Fairfax County (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

To help ease congestion, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) said it will suspend work on many highway projects and lift lane restrictions on interstates and other major roads.

VDOT said in a release that Labor Day is one of the busiest travel days of the year. Past traffic data suggested the congestion is heaviest from noon to 7 p.m. on Friday and intermittently throughout the holiday weekend, Monday included.

“As travelers make their end-of-summer vacation plans before the hustle and bustle of the school season, drivers are encouraged to plan ahead for their holiday road trips,” VDOT said. “To make travel easier this coming Labor Day weekend, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will suspend many highway work zones and lift most lane closures on interstates and other major roads in Virginia from noon Friday, Sept. 2 until noon Tuesday, Sept. 6.”

According to the release:

  • All HOV restrictions on Interstate 66 and rush-hour tolls on the 66 Express Lanes Inside the Beltway will be lifted on Monday, Sept. 5.
  • Find directional schedules for the reversible 95 and 395 express lanes, and information for the 495 Express Lanes at www.expresslanes.com.

This story was first published on ALXnow.

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A new ramp from I-495 North to I-66 West is scheduled to open on Aug. 25 (via VDOT)

After enduring roughly four years of construction, drivers will soon get access to the first piece of the revamped I-66 and Capital Beltway interchange in Dunn Loring.

A new flyover exit ramp from the northbound Beltway, also known as I-495, to I-66 West is set to open next Thursday (Aug. 25) morning, the Virginia Department of Transportation announced on Wednesday (Aug. 17).

According to VDOT, the ramp will open ahead of schedule, and as the first ramp in the interchange to be completed, next week’s opening will represent a milestone for the I-495 portion of the massive project to add toll lanes on I-66 outside the Beltway.

The ramp is located a half-mile south of the old exit ramp, which “will close to allow construction of new ramp connections at the I-66/I-495 interchange,” VDOT says.

“Drivers should stay alert for this new travel change and use caution when traveling in this area,” VDOT said.

With the reconfigured interchange, drivers will be able to get to and from the I-495 Express Lanes to the new I-66 Express Lanes and switch between express and general-purpose lanes. The ramp from I-495 North to I-66 East will stay in the same place.

The new I-66 toll lanes, which will extend 22.5 miles west into Gainesville, are on track to begin operations in December.

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The I-66 ramp onto and off of Stringfellow Road in Fair Lakes (via Google Maps)

A woman was hospitalized after her car was hit by components of a tractor-trailer on I-66 in the Fair Lakes area.

The woman was driving onto I-66 East from Stringfellow Road around 1:34 p.m. on Friday (July 1) when her black 2015 Nissan Murano “was struck by a wheel hub and tire assembly lost from a tractor-trailer traveling west on I-66,” the Virginia State Police said on Saturday (July 2).

“The tractor-trailer continued west on I-66 and, despite a search of the area, was not located,” police said.

The woman suffered injuries considered life-threatening and was transported to Inova’s emergency room in Reston, where she’s still being treated, VSP spokesperson Corinne Geller told FFXnow yesterday (Tuesday).

Police are currently on the lookout for the tractor-trailer involved in the crash. While the available information on the vehicle is limited to the fact that it’s missing a wheel hub and tire assembly, the VSP says anyone who has information or may have witnessed the crash can call #77 or 703-803-0026, or email questions@vsp.virginia.gov.

Photo via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

A summer sunset over the I-66 West exit ramp in Centreville (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

I-66 West Traffic Changes in Oakton Today — “I-66 West between Nutley Street and Vaden Drive will be shifted to a new, long-term configuration beginning during the early morning hours on or about Wednesday, July 6. When this traffic change is implemented, the two right travel lanes will be separated from the two left travel lanes by barrier…This temporary traffic pattern will remain in place for approximately two months, and is part of the Transform 66 Outside the Beltway Project.” [VDOT]

Search for Suspect in Hybla Valley Homicide Continues — “A year ago today, Tafari ‘Trey’ Nadhim was fatally shot in the 7900 blk of Janna Lee Ave. Detectives continue to seek answers for Trey’s family & friends. If you have any info about his death, please call 703-246-7800 or submit tips through Crime Solvers.” [FCPD/Twitter]

Springfield Man Allegedly Hits Pedestrian After Stealing BMW — “A Springfield man was charged with grand larceny after he stole a car from a gas station on Braddock Road on June 25 and then ran into a pedestrian after Fairfax County Police attempted to stop him.” [Patch]

County Sees Uptick in Unemployment — “With 609,431 county residents in the civilian workforce and 16,122 looking for jobs, Fairfax’s unemployment rate stood at 2.6 percent for the month, according to figures reported June 29 by the Virginia Employment Commission. That’s up from 2.2 percent a month before, although it remained well below the rate of 3.7 percent a year ago.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

Photos: New Citizens Welcomed on July 4 at Mount Vernon — “On Monday, July 4, George Washington’s Mount Vernon was the site of a naturalization ceremony for 52 new US citizens, some of whom serve in the US armed forces. Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen spoke, as did George Washington himself — well, the latest GW reenactor.” [Washingtonian]

Married FCPS Educators Help Ukranian Refugees — W.T. Woodson High School government teacher Lee Hedrick and Annandale High School ESOL Chair Meredith Hedrick recently traveled 18 hours to Poland to serve as volunteers for World Central Kitchen. They helped the nonprofit prepare and distribute meals to refugees at the border with Ukraine. [FCPS]

Great Falls Mansion Sold for $10M — “Innsbruck Holdings LLC on June 7 closed the sale of 576 Innsbruck Ave. in Great Falls, a 21,500-square-foot mansion, for $10.5 million…The Innsbruck mansion, also known as Alderley, has been through several owners since it was constructed in 2007, among them former AOL executive Richard Hanlon and James Carlson, the former CEO of AmeriGroup.” [Washington Business Journal]

It’s Wednesday — Rain starting in the afternoon. High of 85 and low of 78. Sunrise at 5:51 am and sunset at 8:39 pm. [Weather.gov]

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