A 13-mile stretch of westbound Express Lanes from Route 28 in Centreville to the Capital Beltway opened Nov. 19, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and I-66 Express Mobility Partners (EMP), the Commonwealth’s private partner and operator of the new 66 Express lanes.

The eastbound direction of this same 13-mile section of Express Lanes could open as soon as this week. Updates will be provided to the public as final construction progresses. All work is weather dependent, and inclement conditions could affect the final opening schedule. 

With the opening of the lanes, congestion should ease since cars will have the option of using the Express Lanes, according to Tom Biesiadny, director of the Fairfax County Department of Transportation. “In the past drivers either traveled in single-occupancy vehicles in the general-purpose lanes or carpooled or vanpooled in HOV Lanes,” he said. “Now drivers can pay a toll to ride in the Express Lanes or rideshare with at least three people for free.”

Drivers should be aware of the change from HOV-2 to HOV-3, which will go into effect Dec. 5, according to Michelle T. Holland, VDOT Megaprojects Communications manager. Vehicles will need to have three or more occupants with an EZ Pass Flex set to HOV mode to use the Express Lanes without a toll.

According to Holland, the change supports the National Capital Region’s Transportation Planning Board’s policy to change to HOV-3 throughout the region with the goal of moving more people with fewer vehicles and comply with the federal Clean Air Act Amendment. The change was formally approve by the state’s transportation board in 2016.

Motorists can choose to use the 66 Express Lanes, which are adjacent to general purpose lanes on I-66, by paying a toll. Toll prices are dynamic, and fluctuate depending on traffic volumes and speed in order to manage demand for the lanes and keep traffic flowing. 

In addition, two ramps will now be for Express Lanes only – Stringfellow Road and Monument Drive. Biesiadny said that improvements to the entrance ramps have created wider and safer travel lanes for vehicles and buses. Also, Monument drive will have new access to and from the west that did not exist prior to the Express Lanes project, said Holland.

“People can still use the lanes,” he said. “They will just have to pay the toll or rideshare with at least three people and have an EZPass Flex transponder.”

Tolls from using the express lanes will repay bonds which provided funding for projects like interchanges, intersection improvements, pedestrian connections and walkways as well as the Monument Garage which is now under construction, according to Biesiadny. He said tolls will also fund a future new bus route along the corridor.

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