The project involves extending the I-495 Express Lanes from the existing terminus of the I-495 Express Lanes to the George Washington Memorial Parkway interchange in the vicinity of the American Legion Bridge. Project improvements would include replacing existing overpasses, implementing a shared-use path that could be used by bicyclists and pedestrians, and replacing and constructing new noise walls.
Traffic congestion on I-495 routinely extends between the American Legion Bridge and Tysons Corner (south of Dulles Toll Road). This congestion occurs for multiple hours during morning and afternoon peak travel periods and on the weekends. Additionally, local roads and residential streets on either side of I-495 experience significant gridlock due to cut-through traffic several hours each weekday.
The 495 NEXT Project is intended to reduce congestion, provide additional travel choices, and improve travel reliability in an area that is one of the most congested travel areas in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan region.
Virginia’s Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) approved funding in the amount of $6 million in 2018 for VDOT to conduct an environmental study to extend the I-495 Express Lanes by approximately three miles from the I-495 and Dulles Toll Road interchange to the vicinity of the American Legion Bridge and Maryland line.
In collaboration with the Federal Highway Administration, VDOT is preparing an Environmental Assessment (EA) for the proposed three-mile extension of the 495 Express Lanes, and to comply with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), as amended, and 23 CFR Part 771. VDOT began this EA in May 2018 and is expected to complete the study in summer 2020.
The EA looks at build versus no-build (implementing the project versus not implementing the project) scenarios.According to the requirements of NEPA, the study includes evaluating site-specific conditions and potential effects the proposed improvements may have on air quality, noise, neighborhoods, parks, recreation areas, historic properties, wetlands and streams, and other resources. The following technical studies provide information summarized in the EA:
VDOT will hold a Location and Design Public Hearing for the I-495 Express Lanes Northern Extension Project (495 NEXT) on Thursday, March 12, 2020. Proposed design plans and findings from the project’s Draft Environmental Assessment (EA) will be presented to the public for information and input. The project will involve a change in limited access control.
The hearing will consist of an open house, formal presentation and opportunity for the public to provide written and/or verbal comments. The details are as follows:
Thursday, March 12, 2020
6:30 – 8:30 p.m. (formal presentation at 7 p.m.)
Langley High School
6520 Georgetown Pike, McLean, VA 22101
If Fairfax County Public Schools are closed on March 12 due to inclement weather, the hearing will be held on Wednesday, March 18, 2020.
In compliance with federal regulations, the draft Environmental Assessment will be made available to the public on February 26, 2020, which is a minimum of 15 days prior to the public hearing. These documents will be available on VDOT’s project website at 495NorthernExtension.org and at the following publicly accessible locations within the project corridor:
VDOT Northern Virginia District Office
4975 Alliance Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030
McLean Government Center
Office of Fairfax County Dranesville District Supervisor
1437 Balls Hill Road
McLean, VA 22101
Fairfax County Government Center
12000 Government Center Parkway
Fairfax, VA 22035
Dolley Madison Library
1244 Oak Ridge Avenue
McLean, VA 22101
Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library
7584 Leesburg Pike
Falls Church, VA 22043
In addition to providing comments at the public hearing, the public may provide written comments on the draft EA and/or design plans until the close of business on Monday, March 30, 2020, by emailing them to 495NorthernExtension@VDOT.Virginia.gov or by mailing them to Abi Lerner, P.E., Virginia Department of Transportation, 4975 Alliance Drive, Fairfax, VA 22030. Please reference “495 Express Lanes Northern Extension Study” in the subject line.
The Federal Highway Administration reviews the EA and associated technical studies and makes an independent finding as to environmental impact.
The EA includes an air and noise assessment under build (implementing the project) conditions.
As part of the EA, VDOT is conducting an operational and safety analysis of project-related traffic impacts on I-495 and the Dulles Toll Road, as well as on local roadways within and near the project area. This analysis looks at expected traffic conditions (including travel times and traffic delays, person throughput and secondary streets) in years 2025 and 2045 with the build alternative versus the no-build alternative (i.e., with and without the 495 NEXT project). Findings of this analysis will be published in a Traffic and Transportation Technical Report and Interchange Justification Report. The Interchange Justification Report is subject to approval by Federal Highway Administration.
The team is evaluating a scenario which includes the implementation of the extension of the 495 Express Lanes in Virginia prior to the widening of the American Legion Bridge. The preliminary analysis indicates that the extension of the Virginia Express Lanes helps move more people through the corridor, generates a reduction in cut-through traffic on local roads, and reduces delays on local street intersections. The complete findings of this assessment will be presented at the March 12, 2020 Public Hearing.
Virginia's 495 NEXT Project is being developed as an independent, stand-alone project that will be closely coordinated and compatible with plans for I-495 (the Capital Beltway) in Maryland. VDOT has been meeting with the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) on a routine basis. For more information regarding MDOT’s I-495 & I-270 Managed Lanes Study visit 495-270-p3.com.
