By Tom Biesiadny

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is undertaking a significant expansion of I-66 from the Beltway (I-495) to Route 15 in Haymarket.  Phase 1 of the project includes two Express Lanes in each direction from the Beltway to Gainesville; significant increases in bus service along the corridor; additional park-and-ride lots; transportation demand management; a parallel trail; and numerous interchanges improvements.   In addition, VDOT is also reserving the median in most places for the future expansion of high-quality transit.   VDOT has been closely coordinating this project with Fairfax County, Prince William County, the City of Fairfax, the Towns of Haymarket and Vienna and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro).

Express Lanes

Just like the Express Lanes on the Beltway and I-495, the I-66 Express Lanes will allow vehicles with three or more people to travel for free.  Vehicles with fewer than three people can also use the lanes, but they will pay a toll.  Toll rates will be managed dynamically to ensure that the speeds are maintained at 55 miles per hour.  The new lanes will be separated from the existing travel lanes by flexible posts, similar to the ones on the Beltway.  Users can enter and exit the lanes at specific places.  Several new ramps will also be constructed to provide access.  Three regular, or general purpose, lanes will be maintained in each direction for those traveling with fewer than three people who don’t want to pay a toll.  There will also be an auxiliary lane between some interchanges in Fairfax County.

Bus Service, Park-and-Ride Lots and Transportation Demand Management

The project will fund significant increases in bus service in the corridor that will take advantage of the new Express Lanes.  The new service will be implemented as “point-to-point” service, such as Haymarket to Tysons and the Stringfellow Park-and-Ride Lot to downtown.  The new bus service will be operated by existing providers, such as the Fairfax Connector and OmniRide; however, the service will likely be branded to provide a consistent image for riders.  To facilitate this new transit service and also support ridesharing, four new park-and-ride lots (three in Prince William County and one in Fairfax County) will be constructed.  Also, an existing park-and-ride lot in Gainesville will be expanded.  In total, approximately 4,000 new parking spaces will be added when the Express Lanes open.  VDOT and the Department of Rail and Public Transportation will also be implementing a number of demand management strategies, such as ridesharing and transit fare incentives, during the construction of the project and beyond.

Parallel Trail

VDOT and Fairfax County have worked closely to develop a trail that will be constructed along I-66 with the project.  The trail will extend from Gallows Road to Bull Run Regional Park.  In general, the trail will be located between the shoulder of the roadway and the soundwalls.  It will be similar to Custis Trail that parallels I-66 inside the Beltway.   In some places, the facility will become bike lanes on existing roadways.  In other cases, the trail will traverse parks.  In places where the trail is within the I-66 right-of-way, there will be periodic breaks in the soundwalls to allow access from adjacent neighborhoods.  The width of the trail will vary, but in most cases, it will be eight to ten feet wide.

Roadways Across I-66

As part of the Express Lanes Project, VDOT will be replacing a number of bridges across I-66.  Other bridges will be upgraded.  Each of the new bridges will contain new pedestrian and bicycle facilities  connected to the networks adjacent to I-66.

Implementation

VDOT will be implementing this project with a private partner.  There are three different project delivery options: design-build; design-build-operate-maintain; and design-build-finance-operate-maintain.  The procurement method is expected to be announced in December 2015.  The project will be constructed in phases.   Construction of the first phase of the project will begin in 2017 and is expected to be completed in 2021.

Tom Biesiadny serves as the Director of the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.