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Regional Boards => Mid-Atlantic => Topic started by: mtantillo on August 14, 2012, 11:02:35 PM

Title: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mtantillo on August 14, 2012, 11:02:35 PM
So we're getting really close to the opening of the I-495 HOT Lanes, and we just broke ground on the I-95 HOT Lanes.  Here are some of my thoughts about how useful these will actually be...

I-495:

I think these will work relatively well for people staying in Virginia.  Some extra capacity was badly needed between Springfield and Tysons Corner.  I think a significant benefit will come just to those who use the Tysons Corner interchanges.  Today, it can take 15+ minutes just to drive the length of the entrance/exit ramps during peak times, and having "artificially" uncongested interchanges (due to tolls/occupancy requirements) on the HOT lanes will be a huge benefit to those who choose to use the lanes.  I see some minor operational issues at the south end, just because you have so many lanes converging and diverging there, and during rush hours for the first couple years, toll payers will have to exit into the regular lanes to get to I-95 south, as the I-95 reversible lanes will be HOV-3 only.  I see some bigger problems at the northern end, northbound, during PM peak hours.  According to Dr. Gridlock in the Washington Post, the operators of the lanes don't expect much traffic to use them north of Tysons Corner.  I don't believe that.  There are plenty of people who will gladly pay to use the lanes between Tysons and the north end to avoid the interchange delays that I mentioned above.  To them, its a sweet deal, because the toll will be relatively cheap since they will only be in the lanes for a short time before they end.  I predict there will be some congestion in the HOT lanes approaching the merge point.  But like the I-95 HOV merge in Dumfries, the higher density of traffic in the regular lanes vs. the artificially constrained traffic in the HOT lanes (or starved traffic in the HOV lanes in the case of I-95, since there are no entrances south of Springfield) means the line to reach the merge point will be longer in the regular lanes than in the HOT lanes.  In otherwords, there will still be a jam leading to the American Legion Bridge, but HOT users will skip ahead in the line. 

I think that, in general, the lanes will be underutilized on weekends.  There is just not much traffic on that portion of the Beltway on weekends, you just have local traffic which will use the regular lanes for free.  Long distance traffic will be on the east side of the Beltway.

I-95:

A little bit of benefit for rush hour commuters (especially afternoon commuters), little to no benefit for weekend drivers.  Let me start by saying that there is a huge elephant in the room that has not really been addressed...that is that weekend traffic on I-95 is very different from weekday commute traffic, and although everyone will acknowledge that weekends on I-95 are awful, no one has yet to come out and admit that this project will do little to change that.  So lets start with weekdays.  Here we have traffic that is very directional (north in the AM, south in the PM), and is focused from the southern suburbs into DC via I-395.  The reversible lane facility serves this traffic well. 

In the afternoon, you'll have HOV-3 traffic from Pentagon/DC joined by some single occupant /HOV-2 vehicles from the mainline of I-395.  You'll take on a bunch of traffic from the I-495 HOT lanes coming from Tysons.  You'll have an extra lane as far as Prince William Parkway...which is something more than you have now.  As you pass each interchange, enough commuters will exit the mainline and HOT lanes, such that the merge point at Garrisonville Road won't be too bad, at least not as bad as the merge point is in Dumfries today.  Think about it, many of those HOT lane users going to Stafford County will not have to enter the regular lanes, whereas they do now.  But the key thing is that as you head south, people get off to go to their homes, leaving more room in the regular lanes/less traffic in the HOT lanes to get to the new merge point. 

Northbound, in the morning, I think the lanes will work okay up to but not including the end of the HOT lanes at Edsal Road.  You're going to have more lanes feeding a chokepoint.  The mainline lanes of I-395 will be very congested approaching this merge point.  HOT lane users will get to the front of the line, but will still ultimately have to merge.   We can only hope that enough of the tollpayers are going to Tysons and not up I-395, that is what will keep the merge from becomming awful.  Perhaps the lane operators could make the toll for the segment between the Beltway and Edsal Road very high, thereby encouraging Tysons commuters but discouraging DC commuters from using the lanes, or at the least, getting DC commuters out of the lanes a little earlier than at the very very end.  Also, the operators should play up the fact that anyone with HOV-2 has another option...rather than merge onto I-395, they could continue paying tolls and use the I-495 lanes, and then take I-66 inbound to Arlington and DC (would really only work well for the west side of DC and Arlington, would be too out of the way for Capitol Hill). 

Weekends, going south: Not going to do a darn bit of good.  Remember that on weekdays, as you travel south, people get off at the interchanges, freeing up space in the mainline lanes and reducing the volume in the HOT lanes.  Weekends, not so much.  On weekends, a much greater percentage of traffic is in it for the long haul to Richmond and beyond, for everyone who takes a local exit, there's a local person going to the beach who gets on in their place.  So all you are doing is moving the merge south about 8 miles.  But since HOT lanes are artifically starved of traffic because of the tolls, HOT lane drivers will simply move to the front of the line, and regular lane drivers will sit in worse traffic than they do today.  In order to have a big impact, these HOT lanes would need to be extended down to Fredericksburg.  That is where the real weekend bottleneck is, at the Rappahannock.  There you have I-95 traffic and people bypassing DC via US 17 merging, and then a  lot of local traffic exiting at Route 3 and Massaponax, so the bridge is the chokepoint.  If you extended the HOT lanes there, you'd increase the capacity of the bottleneck.  Absent that, the bottleneck is still there. 

Weekends, going north: like described above, the Rappahannock is the big bottleneck.  The lanes don't begin until beyond there.  But it will bring that point where the road opens up a little bit further south, so it might help a little north of Fredericksburg.  Hopefully enough traffic will actually use the lanes to pull enough traffic out of the mainline lanes to give some congestion relief.  But don't count on it!

Some more points to consider with I-95's heavy weekend and holiday traffic....  If you're a commuter, on Friday afternoons you'll be competing with all of those vacationers for space in those HOT lanes.  I'd expect that the price will be very very high on Fridays.  If I'm taking my once-yearly trip to Virginia Beach, I won't mind paying a $50 toll to escape the frustration of the regular lanes as much as the commuters that won't be able to afford that on a regular basis.  In otherwords, the vacationers will price-out the locals, since the vacationers only have to do it once.  The other thought, which should be obvious....on some days, especially on summer weekends and around Thanksgiving...the traffic is bad in both directions.  One direction will be helped by HOT lanes, but the other will be just as bad off as today with no help from additional lanes.  I hope they at least keep the schedule similar to the way it is now, as right now the lanes are optimized for northern Virginians taking weekend trips out of the area on Friday/Saturday morning and coming back Saturday evening/Sunday, as well as leaving before a long holiday weekend and coming home at the end.  Otherwise the lanes would be benefitting those from Richmond and North Carolina more than the locals. 

In the meantime, prepare to suffer a lot during construction.  As it is now, the lanes will be closed during weekday overnights for roadwork including Friday night.  So when the lanes open on Saturday morning, VDOT will have them pointed north (since the portion from Edsal Road to DC will be open north during the closures further south), meaning those escaping town on Saturday will not have the benefit of the lanes.  I would easily forsee some complete weekend closures, which can really make a big mess of traffic. 


Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on August 15, 2012, 10:13:51 AM
Very good post.

I'm not a fan of the I-95 project for a number of reasons, the main one being that the center HOV carriageway is currently open to all traffic during the non-HOV hours (except while the road is being reversed) and the majority of that traffic will now be pushed into the general-purpose lanes, which in turn is likely to push traffic there onto the limited parallel routes like US-1.

There's one very significant difference between the I-95 and Beltway projects that has not gotten a lot of mention, although Mike touches on it: The I-95 lanes have places where you can move back into the mainline. The Beltway lanes do not. That means that on the Beltway lanes, when you enter the lanes you lock in the toll rate to your destination. For example, the sign at Route 7 in Tysons Corner may list tolls of $3.00 to I-66, $6.00 to Braddock Road, and $8.00 to Springfield (this means Gallows Road would be around $4.00 since it's between I-66 and Braddock). If you're going to Springfield, your toll is $8.00. It won't go up while you're in the lanes.

That's not going to be the case on I-95. The information on the project website says that the tolls will be for "segments" of the lanes and that the toll for the "next segment" will be posted in advance so you can decide whether to stay in the lanes or exit into the general-purpose lanes. So suppose you're driving south from DC late at night as a solo driver (since I assume the HOV lanes north of the Turkeycock ramps will still be open to all traffic during non-HOV hours). As you pass Duke Street, you see a sign giving you toll info. It will list tolls for the Beltway, Route 644, and the exit to the general-purpose lanes just beyond Route 644. If you want to go to the Franconia–Springfield Parkway, that's on the next "segment" and you won't know what that rate is until you've already entered the lanes and paid the toll (though practically speaking the added toll would likely be minimal due to the short distance). The second tolled "segment" includes the Franconia–Springfield Parkway (VA-289) and then ends at the slip ramp marked "Lorton" just south of the Newington interchange. The third "segment" would then be much longer, including the US-1, VA-123, and VA-294 (Prince William Parkway) exits, with the segment ending at the flyover ramp just north of Potomac Mills Mall. (This all assuming they don't add additional entry and exit points. I know there is to be a new Express Lanes exit at Newington connecting to Alban Road and Boudinot Drive, but that's different from a flyover or slip ramp to the general-purpose lanes).

The Beltway system sounds a lot easier to understand because, let's be realistic, the average person who might use these lanes won't bother to educate himself on these kinds of issues. The amount of uninformed emotional bullshit rants I see regarding the Beltway project both amuses and disgusts me. But I think some of the rants have a bit more legitimacy as to I-95 and I wonder how the project will make it crystal clear to drivers that when the sign gives the toll to, say, Newington, it means that if you want to continue past Newington you will pay a separate toll at a rate to be announced when you reach Newington. I don't think it's unreasonable at all for people to demand that this information be made as unambiguous as possible. What concerns me about it is that people will have seen how the Beltway system works and they'll assume I-95 will work the same way. I suppose that's not necessarily a reasonable assumption, but it's reasonable to assume people will make that assumption (I hope that made sense).



BTW, I've seen the slugging community objecting to the HO/T project on the ground that they feel that they were lied to when they were told HOV will ride free. They feel that the institution of a monthly fee for the E-ZPass Flex is a violation of the promise that HOV will ride free and they think they shouldn't have to get transponders. I don't entirely buy the argument and the reason is a practical one: The vast majority of Northern Virginia drivers who would benefit from having an E-ZPass device for roads other than the new HO/T lanes already have an E-ZPass. (I know one guy who should but doesn't, but he's a special case—a bit of a kook because he feels getting an E-ZPass means that he's tacitly approving of the Dulles Metrorail project. Whatever.) Anyway, VDOT's announced that the E-ZPass Flex will be free PROVIDED you use it SOLELY in "HOV mode" and SOLELY in the new HO/T lanes on I-95 and the Beltway (you also have to use it at least once a month—if you fail to use it, or if you use it anywhere other than the HO/T lanes, or if you drive in the HO/T lanes with the device in "non-HOV mode," you pay the fee for that month). It seems to me that a driver who does not now have any use for an E-ZPass is unlikely to see his travel habits change so radically that he'll suddenly benefit from having one, such that if he continues his normal routine—say, a slug driver who picks up two people in Prince William County and drives to the Pentagon—he will pay neither a toll nor the E-ZPass fee.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on August 15, 2012, 07:13:46 PM
WTOP Radio: Beltway Express Lanes given a test (http://www.wtop.com/41/2994889/Beltway-Express-Lanes-given-a-test)

Quote
The Express Lanes being built on the Virginia side of the Capital Beltway aren't officially open yet, but that doesn't mean cars aren't driving on them.

Quote
A number of test vehicles started cruising the brand new lanes this week. The test is all about the electronics of the road.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: NJRoadfan on August 15, 2012, 07:51:56 PM
Anyone have a picture of the E-ZPass Flex transponders. Curious if they are based on the newer/smaller Mark IV transponders currently in use for SC's Palmetto Pass or if its the older design all the E-ZPass agencies are required to use.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on August 15, 2012, 08:31:42 PM
Anyone have a picture of the E-ZPass Flex transponders. Curious if they are based on the newer/smaller Mark IV transponders currently in use for SC's Palmetto Pass or if its the older design all the E-ZPass agencies are required to use.

The Virginia E-ZPass site has an image of the E-ZPass Flex transponder here (http://www.ezpassva.com/EZPages/EZPassFlex.aspx?AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1).

This (http://sbynews.blogspot.com/2011/07/cost-of-ez-pass-transponder-to-drop-by.html) article has an image of a "regular" MdTA E-ZPass transponder.

Peter Samuel of TOLLROADSnews wrote about the Mark IV transponders in use in South Carolina in 2007 here (http://www.tollroadsnews.com/node/141).  If North Carolina becomes a member of the E-ZPass IAG (which is supposed to happen soon), then South Carolina might just want to follow along for the convenience of persons using the Palmetto Pass.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 74/171FAN on August 15, 2012, 10:59:12 PM

Weekends, going north: like described above, the Rappahannock is the big bottleneck.  The lanes don't begin until beyond there.  But it will bring that point where the road opens up a little bit further south, so it might help a little north of Fredericksburg.  Hopefully enough traffic will actually use the lanes to pull enough traffic out of the mainline lanes to give some congestion relief.  But don't count on it!
 
  In my experiences going to DC for Nationals games the traffic always lets up northbound when the HOV lanes begin so moving the start of the HOV/HOT lanes south should most definitely provide some relief farther south.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on August 16, 2012, 10:24:34 AM
Anyone have a picture of the E-ZPass Flex transponders. Curious if they are based on the newer/smaller Mark IV transponders currently in use for SC's Palmetto Pass or if its the older design all the E-ZPass agencies are required to use.

