In a newsletter to constituents today, Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said a meeting in March will solicit community input on the American Legion Bridge.
Currently, the 495 Express Lanes Northern Extension project — a.k.a. 495 NEXT — would extend the 495 Express Lanes north from the I-495 and Dulles Access Road interchange up to the American Legion Bridge and add two new tolled express lanes in each direction.
The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is set to present the results of the 495 NEXT environmental study and traffic analysis on Thursday, March 12.
Foust’s newsletter said that “one of the biggest transportation challenges in the McLean area is the congestion caused by inadequate capacity on the American Legion Bridge and the Maryland side of the Beltway.”
More from the newsletter:
In early 2019, VDOT signed a nonbinding Development Framework Agreement with Transurban. Delivering the project through this public private partnership would mean that no public funding by the Commonwealth is needed to extend the Express Lanes network. If approved, the project will replace Live Oak Drive, Georgetown Pike, and Old Dominion Drive Bridges and allow for the installation of pedestrian/bike facilities along the corridor. Construction could begin as early as 2021.
Virginia officials have been cautious about moving forward with the project because without replacing the American Legion Bridge, bottlenecks and congestion will only be relocated, not resolved.
A major development occurred late last year when Virginia Governor Northam and Maryland Governor Hogan announced “The Capital Beltway Accord.” The agreement is a commitment to work together to create a new, unified Capital Beltway and replace the aging American Legion Bridge. The cost of the bridge project is expected to be $1 billion and both states will contribute to the cost through public-private partnerships. The private entity will pay the upfront costs in exchange for future toll revenue meaning toll payers rather than taxpayers will foot the bill.
The new bridge will have four express toll lanes, in addition to eight free lanes, as on the current span. The tolls will fluctuate based on congestion, rising to keep traffic flowing freely. Construction could begin in 2022 and would likely take five or six years.
The next key piece of the puzzle is ensuring that the widening of I-495 just over the bridge in Maryland is done in coordination with the bridge project. Governor Hogan recently obtained a key vote to advance a plan to widen the Beltway from the American Legion Bridge to the Interstate 270 spur, and along the lower part of I-270 between the Beltway and Interstate 370.
“I am excited that we are making progress on addressing congestion issues that have plagued our communities, but I want to be sure that the project is done in a way that actually addresses our problems, rather than just moving them,” Foust said in the newsletter.
At the March 12 meeting, attendees will be able to provide input during a public hearing.
The meeting is set to run from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Langley High School in McLean (6520 Georgetown Pike).