Manassas Journal Messenger | HOT lanes plan on drawing boards

A team of three companies is proposing to put HOT lanes on Interstate 95 all the way down to Fredericksburg.

The proposal would convert I-95’s existing high-occupancy vehicle lanes, or HOV lanes, into high-occupancy toll lanes, or HOT lanes, wherein high-occupancy vehicles could still travel for free but solo drivers would pay to use for a price depending on congestion — thereby supplying a revenue source for the new road.

The proposal was submitted by Clark Construction Group, Shirley Contracting Co. and Koch Performance Roads Inc., according to a summary sent to area elected officials.

Company officials could not be reached late Monday.

The plan was submitted to the Virginia Department of Transportation. A VDOT spokeswoman did not return phone calls Monday night.

The proposal was submitted under Virginia’s Public-Private Transportation Act. It would in phases:

? add a third high-occupancy lane,

? link I-95 HOT lanes into HOT lanes of the Beltway that are proposed to be built by the Flour Daniel Co.

? extend the HOT lanes south to Fredericksburg

Vehicles with three or more passengers could still use the lanes for free during rush hour, but solo drivers will pay variable fees based on time of day and congestion.

Capacity exists on the HOV lanes during peak rush hour times and there is no HOV connection to the Beltway from I-95, “thus reducing its effectiveness as a congestion relief method. As a result, Virginia is not realizing the full value of its investment in its HOV facilities because they carry far fewer vehicles than they could potentially handle.”

Prince William Board of Supervisors Chairman Sean T. Connaughton, R-at-large, received a summary of the Clark-Shirley-Koch proposal Monday. He said it should be looked at seriously.

“In an era of declining revenue streams, this may be the only available option to use,” Connaughton said. “One of the real positives is that it would remove that bottleneck, the backup practically every day southbound at Dumfries.”

The HOV link to Interstate 495 was cut out of the Springfield Interchange project last year to control that project’s ballooning costs toward $800 million.

The proposal goes against a plan county Democrats released a month ago that calls for companies to add a third lane to existing HOV lanes, a lane that would be dedicated to a bus-rapid transit system. The plan calls for running the rapid transit buses from the Horner Road commuter lot in Woodbridge north into Springfield and into the District of Columbia.

“HOT lanes can be considered, but should not be on existing lanes that taxpayers have already paid for once,” the Democrats’ press release stated.

“Why we’d want to tax the people twice to use HOV lanes when they’ve already been built is beyond me,” said David Brickley, Democratic candidate in the 52nd House District.

The cost and time for a third lane to Springfield would be very minimal because the HOV lanes south of the Beltway are already hardened for a third lane, he said.

Interstate 495 does not have any high-occupancy lanes, so there has been very little opposition to its HOT lane proposal. Tolls for the new Beltway lanes would range from $1 to $4.18, according to preliminary estimates in a VDOT summary.

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