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 present findings from its Environmental Assessment, and preliminary design plans on the 495 NEXT Project, for public input at a virtual public hearing on Monday, October 5, from 7-9:30 p.m., and at an in-person (by appointment only) hearing at the McLean Community Center on Thursday, October 8, from 4-8 p.m. Learn more >>
NOTE: This is the rescheduled Location and Design Public Hearing previously scheduled for March 12, 2020. The public comment period has remained open during the interim and all previously-submitted comments will be included as part of this hearing.
PUBLIC HEARING DETAILS
The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will hold a Location and Design Public Hearing to present the environmental assessment and draft design plans to extend the 495 Express Lanes by approximately three miles from the Dulles Toll Road interchange to the George Washington Memorial Parkway in the vicinity of the American Legion Bridge to reduce congestion, improve safety and travel reliability, and provide additional travel choices. This project will involve a change in limited access control.
Virtual Location & Design Public Hearing
Monday, October 5, 2020
7 – 9:30 p.m.
In-Person, By-Appointment-Only Location & Design Public Hearing
Thursday, October 8, 2020
4 – 8 p.m.
McLean Community Center
1234 Ingleside Avenue, McLean, VA 22101
Virtual Question and Answer Sessions – September 28 and 30, 2020
VDOT will hold virtual question and answer sessions prior to the October public hearings. Each session has its own unique log-in information. Get details and links to participate:
In compliance with federal regulations, the draft Environmental Assessment were made available to the public on February 26, 2020, which is a minimum of 15 days prior to the originially-scheduled public hearing on March 12, 2020. These documents are 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 Community Center
1234 Ingleside Avenue
McLean, VA 22101
Fairfax County Department of Transportation
4050 Legato Road, 4th Floor
Fairfax, VA 22033
Dolley Madison Library
1244 Oak Ridge Avenue
McLean, VA 22101
Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library
7584 Leesburg Pike
Falls Church, VA 22043
Great Falls Library
9830 Georgetown Pike
Great Falls, VA 22066
Public comments on the environmental assessment and proposed design can be submitted the following ways:
Comments must be received or postmarked by October 23, 2020, to be included in the hearing report. All comments submitted for the postponed March 12, 2020, hearing and since then will automatically be included in the hearing report and do not need to be resubmitted.
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.
Find documents from some previous studies here.
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.
The purpose of the project is to:
The project elements address the Purpose and Need by:
Reducing congestion - The proposed project is anticipated to reduce congestion compared with the Existing and 2045 No-Build scenarios in three ways by: optimizing traffic volumes and travel demand on I-495, improving traffic operations, and increasing the number of persons moved.
Providing additional travel choices - The proposed Express Lanes provide an alternative travel option for transit buses, HOV vehicles and van pools, or those wishing to pay a toll, and these options are shown to be utilized when provided.
Improving travel reliability - The proposed Express Lanes would offer consistent and predictable travel times for Express Lanes users including HOV motorists and transit buses.
NEPA, which stands for the National Environmental Policy Act, requires federal agencies to assess the environmental effects of their proposed actions prior to making decisions. A NEPA study – in this case, an Environmental Assessment (EA) – was prepared for the I-495 NEXT project in compliance with federal law and regulations. The EA was prepared in order to allow the Federal Highway Administration and VDOT to study the proposed action in the Build Alternative and a No-Build Alternative, and to make informed decisions about the impacts of each alternative on the natural and man-made environment.
In addition to the Environmental Assessment (EA) which summarizes the study results, the following detailed technical reports are available for review:
The EA and supporting technical reports are posted on the project website the following location: http://www.495northernextension.org/public_meetings/march_12_2020_ld_public_hearing.asp
The environmental study process, also referred to as the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process, will be completed when FHWA issues a NEPA decision document. The Environmental Assessment (EA) was approved for public availability by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) on February 24, 2020. Following the Public Hearing and receipt of public and agency comment, VDOT will work with FHWA to respond to substantive public comments and complete any additional analyses that are deemed necessary for the NEPA process. Following that effort, VDOT will request a NEPA decision from FHWA. Presuming the results of these efforts do not identify any significant impacts, VDOT would anticipate requesting and receiving a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) from FHWA. The FONSI will document FHWA’s selected action and document the absence of significant impacts. The issuance of the FONSI will complete the study process. Should significant impacts be identified, FHWA and VDOT would need to initiate an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to complete the environmental study process.
The Public Hearing provides FHWA and VDOT with an opportunity to present the results of the EA, discuss these results with the public, and seek public comment on the EA and associated analyses. Substantive comments received during the public comment period and at the public hearing will be addressed by VDOT before requesting a NEPA decision from FHWA. Both VDOT and FHWA must consider these comments to determine if additional analyses are required before such a request can be made and/or if the comments identify any impacts that have not been considered already in the EA. Should the comments received not identify any significant impacts, VDOT would anticipate requesting a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) from FHWA.