The 495 Express Lanes site (http://www.495expresslanes.com/#) has images of both the standard E-ZPass and the Flex. The Flex is smaller and wider:

(http://www.495expresslanes.com/images/tab-get-your-ezpass-transponders.png)



The Virginia E-ZPass site shows a smaller standard transponder on their main page in the ad for "E-ZPass on the Go," where you buy a transponder at a retail store and activate it later (similar to how Florida sells the SunPass at Publix grocery stores). I've never seen one that looks like this:

(http://www.ezpassva.com/images/EZPass-OnTheGoKit.jpg)
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mtantillo on August 16, 2012, 05:42:22 PM

Weekends, going north: like described above, the Rappahannock is the big bottleneck.  The lanes don't begin until beyond there.  But it will bring that point where the road opens up a little bit further south, so it might help a little north of Fredericksburg.  Hopefully enough traffic will actually use the lanes to pull enough traffic out of the mainline lanes to give some congestion relief.  But don't count on it!
 
  In my experiences going to DC for Nationals games the traffic always lets up northbound when the HOV lanes so moving the start of the HOV/HOT lanes south should most definitely provide some relief farther south.

Currently, anyone who wants to use those lanes can.  Under the HOT lane scenario, the number of people peeling off into the HOT lanes will be artificially constrained by tolls, so there might be less traffic exiting and more in the mainline lanes. 
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on August 16, 2012, 06:07:29 PM
I was driving on I-395 this afternoon and I found myself pondering how the tolling might work and I ultimately concluded that for someone who lives where I do (Kingstowne) there may be a fair reason to consider paying the tolls from time to time because of how access from here to I-95 works. It's a bit of a pain—to get to the general-purpose lanes I either go up to the Beltway, then move across to take the flyover ramp to I-95 South, or else I go across Franconia Road and then through the red lights (they are always red!!!!) in Springfield near Robert E. Lee High School because the Franconia Road flyover lanes do not allow access to the Interstate, or I go south to Newington or Lorton.

For the HOV lanes, in contrast, if they're going in the direction I want, I can just make three right turns out of my neighborhood and soon I'm on the Franconia–Springfield Parkway and I hop into the lanes there.

For travel to and from the south (Woodbridge, Richmond, etc.), I can see myself paying the toll fairly regularly to use the Express Lanes between the Lorton slip ramp (really located closer to Newington, but the southbound exit sign says Lorton because that's the next exit) and the Franconia–Springfield Parkway, or the reverse maneuver. The distance is minimal and the time savings compared to going up to the Beltway, fighting across three lanes to exit at Van Dorn, then driving back the other way (or doing all this in reverse), makes the toll worth it unless the traffic in the general-purpose lanes is so extraordinarily bad that the toll is sky-high—but in that case you'd hear it on the radio and go a different way.

Similarly, the distance between the Turkeycock ramps and the Beltway is so minimal, and traffic on I-395 there usually flows freely enough, that it's fair to expect the toll between those two points to be quite low. I can certainly see how during the non-HOV hours (for the portion north of Turkeycock)—say, coming back from a game in DC—the toll might be so minimal to make it not worth exiting at Turkeycock and then exiting onto the Beltway.

........Which is all a very long way of using personal circumstances to say that I think the dynamic of Express Lane usage on I-95 might prove to be very different from the way it works on the Beltway precisely because of the "segment-based" tolling system I mentioned earlier. I would not be surprised if you see people paying the toll on the section further south in the morning but then bailing back into the mainline further north as the toll for the northern segments increases. It might make for a very interesting sort of traffic flow based on where people move back and forth and I think it's very likely that your average toll-payer would not normally be willing to pay the toll to use the entire length of the HO/T facility. It's going to take time for people to figure out how best to make the system work for them and it's going to be a serious mental adjustment to think of the reversible carriageway in terms of "segments."

The Franconia–Springfield Parkway is a special situation because it doesn't have direct access from the general-purpose lanes and you have to twist around through Springfield if you use Exit 169. As I suggest above, that exit is one that seems prime for paying the toll, especially because the new Beltway-to-HOV connections will for the first time allow somewhat direct all-highway access between the Parkway and the Beltway. I don't doubt that during the next two years when there is no toll to use those ramps some people will get addicted to that route. It ought to be a GREAT shortcut. I know a fellow who has Redskins season tickets who comes up the Franconia–Springfield Parkway and then uses Frontier Drive to Franconia Road to the ramp to I-95 North, or else heads east to Van Dorn and up to the Beltway. His trip to the games suddenly gets a whole lot easier when that ramp opens (though the trip home won't change). Get addicted to that over two years and the idea of paying 50¢ or a dollar to avoid all the red lights in Springfield becomes very palatable.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on August 17, 2012, 10:08:59 AM
So we're getting really close to the opening of the I-495 HOT Lanes, and we just broke ground on the I-95 HOT Lanes.  Here are some of my thoughts about how useful these will actually be...

I-495:

I think these will work relatively well for people staying in Virginia.  Some extra capacity was badly needed between Springfield and Tysons Corner.  I think a significant benefit will come just to those who use the Tysons Corner interchanges.  Today, it can take 15+ minutes just to drive the length of the entrance/exit ramps during peak times, and having "artificially" uncongested interchanges (due to tolls/occupancy requirements) on the HOT lanes will be a huge benefit to those who choose to use the lanes.  I see some minor operational issues at the south end, just because you have so many lanes converging and diverging there, and during rush hours for the first couple years, toll payers will have to exit into the regular lanes to get to I-95 south, as the I-95 reversible lanes will be HOV-3 only.  I see some bigger problems at the northern end, northbound, during PM peak hours.  According to Dr. Gridlock in the Washington Post, the operators of the lanes don't expect much traffic to use them north of Tysons Corner.  I don't believe that.  There are plenty of people who will gladly pay to use the lanes between Tysons and the north end to avoid the interchange delays that I mentioned above.  To them, its a sweet deal, because the toll will be relatively cheap since they will only be in the lanes for a short time before they end.  I predict there will be some congestion in the HOT lanes approaching the merge point.  But like the I-95 HOV merge in Dumfries, the higher density of traffic in the regular lanes vs. the artificially constrained traffic in the HOT lanes (or starved traffic in the HOV lanes in the case of I-95, since there are no entrances south of Springfield) means the line to reach the merge point will be longer in the regular lanes than in the HOT lanes.  In otherwords, there will still be a jam leading to the American Legion Bridge, but HOT users will skip ahead in the line. 

Agree with what you wrote above.  However, the Inner Loop (northbound) merge from the HOT lanes to the regular lanes will take place well before the  Va. 193 (Georgetown Pike), and what has long been bad in terms of congestion will (in my opinion) only get worse, and likely much  worse.

The blame for this state of affairs lies on the Maryland side of the Potomac River, in particular with the Montgomery County Council, which has (for decades) clung to the notion that its Metro lines to D.C., combined with an unhealthy obsession with transit and misguided densification of neighborhoods without political clout, will solve transportation problems. 

Those policies haven't worked (even though those policies have mostly been followed since 1970) and they won't work now.

