I-66 Express Lanes Map_v27

This map shows the new entrance and exit ramps for the Interstate 66 toll lanes. When complete, the highway will have three general purpose lanes and two express lanes in each direction between Gainesville and Interstate 495.

Starting Saturday, drivers for the first time will pay to use a portion of Interstate 66 outside the beltway. 

About 10 miles of the new express lanes from Route 28 to Route 29 have been open to drivers since early September, but the adjustment period is now over, and drivers are going to have to pay up or pair up if they want to skip traffic on I-66. 

Starting Saturday, the “dynamic tolling” that governs rates on other major highway express lanes around the region will kick in for the 10 miles of express lanes. Rates will rise and fall based on congestion in an effort to keep traffic moving on the toll lanes at 55 mph. For now, the lanes will be HOV-2, meaning they’re free for anyone with an E-ZPass Flex transponder switched on and another passenger in the car. VDOT and FAM Construction officials said that E-ZPasses are available at many major grocery stores and Department of Motor Vehicle offices. If drivers use the express lanes without an E-ZPass, they can either pay online or they’ll be billed using their license plate. 

Once the full 22.5 miles of express lanes open for traffic some time in December, all I-66 express lanes from Washington, D.C., to Haymarket will switch to HOV-3, requiring three people in the car and the Flex transponder switched in order to get a free ride. At that time, new bus service will also begin running in the express lanes, allowing commuters to travel the lanes for the price of bus fare. 

Elsewhere on the 22.5 mile project, road work continues on. While the western stretch of express lanes opened ahead of schedule, the plan remains for the full span to still open by the end of the year, though no firm date has been announced. And road work continues on both portions, so drivers will continue to see some overnight closures on the general use lanes as the $3.7 billion project nears completion. 

“Traffic changes … are continuing. The corridor is going to continue to evolve as we get to opening the express lanes, and [we] ask for drivers to stay alert,” said Susan Shaw, VDOT Northern Virginia’s megaprojects director. “Our workers are not behind barriers anymore for the most part. There might be barrels out there, but there’s less protection for them. And the pavement’s looking really good, so people tend to go fast.”

On Monday, the final bridge beam along the span was lifted and placed, but bridge work continues at the highway’s interchanges, particularly at Route 28 and Interstate 495. 

“That doesn’t mean that the bridge work is done, now it moves on to another phase,” Nancy Smith, public relations manager for FAM told InsideNoVa. 

The one part of the project that has had its timeline delayed is the “I-66 Trail” shared-use path. Officials said they hope that sections on the eastern end of the path – particularly between the Vienna and Dunn Loring Metro stations – will open when the full express lane stretch opens in December. 

But design issues have cropped up on other segments. Shaw said that the construction team was hopeful that segments on the western end of the trail will open next spring, but that some of the hang-ups have yet to be resolved, so it’s unclear exactly when the entire path will be open. 

 

Jared Foretek covers the Manassas area and regional news across Northern Virginia. Reach him at jforetek@insidenova.com

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