The I-495 NEXT project provides the following benefits as a stand-alone project:
The following scenarios for the I-495 NEXT project in Virginia were studied:
Yes, the bottleneck at the American Legion Bridge was considered and included as part of the traffic study area for the Existing Conditions and 2025 Future Conditions – without Maryland’s I-495 project.
Without Maryland’s I-495 project built, the I-495 NEXT project improvements will move up to 2,500 more people per hour in both directions combined, and will better accommodate future travel demand. The study team also compared the travel time reliability for the General Purpose lanes and the Express Lanes prior to Maryland’s project being in place, and with Maryland’s project built.
The new ramp connections that are proposed as part of the VDOT project are:
These ramps are shown on page 5 of the Design Boards on the project website: http://www.495northernextension.org/documents/pim032020/design_boards.pdf. The new ramp connections that are proposed as part of the Maryland project are:
These ramps, along with ramps (1) and (2), are shown on page 10 of the Design Boards on the project website: http://www.495northernextension.org/documents/pim032020/design_boards.pdf
Traffic volumes at the I-495/George Washington Memorial Parkway are projected to grow in the future, given the planned regional land use. However, traffic volumes along the George Washington Memorial Parkway, and the total volume between I-495 and the George Washington Memorial Parkway, are projected to remain generally consistent between No-Build and Build conditions. Congestion on the westbound (outbound) George Washington Memorial Parkway is projected to decrease with the project in place given the improved operations along I-495.
The table below summarizes volumes in each direction along the George Washington Memorial Parkway for existing, 2045 No-Build, and 2045 Build conditions. These volumes reflect the freeway volume diagrams provided in Chapter 4 (Existing Traffic Operational Conditions) and Chapter 7 (Future Scenarios Operational Conditions) of the Traffic and Transportation Technical Report: http://www.495northernextension.org/documents/pim032020/i-495_next_11_traffic_transportation_technical_report_without_appendices.pdf
The following interchanges were included in the traffic operations and safety analysis:
These intersections are shown in Figure 2-3 (page 2-8) in the Traffic and Transportation Technical Report:
Currently and in future No-Build conditions, heavy congestion on I-495 results in travelers diverting onto parallel roads and local streets. By increasing the person-carrying capacity of I-495 and by providing a reliable travel option using the Express Lanes, drivers will have less incentive to use local cut-through routes. Traffic models project a reduction in traffic volume and a reduction in travel delay on the local street network, most notably along Georgetown Pike, with the project in place. The table below summarizes the impacts to traffic operations at the Georgetown Pike intersections.
Further details on future arterial intersection operations can be found in Chapter 7 of the Traffic and Transportation Technical Report:
Table 1, above, shows that in 2025 with the Maryland Managed Lanes (the Maryland project) in place, as compared against No-Build conditions, there is projected to be an increase in the number of intersections operating at better levels of service (LOS A through D (60% vs. 47%), and a reduction in the number of intersections operating at LOS E (10% vs. 17%) and LOS F (30% vs. 37%). In addition, the number of vehicles traversing the Georgetown Pike intersections is projected to be reduced by 14% during the PM peak period. This reduction in volumes is projected to generate a 44% reduction in intersection delay during the PM peak period.
This was analyzed as one of the 2025 scenarios. Our study shows that the impacts on local roads are:
Table 1, above, shows that in 2025 prior to the Maryland Managed Lanes (the Maryland project) in place, as compared against No-Build conditions, there is a projected increase in the number of intersections operating at LOS A through D (57% vs. 53%) and a reduction in the number of intersections operating at LOS F (27% vs. 30%). In addition, the number of vehicles traversing the Georgetown Pike intersections is projected to be reduced by 9% during the PM peak period. This reduction in volumes is projected to generate a 40% reduction in intersection delay during the PM peak period.
Heading northbound, the new managed lanes would transition on the left side of the northbound General Purpose lanes by merging to a single lane south of the George Washington Memorial Parkway, and then join back with the GP lanes on the left hand side and merge back down to the same number of lanes as today just prior to the bridge. In the southbound direction, the lanes would be gradually developed on the left hand side of the 5 existing General Purpose (GP) lanes, with the existing lanes shifting outwards to make room in the middle for the new lanes, between the American Legion Bridge and the GW Parkway. The lanes would be added in a similar manner to the current entrance to the I-495 Express Lanes in the southbound direction, which currently start just south of Old Dominion Drive overpass.
This is not currently a scenario under study. This transition would be the responsibility of Maryland, and would be coordinated with Virginia.
If neither Virginia nor Maryland constructed either of the projects on I-495, traffic conditions would be no better than the existing conditions that were prevalent prior to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Due to future changes in land use in the region, and anticipated growth in corresponding traffic, traffic conditions are anticipated to get worse over time. As a consequence, lengthier rush hours, slower speeds, longer delays, more severe congestion, and increasing cut-through traffic would be more pronounced than today.