Similarly, the ideas that have been floated in the news media, such as reviving the failed WMATA bus service between Montgomery County and Tysons Corner (cancelled in 2003 by order of then-Maryland Secretary of Transportation Bob Flanagan because all of its operating subsidies were from the Maryland Department of Transportation, none from any jurisdiction in Virginia and it was losing more money per passenger than any other transit bus route in the state) and re-striping the Capital Beltway to add an extra (narrow) lane are not going to work (and I suspect that FHWA and Maryland SHA are not about to permit re-striping anyway for safety reasons).

What is needed is to extend the HOT lanes north from their current terminus, across the Potomac River, past the Md. 190 (River Road) interchange to the I-270Y (I-270 Spur) Exit 38 partial interchange. 

The holiest of holy documents in Montgomery County, the master plans, actually were amended way back in 2003 to add HOV lanes from the Virginia end of the American Legion Bridge to I-270Y, but the county's over-involved civic activist industry routinely lobbies the County Council to oppose any and all highway improvements (that's why it took over 50 years to get Md. 200 built). At least some of the civic activists have claimed that the unbuilt and unfunded Purple Line light rail should be extended west from its planned terminus in Bethesda to Tysons Corner, but it would have to run through some very wealthy (and very much opposed to everything) neighborhoods in Montgomery County and Fairfax County, so that's an alternative offered with the intention of making sure that nothing gets done.

I think that, in general, the lanes will be underutilized on weekends.  There is just not much traffic on that portion of the Beltway on weekends, you just have local traffic which will use the regular lanes for free.  Long distance traffic will be on the east side of the Beltway.

I respectfully disagree.  I think there will be plenty of demand on weekends, especially in the afternoons.

I-95:

A little bit of benefit for rush hour commuters (especially afternoon commuters), little to no benefit for weekend drivers.  Let me start by saying that there is a huge elephant in the room that has not really been addressed...that is that weekend traffic on I-95 is very different from weekday commute traffic, and although everyone will acknowledge that weekends on I-95 are awful, no one has yet to come out and admit that this project will do little to change that.  So lets start with weekdays.  Here we have traffic that is very directional (north in the AM, south in the PM), and is focused from the southern suburbs into DC via I-395.  The reversible lane facility serves this traffic well. 

I think you have nailed it pretty well above with regards to I-95.  My only gripe is that the HOT lanes should be extended much further south, to beyond Va. 3 (Exit 130) in the City of Fredericksburg and probably beyond U.S. 1/U.S. 17 (Exit 126) in Spotsylvania County.

In the afternoon, you'll have HOV-3 traffic from Pentagon/DC joined by some single occupant /HOV-2 vehicles from the mainline of I-395.  You'll take on a bunch of traffic from the I-495 HOT lanes coming from Tysons.  You'll have an extra lane as far as Prince William Parkway...which is something more than you have now.  As you pass each interchange, enough commuters will exit the mainline and HOT lanes, such that the merge point at Garrisonville Road won't be too bad, at least not as bad as the merge point is in Dumfries today.  Think about it, many of those HOT lane users going to Stafford County will not have to enter the regular lanes, whereas they do now.  But the key thing is that as you head south, people get off to go to their homes, leaving more room in the regular lanes/less traffic in the HOT lanes to get to the new merge point. 

Though as I suggested yesterday to Beltway, don't forget the massive number of people working in new (to the area) jobs at Fort Belvoir and Marine Corps Base Quantico thanks to BRAC.  They will load even more trips onto I-95 (and most of them are not using transit).

A merge point at Va. 610 (Garrisonville Road) Exit 143 is clearly better than the current one at Va. 234 (Dumfries Road) Exit 152, but I still assert that this is not far enough, and the congestion for traffic continuing further south will continue to be brutal in the afternoons.

Northbound, in the morning, I think the lanes will work okay up to but not including the end of the HOT lanes at Edsal Road.  You're going to have more lanes feeding a chokepoint.  The mainline lanes of I-395 will be very congested approaching this merge point.  HOT lane users will get to the front of the line, but will still ultimately have to merge.   We can only hope that enough of the tollpayers are going to Tysons and not up I-395, that is what will keep the merge from becomming awful.  Perhaps the lane operators could make the toll for the segment between the Beltway and Edsal Road very high, thereby encouraging Tysons commuters but discouraging DC commuters from using the lanes, or at the least, getting DC commuters out of the lanes a little earlier than at the very very end.  Also, the operators should play up the fact that anyone with HOV-2 has another option...rather than merge onto I-395, they could continue paying tolls and use the I-495 lanes, and then take I-66 inbound to Arlington and DC (would really only work well for the west side of DC and Arlington, would be too out of the way for Capitol Hill).

Agreed.  I have not seen the plans for adding a new ramp from the reversible HOV roadway to the conventional lanes of I-395 at Turkeycock Run (just north of Edsall Road (Va. 648) Exit 2, but things are normally very congested there now in the three non-HOV lanes from Va. 648 to Duke Street (Va. 236) Exit 3.

Weekends, going south: Not going to do a darn bit of good.  Remember that on weekdays, as you travel south, people get off at the interchanges, freeing up space in the mainline lanes and reducing the volume in the HOT lanes.  Weekends, not so much.  On weekends, a much greater percentage of traffic is in it for the long haul to Richmond and beyond, for everyone who takes a local exit, there's a local person going to the beach who gets on in their place.  So all you are doing is moving the merge south about 8 miles.  But since HOT lanes are artifically starved of traffic because of the tolls, HOT lane drivers will simply move to the front of the line, and regular lane drivers will sit in worse traffic than they do today.  In order to have a big impact, these HOT lanes would need to be extended down to Fredericksburg.  That is where the real weekend bottleneck is, at the Rappahannock.  There you have I-95 traffic and people bypassing DC via US 17 merging, and then a  lot of local traffic exiting at Route 3 and Massaponax, so the bridge is the chokepoint.  If you extended the HOT lanes there, you'd increase the capacity of the bottleneck.  Absent that, the bottleneck is still there. 

Agreed and  disagreed.  Hopefully the  operators of the concession will understand that lower tolls on the weekends will mean more vehicles and thus more revenue.

Weekends, going north: like described above, the Rappahannock is the big bottleneck.  The lanes don't begin until beyond there.  But it will bring that point where the road opens up a little bit further south, so it might help a little north of Fredericksburg.  Hopefully enough traffic will actually use the lanes to pull enough traffic out of the mainline lanes to give some congestion relief.  But don't count on it!

Another issue that has not been directly discussed here is the huge amount of commercial vehicle traffic that exits I-95 northbound to head north on  U.S. 17 (Warrenton Road) Exit 133.  Many trucks use the combination of U.S. 17/I-66/I-81 as a de-facto Western Bypass of the Capital Beltway.  The truck volume exiting is sometimes so heavy that it disrupts northbound I-95 traffic!  I've also seen it cause problems on  the flipside, with southbound truck traffic from U.S. 17 entering southbound I-95.