Since launching the EA Study, VDOT’s project team has engaged and coordinated with key stakeholder groups including National Park Service, Fairfax County, the Fairfax County Park Authority and Maryland’s Department of Transportation. Close coordination with these groups is critical to VDOT’s planning and project development efforts. Additionally, the team has worked to inform surrounding residents and the general public through large public information meetings and smaller group briefings. A dedicated project website also was launched at 495NorthernExtension.org, providing easy access to project-specific information and updates, and opportunities to request and receive information from project staff.
VDOT has offered formal public participation opportunities through a Public Information held on June 11, 2018 and on May 20, 2019. Another formal public participation opportunity will take place with the March 2020 public hearing. Additionally, ongoing information and discussions between the project team and the public will be ongoing throughout the development of the project.
Comments from the public and key stakeholder groups are reviewed and addressed by VDOT’s project staff. Comments received following VDOT’s formal Public Information Meetings were addressed by subject matter, and responses were made available to the public. See Comment Report 1 for comments and responses from the first Public Information Meeting on June 11, 2018 and Comment Report 2 for comments and responses from the second Public Information Meeting on May 20, 2019. Transcripts of the discussion and question and answer sessions at these meetings also are available at 495NorthernExtension.org.
Additionally, we will continue to meet with citizens groups, public agencies and elected officials to present data and findings as they become available.
Currently, this segment of the I-495 corridor does not have stormwater management facilities. The 495 NEXT Project would introduce stormwater management as an added benefit to provide the water quality and runoff control that this corridor needs. If right of way needs to be acquired, property owners will be properly compensated. Due to the need for ongoing maintenance, stormwater management facilities are generally not located on private property.
The 495 Express Lanes Northern Extension would expand the Express Lanes network in Virginia that promotes carpooling and bus service to move more people by providing faster, more reliable travel in express lanes.
Additionally, a high-level joint transit needs study is being conducted by Virginia’s Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) and Maryland’s Transit Authority (MTA). This transit study is being conducted independent of the ongoing environmental studies in Virginia and Maryland. Study results are expected in 2020. The planned study area will include the northern I-495 corridor on both sides of the American Legion Bridge (Virginia and Maryland), but the limits of the study area are not yet determined. Regional stakeholders will be engaged in the study for input.
Previously, VDOT conducted an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the implementation of the 14-mile I-495 Express Lanes. This EIS included the study of Express Lanes improvements to the George Washington Memorial Parkway, and a Record of Decision by Federal Highway Administration was received in June 2006, leading the way for the 495 Express Lanes to be built and implemented. Reevaluations of this EIS were completed in November 2009, and again in November 2012 to include the Dulles Toll Road interchange.
In June 2014, an environmental study was completed prior to VDOT implementing a 1.5-mile shoulder lane use project on I-495 North from where the 495 Express Lanes terminate to the George Washington Memorial Parkway. This new shoulder lane opened to traffic in June 2015.
Capital Beltway Express (Transurban) is the current operator of the 495 Express Lanes. In January of 2019 VDOT and Transurban entered into a draft framework agreement to work towards amending the current Comprehensive Agreement to include an extension of the existing Express Lanes.
Transurban, in close coordination with VDOT, is developing preliminary design plans to support VDOT’s technical studies to complete the Environmental Assessment as well as additional independent studies to support the design. The preliminary design helps to define the project footprint. Their work includes geotechnical studies, surveys, preliminary design, drainage and stormwater design, and utility investigations. VDOT reviews and approves this work as it is developed.
Transurban will be responsible for final design, construction, operation and maintenance after an agreement has been signed with VDOT. In order to be ready to begin work, Transurban is beginning certain activities now, including a process to hire a design-build contractor responsible for the design and construction of the project. They have had meetings with potential bidders, and solicited qualifications statements from design-build teams. Following the selection of qualified teams, Transurban will issue a request for proposals. They plan to select the best design-build team based upon a combination of technical and price proposals. Throughout this process, VDOT is fully informed and engaged, and is provided an opportunity to review all materials. A design-builder is planned to be selected in late 2020. Once the project meets completion as agreed in the contract between VDOT and Transurban, Transurban will be responsible for the operations and maintenance of the project.
In public-private partnerships, it is the responsibility of the private partner to select the design-builder. VDOT, as owner, has the right and the responsibility to evaluate the proposed team to make sure that the private team design-builder is qualified to perform the work. This evaluation includes assessing the ability to finance, design, construct, operate and maintain the proposed project.
The design-build procurement process currently underway by Transurban is similar to the process used by VDOT on its projects and which was previously used by Transurban on both the 395 Express Lanes Extension project and the 95 Express Lanes Fredericksburg Extension project. The Federal Highway Administration reviewed these processes and provided their concurrence and/or approvals for these projects.
After the public hearing and approval of the environmental document, the design will continue to be refined through final design. The design-builder will have the opportunity to propose changes to the design. If any changes proposed are substantially different than the public hearing plans, or extend beyond the established project footprint, state and federal requirements will be followed, which may require additional public involvement and documentation. Changes within the established project footprint that are made as a function of further design development commonly do not require additional public involvement.
VDOT anticipates entering into an agreement with Transurban in 2021, following receipt and approval of a proposal from Transurban.