The impacts to other regional roadways were considered as part of the traffic forecast modeling. Overall, the project would reduce congestion on the interstate system, especially upstream on I-495 northbound. The project would also form a seamless network of managed lanes between the American Legion Bridge, the Dulles Toll Road Connector, and the I-66 Inside the Beltway Express Lanes. The traffic forecast models indicate that this connection would incentivize some drivers to use the I-495 Express Lanes / Dulles Toll Road Connector / I-66 Inside the Beltway Express Lanes to get to and from points east in Arlington and Washington DC, instead of using the George Washington Memorial Parkway as a result of travel time reliability.
Project capacity and interchange ramp projects along the Dulles Toll Road and Dulles Airport Access Road were included in the future traffic model networks, as well as proposed transportation projects in the Tysons area. The Maryland I-495 and I-270 projects were also included since they are included in the CLRP.
The FHWA-approved methodology for traffic forecast modeling and VDOT policy requires that projects in the CLRP be included in the analysis. The projects included in the CLRP are developed by the local jurisdictions in coordination with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG).
During construction, traffic delays and congestion will likely increase due to narrowing of lanes, temporary or long-term lane closures, and detours. Maintenance of Traffic plans and a Transportation Management Plan will be developed later in the detailed engineering phases of the project. These plans will include measures to mitigate traffic impacts during construction, as well as recommended travel-demand management strategies.
Future detailed engineering design will address construction impacts, following completion of the NEPA process. VDOT will coordinate with Maryland during the development of a project-level construction Transportation Management Plan specifically for I-495 NEXT, as well as a more comprehensive regional Transportation Management Plan. These plans will address overlapping project construction impacts not only between the two I-495 projects in Virginia and Maryland, but also with locality construction efforts, such as Fairfax and Montgomery County transportation projects.
The benefits of the 495 NEXT project would include the following:
1. The region:
2. Drivers using the American Legion Bridge
3. Drivers using the George Washington Memorial Parkway
4. Local roads and neighborhoods
VDOT performed a preliminary noise technical analysis to assess the preliminary potential impacts associated with road noise as a result of the project. The study was completed per the Federal Noise Regulations and State Noise Policy. The study and appendices are located here on the project website:
The results of the preliminary noise study indicate that three of the existing nine noise walls may be extended to mitigate anticipated noise impacts. A few example locations are shown in the graphic below.
The neighborhoods on the east side of I-495 have noise barriers today, and they would continue to have noise barriers in the future under the Build alternative.
Noise barriers may have to be relocated and reconstructed in areas where I-495 widening impacts the existing noise walls. A total of nine existing noise walls would be replaced at the same elevation or higher.
One location along Live Oak Drive between Rivercrest Drive and the large curve on Live Oak Drive (in the vicinity of the George Washington Memorial Parkway interchange ramps) qualifies for a new noise wall based upon the preliminary study, as shown in the below image and the roll plots on the project website:
However, information presented in the preliminary noise study is considered preliminary in nature. The final determination of noise barriers will be made at the conclusion of the final noise study. The final noise study will be completed in conjunction with advancing the project design and submitted to FHWA for their final review and approval.
Highway noise is mitigated with construction of a noise wall between the affected property and the adjacent highway or ramp. A noise wall is considered for construction if it is found to meet all the required criteria.
The noise technical report posted on the project website identifies properties that may qualify for a noise wall as a result of the proposed project and based upon the preliminary noise study:
The locations of proposed noise walls are shown graphically here:
Any property that is currently protected by a noise wall will have a noise wall in the future. The top of any new noise wall, if relocation is required, will be at least the same elevation as the existing noise wall.
In January 2019, VDOT entered into a Project Development Framework Agreement for 495 NEXT with Capital Beltway Express (the current operator of the 495 Express Lanes) as the developer, as an amendment to the existing 495 Comprehensive Agreement.
After the required regulatory approvals for the 495 NEXT project are received, Transurban would submit a binding proposal to deliver the project for VDOT’s consideration. If the proposal is acceptable to VDOT, CBE would then be responsible for design, construction, finance, operations and maintenance of the Express Lanes. VDOT continues to be responsible for regulatory approvals, project oversight, and agency coordination.
The next steps in the study would be to hold the Public Hearing, receive public and agency comments following the Public Hearing, then receive the Federal Highway Administration NEPA decision. In a parallel path, CBE will be advancing their technical and financial proposal for submission to VDOT.
Construction is anticipated to take approximately 3 years. A schedule will be established following the Public Hearing and NEPA decision.
To date, Two Public Information Meetings have been held at Cooper Middle School, in McLean, Virginia on June 11, 2018 and May 20, 2019. In addition, VDOT has attended meetings with several HOAs, citizen associations, and advocacy groups, as well as met with numerous coordinating agencies or regulatory agencies, local/state elected officials, and regular meetings of the 495 NEXT Stakeholder Technical Advisory Group.
The 2018 conditions evaluated in the study are representative of typical conditions in the corridor. The current traffic conditions are anticipated to be temporary. As we move into Phase III of Virginia’s reopening, traffic throughout the Commonwealth is beginning to approach pre-COVID levels. Moreover, the analysis of future conditions is based on 2025 and 2045 models. We used the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) models to forecast future traffic. This regional model is the best tool available to assess traffic operations in the future. Also, FHWA requires that we use the MWCOG model.