At least there is a small nugget of justice in this, since that heavy truck traffic goes by Warrenton, which is where the oppose-all-highways-at-all-costs Piedmont Environmental Council has its headquarters (and apparently the PEC membership has complained about the truck traffic, and managed to get truck restrictions imposed on U.S. 15 between Gainesville and the bridge at Point-of-Rocks, Maryland; and on U.S. 17 between I-66 and U.S. 50 at Paris during the administration of Gov. Jim Gilmore (R)).

Some more points to consider with I-95's heavy weekend and holiday traffic....  If you're a commuter, on Friday afternoons you'll be competing with all of those vacationers for space in those HOT lanes.  I'd expect that the price will be very very high on Fridays.  If I'm taking my once-yearly trip to Virginia Beach, I won't mind paying a $50 toll to escape the frustration of the regular lanes as much as the commuters that won't be able to afford that on a regular basis.  In otherwords, the vacationers will price-out the locals, since the vacationers only have to do it once.  The other thought, which should be obvious....on some days, especially on summer weekends and around Thanksgiving...the traffic is bad in both directions.  One direction will be helped by HOT lanes, but the other will be just as bad off as today with no help from additional lanes.  I hope they at least keep the schedule similar to the way it is now, as right now the lanes are optimized for northern Virginians taking weekend trips out of the area on Friday/Saturday morning and coming back Saturday evening/Sunday, as well as leaving before a long holiday weekend and coming home at the end.  Otherwise the lanes would be benefitting those from Richmond and North Carolina more than the locals.

Which is why the proposal from the early 1990's to upgrade the U.S. 301/Va. 207 corridor from Ruther Glen/Carmel Church in the south to Bowie in the north to a freeway made so much sense.

In the meantime, prepare to suffer a lot during construction.  As it is now, the lanes will be closed during weekday
overnights for roadwork including Friday night.  So when the lanes open on Saturday morning, VDOT will have them pointed north (since the portion from Edsal Road to DC will be open north during the closures further south), meaning those escaping town on Saturday will not have the benefit of the lanes.  I would easily forsee some complete weekend closures, which can really make a big mess of traffic. 

As I also discussed with Beltway, that is when I will bail to U.S. 301 all the way from Maryland south to past Hanover Court House to I-295. 

If headed to Virginia Beach (and presumably the Outer Banks), south on U.S. 301 to Port Royal, Va. to U.S. 17 south to Newport News is a winning way to avoid I-95 misery.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on August 17, 2012, 11:22:25 AM
I think that, in general, the lanes will be underutilized on weekends.  There is just not much traffic on that portion of the Beltway on weekends, you just have local traffic which will use the regular lanes for free.  Long distance traffic will be on the east side of the Beltway.

I respectfully disagree.  I think there will be plenty of demand on weekends, especially in the afternoons.

I think it's fair to expect some of that will depend on the toll rate. I remember I used the I-95 HO/T lanes in Miami on a weekend last year precisely because the toll was so low (25¢ to go the length of the lanes). There was so much less traffic in there that 25¢ would have been more than worth it for the reduced traffic even if I hadn't had the roadgeeking reason for using those lanes. I anticipate the same would apply on the Beltway. No doubt some people would oppose paying even a low toll if the general-purpose lanes are flowing freely. Fine by me!!! I look at what I pay to cross the bridges in New York and I shrug at the idea of paying $1.00 on a Saturday to use the Express Lanes if I'm going far enough to use them.

I think the operators are going to have some work to do to figure out the point at which the weekend or late-night rate is low enough to encourage people to use the lanes but high enough to allow them to make money.

The other consideration is that there are a couple of Express Lane exits that don't exist from the general-purpose lanes; the one that most readily comes to my mind in terms of presenting some totally new access is the new US-29 northbound exit/southbound entrance. I could definitely see myself using that on a weekend if I were going to play golf at Jefferson District Park (two lights east of the Beltway)—presently I exit at US-50 and then go through Fairview Park, and that's easy enough, but if the toll rate were low enough I'd consider just using the Express Lanes. I think VDOT and Fluor/Transurban expect people to use the Express Lanes for exactly that purpose, and I think they further expect that some people on the Inner Loop might exit at Gallows Road and then re-enter into the Express Lanes via the new ramp now under construction, as I've noted that there is an overhead "E-ZPass Express" VMS on the Inner Loop exit ramp at Gallows. Why put that on an exit ramp unless you expect people to pop over into the Express Lanes?

There are some other new exits in Tysons as well, but I don't view them as presenting quite the same degree of "new access." Someone going to the mall might want to use the Westpark Bridge exit, but at the same time, the mall is pretty easy to access from Virginia. Coming from Maryland, paying the toll to take the Westpark Bridge might be a considerable advantage because if you exit the Outer Loop onto southbound 123, you can't access the left turn lane due to a barrier curb—you have to go to International Drive to access the mall or else loop around to the right via Tysons Boulevard and Westpark Drive. If you take the Express Lanes, you go directly to the bridge and to the parking garage outside where Woodies used to be. As for the other exit to Jones Branch Drive, I don't have a great sense of what that road serves other than that it's in the corporate park area, so I have no idea if it would have any value to the average driver on weekends.

Hmmm.....you know, the point about access to the mall prompts me to think of the interesting question of whether the Express Lanes would be useful for Christmas shoppers given what a mess Tysons can be at that time of year. Back in the late 1990s I worked in McLean but lived near Fairfax City and my commute home was 123 to the Beltway to 236. But at Christmastime it could take 45 minutes to go from Lewinsville Road to the Beltway, so I started getting on the Toll Road west, paying the (then) 25¢ to exit at Spring Hill, then getting back on the other way and paying another 25¢, then getting on the Beltway. I haven't been to Tysons at Christmas in a couple of years but I'm sure it's only gotten worse. It'll be interesting to see how that sort of thing affects the Express Lanes' operation (and, by extension, the toll rates).


Northbound, in the morning, I think the lanes will work okay up to but not including the end of the HOT lanes at Edsal Road.  You're going to have more lanes feeding a chokepoint.  The mainline lanes of I-395 will be very congested approaching this merge point.  HOT lane users will get to the front of the line, but will still ultimately have to merge.   We can only hope that enough of the tollpayers are going to Tysons and not up I-395, that is what will keep the merge from becomming awful.  Perhaps the lane operators could make the toll for the segment between the Beltway and Edsal Road very high, thereby encouraging Tysons commuters but discouraging DC commuters from using the lanes, or at the least, getting DC commuters out of the lanes a little earlier than at the very very end.  Also, the operators should play up the fact that anyone with HOV-2 has another option...rather than merge onto I-395, they could continue paying tolls and use the I-495 lanes, and then take I-66 inbound to Arlington and DC (would really only work well for the west side of DC and Arlington, would be too out of the way for Capitol Hill).

Agreed.  I have not seen the plans for adding a new ramp from the reversible HOV roadway to the conventional lanes of I-395 at Turkeycock Run (just north of Edsall Road (Va. 648) Exit 2, but things are normally very congested there now in the three non-HOV lanes from Va. 648 to Duke Street (Va. 236) Exit 3.

