I-495 Capital Beltway express lanes losing money, saving time for some

EZ Pass Express Lanes VMS in Tysons
Recently, I overheard somebody praising the new Transurban I-495 EZ Pass Express Lanes (also known as HOT Lanes for High Occupancy or Toll) because “they respond to the marketplace in real time” or something along those lines. Overall though, the marketplace response seems to be “not interested.”

Over the first few months of operation, the EZ Pass Express Lanes have confused drivers and underperformed on the ledger.


I-495 Express Lanes Is Not Inviting To Some Drivers, According To SurveyWUSA-TV

Tolls are priced according to traffic volume (WTOP) – less cars means a lower toll to incentivize drivers to choose them and vice-versa. So far, I have only seen a few times that the toll between Tysons and Springfield topped $3. It isn’t unusual for the toll to be under $2, even during the evening rush hour.

Overall, I have been a skeptic of the whole operation — if this is such a good idea, why can’t the commonwealth of Virginia do it on its own instead of outsourcing it to foreign interests? Also, these lanes do not address the primary problem — traffic between Fairfax County, Va. and Montgomery County, Md. via the American Legion Bridge. That’s on Maryland and perhaps the state will re-evaluate its position. In that circumstance, I could see the EZ Pass Express Lanes being more successful. Most troubling is Transurban, the operator of the lanes, retains veto power over the expansion of “free” Beltway lanes. I don’t expect that to be an issue any time soon, but it isn’t good. The lack of political will to fund American transportation infrastructure is at the root of these set-ups.

I also have concern about snow removal in the EZ Pass Express Lanes, but we never get snow anymore.

On the positive side,OmniRide Tysons Express commuters are enjoying a ride that is 20 minutes shorter.

The EZ Pass Express Lanes also resulted in the reconstruction of all lanes between Springfield and Tysons which was needed. New pavement, signs and the removal of a mainline left exit ramp from the Inner Loop (I-495 north) to I-66 west are certainly welcome. That would not have happened for for some time and probably not all at once. Although I stopped driving on the Beltway daily during the construction, it was not nearly as disruptive as I thought it would be. If I were still driving that route to work, I would probably utilize the lanes from time to time, because what’s a $2 toll versus daycare late fees or getting home 15 minutes earlier in free-flowing traffic? That would certainly be a consideration.

 More EZ Pass Lanes lanes are under construction on the Shirley Highway corridor (The Post), from Garrisonville Road in Stafford County to just past Edsall Road in Fairfax County, just south of the city of Alexandria. All but the last mile or so is part of I-95, the portion north of the Springfield interchange is I-395. That will tie in well with the Beltway lanes, but probably be disruptive of the successful HOV corridor along Shirley Highway.

Just a few months is a short evaluation time for any transportation project, but I think it is fair to suggest that Transurban and Virginia have not shown that high occupancy toll lanes are silver bullet solution to traffic relief.

Interstate 95 & 395 shields courtesy of Shields Up!

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Nats: In case you haven’t read the Bryce Harper Sports Illustrated cover story yet…

I finally found the Sports Illustrated cover story on Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper by Tom Verducci. Here it is:

Washington’s Monument
“O.K., BRYCE HARPER, AS A ROOKIE YOU PUT UP THE BEST SEASON BY A TEENAGER IN HISTORY. GUESS WHAT? IT’S TIME FOR YOU—AND THE REST OF LAST YEAR’S SMASHING ROOKIE CLASS—TO DO IT AGAIN. NOW ABOUT THAT SOPHOMORE JINX …”

Sophomore jinx? More like SI cover jinx.

Speaking of the cover, D.C. Sports Bog interviewed the photographer who took the Harper cover photo at the Lincoln Memorial. In short — it was really cold and Harper didn’t complain.

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Crooked Run, a Leesburg nano-brewery, is on Kickstarter

Young brewmaster set to open businessLoudoun Times
Breweries keep popping up across the greater BeltwayLand and its exurbs. The latest is Crooked Run Brewing Co. in Leesburg by 25 year-old Jake Endres.

Here is more from theCrooked Run About page:

A nano-brewery is a very small brewery, even smaller than a micro. The idea behind Crooked Run is to revive the concept of a farmhouse brewery. I’ve been a homebrewer for the last five years and have won several medals for my beers. In addition to brewing, I grow my own hops, barley, and fruit which I use to make unique ales brewed with traditional methods and ingredients.

Crooked Run is on Kickstarter, trying to raise $10,000 by March 7. He had reached $6,800 as of Feb. 21.

Here are some details about the proposed tasting room:

The location of the brewery and tasting room will be at 205 Harrison Street, Leesburg, VA 20175. The location is in Market Station, a hub of great restaurants and drinking establishments located in historic downtown Leesburg. The brewery and tasting room will feature seating for 26, a cozy fireplace, heated outdoor seating for 12, and a hops garden.

Looks like a lot of fun and great addition to Leesburg which needs something besides antique shops in the center of town, right?

Loudoun has everything these days — wineries, breweries and even distilleries. Maybe the next start-up needs to be a transportation service that gets visitors back and forth to these places safely. Hmmmm….

H/T Va. man becomes the state’s youngest brewery ownerWTOP

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Ground broken on interchanges to replace Garden State Parkway traffic signals

Garden State Parkway traffic signal
Garden State Parkway lights set for removal in Cape May CountyCourier-News (Cherry Hill, N.J.)
It will be about 60 years too late, but three intersections on the southern Garden State Parkway will finally have their traffic signals removed. From the Governor’s press release (PDF):

The project will replace the traffic signals at three at – grade intersections with full interchanges. Bridges will be built to carry the Parkway over Shell Bay Avenue (Interchange 9), Stone Harbor Boulevard (Interchange 10) and Crest Haven Road (Interchange 11). Ramps will provide continued full access between the Parkway and the local roads at all three interchanges. Drivers on the Garden State Parkway will no longer have to stop to let local traffic pass, and drivers on the local roads will no longer have to wait at a busy intersection to get to the other side of the Parkway.

The project is expected to cost $110 million and take about 2 years. It had been delayed until now in February 2012.

I was previously unaware that this stretch of road predates the Parkway; it was incorporated in during the original 1954 construction.

Also, note to NJ101.5, don’t steal my photos.

PREVIOUSLY: Traffic light removal on Garden State Parkway delayed – 02.22.2012

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