Fast and Furious

The Fast and the Furious, starring Vin Diesel as Sean Connaughton, Paul Walker as Tony Kinn and Jordana Brewster as Thelma Drake.

by James A. Bacon

The public-private partnership deals are coming fast and furious. The McDonnell administration announced a new one today, a $940 million agreement in principle with Fluor-Transurban to build, operate and maintain a 29-mile HOT/HOV lane project on Interstate 95 from the Springfield Bypass to Stafford County.

“With HOT lanes on both the Beltway and I-95, we will create a region-wide network of managed lanes that will enable travelers to get to and from some of Virginia’s most employment centers and military sites,” said Transportation Secretary Sean T. Connaughton in a prepared statement.

Highlights of the project include:

  • Expansion of HOT/HOV capacity from two lanes to three for 14 miles in the northern leg, improvements to six miles in the middle leg, and extending the HOV/HOT lanes for nine miles into Stafford County, “alleviating the worst bottleneck in the region.”
  • Establishing a seamless connection with the Interstate 495 HOT lanes now under construction.
  • Free access for High Occupancy Vehicles.
  • Investment of $200 million into the expansion of regional bus services, including construction of more than 3,000 new park-and-ride spaces. A Department of Rail and Public Transportation study recommended a total of 9,575 park-and-ride spaces, 46 more buses, off-site parking, shuttle services at the Franconia-Springfield Metrorail station and other intermodal features.

The project will generate revenue by charging single-occupancy vehicles for using the HOT lane; traffic volume will be regulated to ensure minimum travel speeds. The price will vary according by time of day, fluctuating with demand.

The commonwealth will contribute $97 million to the project. Fluor-Transurban will pay for the rest. The consortium will have a 73-year franchise.

The statement provided no details on what toll rates are expected. Connaughton undoubtedly will provide details in a media briefing this afternoon, but I will be on the road to Norfolk, where I will attend the Virginia Transportation Conference tomorrow. Although I-95 HOT lanes are not on the schedule of events, I would be surprised if the topic doesn’t come up for discussion.

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4 responses to “Fast and Furious”

  1. Slug riders are worried that tolls on the HIV lane will allow more vehicles to use them. This will increase congestion and reduce the time savings that make slugging worth while

    What happens to the hot lane when all those slugs start driving?

  2. there are a couple of things that are more or less unique to HOT in the DC area.

    1. – there are sluggers… but I’m not clear on how widespread it is.

    is it distributed more or less evenly throughout the DC/Md/Va region?

    if it is – then we have benchmarks for comparison.

    if it is not and is primarily on the I-95 corridor… we’ll also have before/after data.

    in theory, if the HOT Lanes will guarantee 45 mph – and HOV has guaranteed access..then the tolls are going to rise higher and higher the more capacity that is used by HOV.

    the question not answered is .. if HOV gets LARGER and LARGER will it affect profitability and the ability to pay debt and operating costs?

    It’s hard for me to imagine that someone who takes the time and effort to slug is going to flip 180 degrees and pay through the nose to commute solo but we’ll see.

    if that happens.. it appears to me that it means higher solo tolls – and less problematic for profits/operational costs.

    2. – a unique transponder that has a “switch” for whether you are driving solo or HOV.

    I do not think any other HOT lane in the country uses this yet.

    it’s a manual device… that can be left in the wrong position. For instance, not only could it be left in the HOV position when driving SOLO, the reverse could happen.. it’s set to SOLO when operating HOV.

    so that part sounds pretty problematic when you’re looking at rush hours with thousands of matter how many enforcement people are present.

    and know this.

    there are different ways to do HOT lanes and one of the best ways is to add dedicated entrance/exit ramps so that HOT traffic does not have to come back to mainline traffic.

    The HOT lanes in the Washington area are being done this way.

    The HOT lanes just opened up in Atlanta do not. When HOT lane traffic needs to exit – it must come out of the HOT lanes and weave itself across 3 or more lanes of mainline to get the exit. … and it’s already causing trouble because it causes slowdowns on the mainline, not to mention a hazard.

  3. The agreements between VDOT and the HOT Lanes operator requires the latter to maintain certain traffic speeds on the HOT Lanes. As more vehicles (paying or exempt (such as car pools, van pools and buses)) enter the HOT Lanes and start slowing traffic speed, the tolls will rise, causing fewer drivers to switch to the tolled lanes. Drivers already on those lanes will not see any change in price. The fears of the slug participants is not warranted.
    Larry’s concern about traffic problems at the end of the HOT Lanes is well taken.

  4. the other thing to keep in mind about the HOT lanes is that virtually every bridge and overpass is being rebuilt and lengthened to allow more lanes underneath – and it’s being done not only in a relatively fast timeframe but will be paid for primarily with tolls… with minimal tax dollars.

    in other words, the improvements are being paid for by the people who will benefit from the improvements and some folks will get the improvements free if they carpool or ride mass transit.

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