It's not super-specific, but a diagram of that plan is available at the following address: http://www.vahotlanes.com/documents/D38683PH_13.pdf    The source for that info, as well as similar maps of the rest of the project, may be found here (http://www.vahotlanes.com/i95/project-info/access.php) (link shortened to a single word so that it's not stacked right under the other one). I found the map of "Fairfax County Parkway Area" (Newington) to be interesting because there is to be a new Express Lanes exit/entrance there, connecting to Alban Road/Boudinot Drive. Boudinot in turn connects directly to both directions of the Parkway.

What concerns me about the proposed Turkeycock ramp is that it poses a potential weaving problem as traffic exiting the Express Lanes and continuing on I-395 has to move left just as traffic coming up the general-purpose lanes and exiting onto Duke Street towards Landmark Mall and Alexandria proper has to move right. Weaving movements in a lane of traffic always gum things up, and a prime example of that is right across on the other side of I-395 where the cloverleaf loop-around ramps use the right thru lane as their weave area. I-395 always slows down through there. For me that's one major reason why I try to use the express lanes when they're open to all traffic going south. As to the new ramp, I rather doubt there's enough room to build a barrier-separated C/D lane there due to the limited right-of-way coupled with some very expensive townhouses (Landmark Mews—those are really expensive townhouses) just to the southeast of the right-of-way. (If you look at the bottom of the map you see the words "City of Alexandria." The word "City" is superimposed on the building where my wife lived before we got married, so I am very familiar with that little area.)


Separate issue not raised yet: One of the things I found myself wondering is about the specific issue of the center carriageway being reversible. At what point does extending a reversible carriageway ever further out (south, in this case) begin to introduce operational problems? I've seen some comments about the reversible facility that suggest that VDOT could do a better job of reversing them if they'd use cameras and automate the process instead of insisting on having trucks driving the length of the thing opening and closing the gates. On the other hand, I also understand why VDOT is absolutely paranoid about the risk of a head-on collision between vehicles with a closing speed of 130 mph or more (65 mph x 2) and why they are therefore overly cautious. I can't really blame them. Also, cameras do malfunction, and bad weather sometimes reduces cameras' usefulness, especially given the predilection of Northern Virginia drivers to drive illegally without headlights in the rain and snow. So I think it's fair to presume that VDOT will continue to impose very strict regulations as to the process of reversing the lanes, even if Fluor and Transurban take over the responsibility of managing the reversal in the HO/T portion. All of which builds up to the point—at what point does extending the reversible lanes potentially reduce the lanes' useful hours of operation if the process of reversing the direction winds up taking longer?


(edited to fix busted quote)
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on August 17, 2012, 11:58:35 AM
I think that, in general, the lanes will be underutilized on weekends.  There is just not much traffic on that portion of the Beltway on weekends, you just have local traffic which will use the regular lanes for free.  Long distance traffic will be on the east side of the Beltway.

I respectfully disagree.  I think there will be plenty of demand on weekends, especially in the afternoons.

I think it's fair to expect some of that will depend on the toll rate. I remember I used the I-95 HO/T lanes in Miami on a weekend last year precisely because the toll was so low (25¢ to go the length of the lanes). There was so much less traffic in there that 25¢ would have been more than worth it for the reduced traffic even if I hadn't had the roadgeeking reason for using those lanes. I anticipate the same would apply on the Beltway. No doubt some people would oppose paying even a low toll if the general-purpose lanes are flowing freely. Fine by me!!! I look at what I pay to cross the bridges in New York and I shrug at the idea of paying $1.00 on a Saturday to use the Express Lanes if I'm going far enough to use them.

It should be relatively simple to come up  with a  price that is low enough to attract traffic while being high enough to keep traffic at free-flow speed (probably level-of-service D).  Might take some time to get it stable, but I don't think it is especially hard.

I think the operators are going to have some work to do to figure out the point at which the weekend or late-night rate is low enough to encourage people to use the lanes but high enough to allow them to make money.

They will not earn huge sums of money then, but pricing them low enough to entice a few motorists in is better than them being entirely empty.

The other consideration is that there are a couple of Express Lane exits that don't exist from the general-purpose lanes; the one that most readily comes to my mind in terms of presenting some totally new access is the new US-29 northbound exit/southbound entrance. I could definitely see myself using that on a weekend if I were going to play golf at Jefferson District Park (two lights east of the Beltway)—presently I exit at US-50 and then go through Fairview Park, and that's easy enough, but if the toll rate were low enough I'd consider just using the Express Lanes. I think VDOT and Fluor/Transurban expect people to use the Express Lanes for exactly that purpose, and I think they further expect that some people on the Inner Loop might exit at Gallows Road and then re-enter into the Express Lanes via the new ramp now under construction, as I've noted that there is an overhead "E-ZPass Express" VMS on the Inner Loop exit ramp at Gallows. Why put that on an exit ramp unless you expect people to pop over into the Express Lanes?

There was never an exit at U.S. 29 (Lee Highway) before because it crossed too close to U.S. 50 and the I-66 interchanges.

This exit may also attract some traffic to the new Defense Department offices (that oversee TRICARE) in the old Melpar complex on U.S. 50, since there is a "back" entrance via Fairview Park North.

There are some other new exits in Tysons as well, but I don't view them as presenting quite the same degree of "new access." Someone going to the mall might want to use the Westpark Bridge exit, but at the same time, the mall is pretty easy to access from Virginia. Coming from Maryland, paying the toll to take the Westpark Bridge might be a considerable advantage because if you exit the Outer Loop onto southbound 123, you can't access the left turn lane due to a barrier curb—you have to go to International Drive to access the mall or else loop around to the right via Tysons Boulevard and Westpark Drive. If you take the Express Lanes, you go directly to the bridge and to the parking garage outside where Woodies used to be. As for the other exit to Jones Branch Drive, I don't have a great sense of what that road serves other than that it's in the corporate park area, so I have no idea if it would have any value to the average driver on weekends.

Those ramps were not in the original proposal from the prospective (at the time) concessionaire group, but were added in part at the insistence of VDOT staff, who understood that without those ramps, the traffic on the Beltway mainline would get much, much worse.  Nobody gives VDOT any credit for this (and at least one of the engineers, a personal friend of mine, was rewarded for his efforts by getting laid-off in the huge cutback of staff that took place when Virginia's motor fuel tax revenue crashed in about 2008).

Hmmm.....you know, the point about access to the mall prompts me to think of the interesting question of whether the Express Lanes would be useful for Christmas shoppers given what a mess Tysons can be at that time of year. Back in the late 1990s I worked in McLean but lived near Fairfax City and my commute home was 123 to the Beltway to 236. But at Christmastime it could take 45 minutes to go from Lewinsville Road to the Beltway, so I started getting on the Toll Road west, paying the (then) 25¢ to exit at Spring Hill, then getting back on the other way and paying another 25¢, then getting on the Beltway. I haven't been to Tysons at Christmas in a couple of years but I'm sure it's only gotten worse. It'll be interesting to see how that sort of thing affects the Express Lanes' operation (and, by extension, the toll rates).

That's going to be very interesting to observe.

