Governor Terry McAuliffe announced today that the 95 Express Lanes on I-95 in northern virginia are opening early and on budget. The new lanes will open on December 14 to drivers, who have an opportunity to enjoy them for free until tolling commences on December 29.
Governor McAuliffe also announced that he will offer legislation in the upcoming General Assembly session making key reforms to the process the state uses to procure projects under the Public-Private Transportation Act. This public-private partnership (P3) process allows the private sector to invest in and deliver highway projects such as the 95 Express Lanes.
“The 95 Express Lanes are an investment in Virginia’s economy,” Governor McAuliffe said. “Not only did the project create thousands of jobs during construction and put more than 500 businesses to work, the new infrastructure will also support future economic development and job growth in the region. The improved mobility and new access that will be provided by the project will help ensure that Virginia remains a great place to live and do business. My team and I are working every day to build a new Virginia economy, and this important project will help us advance that important goal.”
The 95 Express Lanes Project converted the existing high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes to high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes. The 95 Express Lanes will operate from I-95 near Garrisonville Road in Stafford County to the vicinity of Edsall Road on I-395 in Fairfax County (approximately 29 miles). Carpoolers and vehicles with three or more people ride the express lanes for free, while vehicles with one or two people pay a variable toll to ride the Express Lanes. All travelers can continue to travel the regular lanes for free. Between Dec. 14 and Dec. 29, existing rules will remain in effect during rush hours requiring three or more occupants for a vehicle to use the express lanes for free.
Construction of the 95 Express Lanes supported nearly 12,600 jobs and generated nearly $1.54 billion of economic impact state-wide. The project also exceeded its Disadvantaged Business Enterprise and Small, Women-owned, and Minority-owned Business goals and created nearly $200 million in contracts to more than 180 small and disadvantaged businesses.
“The 95 Express Lanes will provide faster, more predictable travel on I-95 in Northern Virginia,” said Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne. “The project will also provide drivers with a seamless connection to the 495 Express Lanes and into Tysons – creating a regional HOV network and connecting major employment centers.”
The 95 Express Lanes are being delivered through a public-private partnership between the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration, and Transurban. Fluor-Lane 95 LLC constructed the lanes.
The partnership with private partner Transurban enabled the Commonwealth to leverage private-sector expertise and use innovative financing tools. The success of the project was aided by the Virginia State Police and local law enforcement, as well as state and local elected officials.
Governor McAuliffe continued, “The 95 Express Lanes project is a model of how P3 projects should be done. Transurban shared in the risk, bringing private capital to the table and putting the money to work for motorists and ultimately Virginia’s economy. I want to congratulate Transurban and thank them for completing this project early and on budget.
“The P3 process is critical to delivering certain transportation projects such as the 95 and 495 Express Lanes. Without the ability to partner with the private sector and leverage their capital and resources, Express Lanes would not have been built. As we celebrate the opening of this new facility, we must also work together to ensure that every single P3 project is negotiated in a way that puts taxpayers first.”
Governor McAuliffe will introduce legislation to reform the P3 process. The reforms will increase transparency, minimize risk for taxpayers and draw clear lines of accountability.
The sponsor of the legislation, Delegate Chris Jones, Suffolk, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said,“”Public-private partnership projects are an important and valuable tool that can help our Commonwealth build and maintain a 21st century transportation network. However, we have an obligation to act as responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars. I believe the P3 system must be reformed to strengthen accountability and improve transparency. The reforms proposed are a step toward accomplishing that goal without jeopardizing the ability of Virginia to execute P3 projects. Our first responsibility must always be Virginia taxpayers.”
The Governor and Chairman Jones’ P3 reform legislation will require the following:
- Lawmakers will be informed and involved early in the P3 process. Staff from the House and Senate transportation committees will be on the P3 steering committee to determine if a project meets the criteria for a P3. This will increase transparency and reduce political risk and uncertainty.
- Risk to taxpayers will be minimized. The intent of P3 projects is for the private sector to make the appropriate investment with the expectation of getting a reasonable return. This legislation will put in place new procedures for high risk projects that will shield the public from unexpected liabilities.
- Clear lines of accountability will be established. The Secretary of Transportation will be required to sign a document attesting that the project qualifies as a P3 project, meaning risk has been transferred to the private sector and that the original purpose of the procurement has not changed.
“This legislation is good government,” said Secretary Layne. “There will be no way to duck responsibility for transportation decisions. It will protect taxpayers from undue risk, while using the P3 process in the right way to deliver projects, like the 95 Express Lanes, that move Virginia’s economy.”
95 Express Lanes Background
Key project benefits of the 95 Express Lanes project include:
- An expanded system from two to three lanes for 14 miles between Prince William Parkway to the vicinity of Edsall Road on I-395
- Improvement of the existing HOV system for six miles from Route 234 to the Prince William Parkway
- A nine-mile extension from Dumfries to Garrisonville Road in Stafford County to alleviate the bottleneck where the HOV lanes end today
- Improved system performance through enhanced enforcement and incident response
- New access points offering more direct connections
The 95 Express Lanes will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Dynamic pricing based on real-time traffic conditions will manage the demand for the lanes, keeping the Express Lanes moving. All drivers will need an E-ZPass® to use the Express Lanes – there are no toll booths or options to pay cash. Carpoolers traveling HOV-3+ will need an E-ZPass® FlexSMto ensure a toll-free trip on the Express Lanes. Other drivers may pay a toll for a faster, more predictable trip.
Project construction began in August 2012. VDOT owns and oversees all aspects of the Express Lanes while Transurban (USA) Operations Inc. will operate the lanes through a concession agreement. The nearly $1 billion 95 Express Lanes are funded through a contribution from the Commonwealth, private equity, private activity bonds and a federal loan through the government’s TIFIA program.
For more information, visit 95ExpressLanes.com.