Another piece of the I-495 Northern Extension project (495 NEXT) has fallen into place.
Toll lanes operator Transurban has selected the Connecticut-based Lane Construction as the contractor that will design and build 2.5 miles of new express lanes from Tysons to the American Legion Bridge area in McLean, the Virginia Department of Transportation announced yesterday (Tuesday).
VDOT also said that it has executed a comprehensive agreement with Transurban, which operates the existing I-495 Express Lanes that currently stop just north of the Dulles Toll Road.
“This project is the latest extension of the Commonwealth’s 90+ mile express lane network planned for Northern Virginia,” Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine said in the press release. “Through 495 NEXT and the on-going investments in multimodal options, I believe we will unlock one of the most congested highways, significantly improve the region’s transportation network, and contribute to economic growth and opportunity.”
With an estimated cost of $600 million, approximately $440 million of which is for design and construction, 495 NEXT will add two express lanes in each direction as part of an agreement with Maryland aimed at relieving congestion on the Capital Beltway by adding more toll lanes and replacing and widening the American Legion Bridge.
Other elements of the project include:
- Funding for new bus service between Tysons and Montgomery County, including $5.2 million from the state to purchase the vehicles and a $2.2 million annual commitment from Transurban for operations
- Four miles of new bicycle and pedestrian connections, including a shared-use path parallel to I-495 from Lewinsville Road to near Live Oak Drive
- Replacement or rehabilitation of seven bridges with sidewalks, bicycle lanes, and crossings at Old Dominion Road, Georgetown Pike, Live Oak Drive, and Lewinsville Road
- Replacement of nine existing noise walls and the construction of a new noise wall along Live Oak Drive near the George Washington Memorial Parkway interchange
- New storm water management facilities along I-495 and funding for Scott’s Run stream restoration efforts
According to VDOT, the planned bus service across the American Legion Bridge “is projected to move more than 170,000 riders each year and remove 4.7 million passenger miles from the road, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by more than 1,650 metric tons each year.”
VDOT anticipates reaching a financial close for 495 NEXT in December with a final design and the start of construction coming in 2022, despite continued uncertainty about whether Maryland’s toll lanes project will get approved.
Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust, who represents the McLean area, has maintained that VDOT should wait until Maryland gets federal approvals for its project before starting construction on 495 NEXT.
“I believe 495 NEXT should not go forward unless and until Maryland gets approval for its project to increase capacity of the American Legion Bridge and to add lanes on the Maryland Beltway,” Foust said in a statement to Tysons Reporter. “I am disappointed that VDOT and the CTB have decided to go forward without waiting. However, given their decision to go forward, I’m glad they chose Transurban. I have worked with them in the past and I believe they are qualified to deliver the project.”
Initial results from Tysons Reporter’s extremely unscientific poll on the project show a roughly even split between people who completely oppose 495 NEXT and those who decidedly support it, with the former gaining a slight edge. Other respondents indicated that they could support the proposal but have reservations due to the timing or inclusion of amenities for forms of travel other than driving.
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