[Will continue in separate message]
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on August 17, 2012, 12:16:35 PM

Northbound, in the morning, I think the lanes will work okay up to but not including the end of the HOT lanes at Edsal Road.  You're going to have more lanes feeding a chokepoint.  The mainline lanes of I-395 will be very congested approaching this merge point.  HOT lane users will get to the front of the line, but will still ultimately have to merge.   We can only hope that enough of the tollpayers are going to Tysons and not up I-395, that is what will keep the merge from becomming awful.  Perhaps the lane operators could make the toll for the segment between the Beltway and Edsal Road very high, thereby encouraging Tysons commuters but discouraging DC commuters from using the lanes, or at the least, getting DC commuters out of the lanes a little earlier than at the very very end.  Also, the operators should play up the fact that anyone with HOV-2 has another option...rather than merge onto I-395, they could continue paying tolls and use the I-495 lanes, and then take I-66 inbound to Arlington and DC (would really only work well for the west side of DC and Arlington, would be too out of the way for Capitol Hill).

Agreed.  I have not seen the plans for adding a new ramp from the reversible HOV roadway to the conventional lanes of I-395 at Turkeycock Run (just north of Edsall Road (Va. 648) Exit 2, but things are normally very congested there now in the three non-HOV lanes from Va. 648 to Duke Street (Va. 236) Exit 3.

It's not super-specific, but a diagram of that plan is available at the following address: http://www.vahotlanes.com/documents/D38683PH_13.pdf    The source for that info, as well as similar maps of the rest of the project, may be found here (http://www.vahotlanes.com/i95/project-info/access.php) (link shortened to a single word so that it's not stacked right under the other one). I found the map of "Fairfax County Parkway Area" (Newington) to be interesting because there is to be a new Express Lanes exit/entrance there, connecting to Alban Road/Boudinot Drive. Boudinot in turn connects directly to both directions of the Parkway.

There is also a new ramp coming out of the Fort Belvoir North Area that will provide access to the reversible roadway.  I think it is under construction now.

What concerns me about the proposed Turkeycock ramp is that it poses a potential weaving problem as traffic exiting the Express Lanes and continuing on I-395 has to move left just as traffic coming up the general-purpose lanes and exiting onto Duke Street towards Landmark Mall and Alexandria proper has to move right. Weaving movements in a lane of traffic always gum things up, and a prime example of that is right across on the other side of I-395 where the cloverleaf loop-around ramps use the right thru lane as their weave area. I-395 always slows down through there. For me that's one major reason why I try to use the express lanes when they're open to all traffic going south. As to the new ramp, I rather doubt there's enough room to build a barrier-separated C/D lane there due to the limited right-of-way coupled with some very expensive townhouses (Landmark Mews—those are really expensive townhouses) just to the southeast of the right-of-way. (If you look at the bottom of the map you see the words "City of Alexandria." The word "City" is superimposed on the building where my wife lived before we got married, so I am very familiar with that little area.)

I know exactly what you are talking about.  If I lived in those townhomes, I would be very angry about that ramp, even though it has long been needed. In a perfect world (without Section 4(f) of the U.S. Department of Transportation Act of 1967) that ramp could go exit from the HOV lanes and then go over the northbound I-395 conventional lanes and then around, cloverleaf-style, to I-395 northbound.  But thanks in large part to 4(f) as well as the Clean Water Act (since such a ramp would probably have some impact on Turkeycock Run, part of the Waters of the United States, meaning that a Section 404 permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would also be needed), it is better for a highway to impact a community like Landmark Mews than it is to impact a little-used stream valley park.

I know a lot about Sections 404 and 4(f) from Maryland's InterCounty Connector wars (from the 1970's to about 2006), when anti-ICC activists met (I am convinced) in secret (rather like meeting ex-parte with a judge) with staff from USEPA Region III and the Army Corps, Baltimore Engineering District, to develop strategies for stopping the project with those (and other) federal laws and statutes.


Separate issue not raised yet: One of the things I found myself wondering is about the specific issue of the center carriageway being reversible. At what point does extending a reversible carriageway ever further out (south, in this case) begin to introduce operational problems? I've seen some comments about the reversible facility that suggest that VDOT could do a better job of reversing them if they'd use cameras and automate the process instead of insisting on having trucks driving the length of the thing opening and closing the gates. On the other hand, I also understand why VDOT is absolutely paranoid about the risk of a head-on collision between vehicles with a closing speed of 130 mph or more (65 mph x 2) and why they are therefore overly cautious. I can't really blame them. Also, cameras do malfunction, and bad weather sometimes reduces cameras' usefulness, especially given the predilection of Northern Virginia drivers to drive illegally without headlights in the rain and snow. So I think it's fair to presume that VDOT will continue to impose very strict regulations as to the process of reversing the lanes, even if Fluor and Transurban take over the responsibility of managing the reversal in the HO/T portion. All of which builds up to the point—at what point does extending the reversible lanes potentially reduce the lanes' useful hours of operation if the process of reversing the direction winds up taking longer?

(edited to fix busted quote)

It was discussed years ago when the reversible lanes were extended south from Springfield (just south of Va. 644) to Lorton and then to Dumfries in the 1990's. 

In my opinion,  VDOT has well-developed and safe procedures to be followed when reversing the lanes which have worked out well.  It used to be VDOT peopple that reversed the lanes, now days I think the maintenance contractor that has the contract for the adjacent sections of I-95 and I-395 does it.

Even if the reversible lanes were to be extended all the way to Massaponax in Spotsylvania County, I think they can be managed, and managed well.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on August 17, 2012, 01:32:50 PM
The other consideration is that there are a couple of Express Lane exits that don't exist from the general-purpose lanes; the one that most readily comes to my mind in terms of presenting some totally new access is the new US-29 northbound exit/southbound entrance. I could definitely see myself using that on a weekend if I were going to play golf at Jefferson District Park (two lights east of the Beltway)—presently I exit at US-50 and then go through Fairview Park, and that's easy enough, but if the toll rate were low enough I'd consider just using the Express Lanes. I think VDOT and Fluor/Transurban expect people to use the Express Lanes for exactly that purpose, and I think they further expect that some people on the Inner Loop might exit at Gallows Road and then re-enter into the Express Lanes via the new ramp now under construction, as I've noted that there is an overhead "E-ZPass Express" VMS on the Inner Loop exit ramp at Gallows. Why put that on an exit ramp unless you expect people to pop over into the Express Lanes?

There was never an exit at U.S. 29 (Lee Highway) before because it crossed too close to U.S. 50 and the I-66 interchanges.

This exit may also attract some traffic to the new Defense Department offices (that oversee TRICARE) in the old Melpar complex on U.S. 50, since there is a "back" entrance via Fairview Park North.

Yes, I know, hence my point about it being a completely new exit that has the potential to change traffic patterns in a way that's hard to anticipate concretely until the system is actually operational. Depending on your destination, that new Express Lanes exit could be a huge timesaver compared to using Gallows Road, in particular. Gallows often backs up in front of the McDonald's across from Luther Jackson where there's a lane drop. The maneuver I suggested where you exit at Gallows and then hop into the Express Lanes seems highly plausible because I see many people making a similar move in reverse on I-395 at Seminary—I've seen people using the HOV in the afternoon exit at Seminary and then hop back into the mainline to exit at Duke.



