VDOT News - Northern Virginia
Michelle Holland 703-586-0487
July 9, 2021
VDOT Receives Approvals from Federal Partners on Environmental and Traffic Studies for 495 NEXT Project
Milestone enables project to move forward to design and construction, providing multimodal solutions and relief to Virginia’s northern Capital Beltway stretch
FAIRFAX – The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) announced today it received a “Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI),” from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and National Park Service (NPS) on its environmental assessment for the I-495 Express Lanes Northern Extension (495 NEXT) project. This approval enables the project to advance into the design and construction phase. Additionally, VDOT received approval from FHWA on the project’s interchange justification report, a traffic study that includes analysis of traffic impacts and benefits associated with the 495 NEXT project.
“This is an essential step toward bringing relief and multimodal solutions to a section of I-495 that faces daily congestion and unreliability,” said Rob Cary, VDOT’s Deputy Commissioner. “We are appreciative of the collaboration and partnership from our federal partners, as we work together to implement the best possible solutions to improve travel on the Capital Beltway and in our region.”
VDOT’s environmental assessment (EA) kicked off in April 2018 to find solutions that would reduce congestion, provide additional travel choices, improve travel reliability and enhance safety on the northernmost section of I-495 in Virginia. The EA evaluated site-specific conditions and potential effects that a proposed express lanes extension would have on the natural and human environment. Guided by technical study and analysis, and public input, the recommended project was determined to have no significant impact on the environment. The 495 NEXT project includes the following improvements and features:
- Three-mile extension of the 495 Express Lanes from near the Dulles Toll Road and I-495 interchange to the George Washington Memorial Parkway in the vicinity of the American Legion Bridge with additional express lanes access at the Dulles Toll and Dulles Access Road interchange, and the George Washington Memorial Parkway interchange.
- New bridges to replace existing I-495 crossings at Old Dominion Drive, Georgetown Pike and Live Oak Drive with sidewalks and trail crossings for bicyclists and pedestrians.
- More than two miles of new and improved bicycle and pedestrian facilities including a shared-use path parallel to I-495 spanning from Lewinsville Road to Live Oak Drive, with accommodations for extensions to tie into future improvements when pedestrian facilities can be added to the American Legion Bridge.
- Replacement of nine existing noise walls, and construction of a new noise wall along Live Oak Drive in the vicinity of the George Washington Memorial Parkway interchange.
- Improved stormwater management features that will improve the quality and quantity of water leaving the I-495 Beltway in the area of the project to include new outfalls and stream bank stabilization at Scotts Run, and a funding commitment from VDOT’s private project partner for Fairfax County’s planned stream restoration, which will restore approximately 3,000 linear feet of the stream.
The 495 NEXT project, which provides new opportunities and greater incentives for buses, carpools, and other transit use, by providing more reliable travel, is projected to help move 2,500 more people per hour in both directions combined through the busy I-495 corridor. The extended express lanes are expected to cut travel times for all express lanes travelers by 24 minutes during peak commute times.
The project also will provide dedicated funding to support transit in the corridor, including a commitment of $5.2 million for initial purchases of buses, and an annual amount of $2.2 million for bus service operations. Transit improvements supported by this funding will be based on recommendations from a joint Virginia and Maryland Transit and Transportation Demand Management Study completed in March 2021, with a focus on bi-state commuter bus service.
VDOT is working with Transurban, private partner to the Commonwealth on the existing 495 Express Lanes, under a Framework Agreement signed in January 2019 on the 495 NEXT project, with the goal of having no public funding from the Commonwealth needed for the initiative. VDOT and Transurban are nearing completion of a final project agreement where Transurban will be responsible for the project’s financing, design, construction and maintenance of the extended express lanes.
Construction on the 495 NEXT project is expected to begin in 2022, with the express lanes extension opening in 2025.
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