Separate issue not raised yet: One of the things I found myself wondering is about the specific issue of the center carriageway being reversible. At what point does extending a reversible carriageway ever further out (south, in this case) begin to introduce operational problems? I've seen some comments about the reversible facility that suggest that VDOT could do a better job of reversing them if they'd use cameras and automate the process instead of insisting on having trucks driving the length of the thing opening and closing the gates. On the other hand, I also understand why VDOT is absolutely paranoid about the risk of a head-on collision between vehicles with a closing speed of 130 mph or more (65 mph x 2) and why they are therefore overly cautious. I can't really blame them. Also, cameras do malfunction, and bad weather sometimes reduces cameras' usefulness, especially given the predilection of Northern Virginia drivers to drive illegally without headlights in the rain and snow. So I think it's fair to presume that VDOT will continue to impose very strict regulations as to the process of reversing the lanes, even if Fluor and Transurban take over the responsibility of managing the reversal in the HO/T portion. All of which builds up to the point—at what point does extending the reversible lanes potentially reduce the lanes' useful hours of operation if the process of reversing the direction winds up taking longer?

(edited to fix busted quote)

It was discussed years ago when the reversible lanes were extended south from Springfield (just south of Va. 644) to Lorton and then to Dumfries in the 1990's. 

In my opinion,  VDOT has well-developed and safe procedures to be followed when reversing the lanes which have worked out well.  It used to be VDOT peopple that reversed the lanes, now days I think the maintenance contractor that has the contract for the adjacent sections of I-95 and I-395 does it.

Even if the reversible lanes were to be extended all the way to Massaponax in Spotsylvania County, I think they can be managed, and managed well.

Yeah, no disagreement with any of your comments about how they've developed procedures that work very well. My comment was simply a practical one that I think is still a legitimate comment—at what point do you start to encounter difficulty due to the ever-increased length of the reversible roadway? I'm sure that probably happens at some point, but I have no idea of what that point might be. As a purely hypothetical example, surely if there were to be talk of adding HO/T or other managed lanes all the way down to Richmond at some point it would become more reasonable to do something like what Maryland is doing northeast of Baltimore with two separate managed carriageways. I don't necessarily mean making them ETLs like Maryland is, mind you—just that beyond a certain distance it seems like the lanes would be more effectively, uh, managed if the need to reverse them weren't present.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: Beltway on August 17, 2012, 03:12:21 PM
The proposed Massaponax terminal for the reversible roadway is logical, because any directional split south of there wouldn't typically occur at times that are oriented toward D.C. area weekday peak commuting hours.

The VA I-95 general purpose roadways should be a minimum of 4 lanes each way between I-295 and I-495.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mtantillo on August 29, 2012, 04:58:40 PM
Separate issue not raised yet: One of the things I found myself wondering is about the specific issue of the center carriageway being reversible. At what point does extending a reversible carriageway ever further out (south, in this case) begin to introduce operational problems? I've seen some comments about the reversible facility that suggest that VDOT could do a better job of reversing them if they'd use cameras and automate the process instead of insisting on having trucks driving the length of the thing opening and closing the gates. On the other hand, I also understand why VDOT is absolutely paranoid about the risk of a head-on collision between vehicles with a closing speed of 130 mph or more (65 mph x 2) and why they are therefore overly cautious. I can't really blame them. Also, cameras do malfunction, and bad weather sometimes reduces cameras' usefulness, especially given the predilection of Northern Virginia drivers to drive illegally without headlights in the rain and snow. So I think it's fair to presume that VDOT will continue to impose very strict regulations as to the process of reversing the lanes, even if Fluor and Transurban take over the responsibility of managing the reversal in the HO/T portion. All of which builds up to the point—at what point does extending the reversible lanes potentially reduce the lanes' useful hours of operation if the process of reversing the direction winds up taking longer?

(edited to fix busted quote)

It was discussed years ago when the reversible lanes were extended south from Springfield (just south of Va. 644) to Lorton and then to Dumfries in the 1990's. 

In my opinion,  VDOT has well-developed and safe procedures to be followed when reversing the lanes which have worked out well.  It used to be VDOT peopple that reversed the lanes, now days I think the maintenance contractor that has the contract for the adjacent sections of I-95 and I-395 does it.

Even if the reversible lanes were to be extended all the way to Massaponax in Spotsylvania County, I think they can be managed, and managed well.

Yeah, no disagreement with any of your comments about how they've developed procedures that work very well. My comment was simply a practical one that I think is still a legitimate comment—at what point do you start to encounter difficulty due to the ever-increased length of the reversible roadway? I'm sure that probably happens at some point, but I have no idea of what that point might be. As a purely hypothetical example, surely if there were to be talk of adding HO/T or other managed lanes all the way down to Richmond at some point it would become more reasonable to do something like what Maryland is doing northeast of Baltimore with two separate managed carriageways. I don't necessarily mean making them ETLs like Maryland is, mind you—just that beyond a certain distance it seems like the lanes would be more effectively, uh, managed if the need to reverse them weren't present.

I think they should definitely have a truck go through to ensure that the lanes are clear before opening them up in the opposite direction.  You just cannot take a risk that an electronic device will fail when you have potential head-on crashes that could happen.  Remember what happened in Pittsburgh...

I think they can improve the reversing procedure though, and I bet the private operators of the lanes will have strong financial incentives to do so, as any times the lanes sit idle means lost potential toll revenue.  For example....the lanes are operating southbound.  You start closing them at the Pentagon.  The truck drives south from the Pentagon to Shirlington, and observes that the lanes are clear.  Why not open the northbound entrance from Shirlington at that time, rather than wait until every southbound entrance is closed and the entire roadway is clear before opening any northbound entrances?  In otherwords, during reversing times, you could have traffic operating in two different directions at the same time....so long as the traffic is going from the middle towards the ends, there is no need to worry about oncoming traffic.  The truck would simply shut the southbound gates, ensure that the roadway is clear, and then open the northbound gates, then continue south, and so on and so forth. 

In some cases, I could see them having the lanes operating in both directions on different segments.  For example, I think it was in 2009, July 4th fell on a Saturday.  This was a "getaway" day for a long weekend, with a lot of DC area residents heading south on I-95.  VDOT had the HOV lanes opened northbound, presumably to accomodate the surge of traffic into DC for the fireworks.  This created a massive traffic jam going south on I-95.  This would be a perfect time to allow the lanes to be open from the Beltway to points south in the southbound direction (to accomodate the getaway traffic), and the lanes to be open from Turkeycock to DC in the northbound direction (to accomodate fireworks traffc).  Then, not only do you serve everyone's needs early in the day, but later in the day, there's an awful lot less miles of lane that need to be reversed to accomodate those leaving the fireworks (since the lanes south of the Beltway are already pointed outbound). 
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on August 29, 2012, 05:16:50 PM
The proposed Massaponax terminal for the reversible roadway is logical, because any directional split south of there wouldn't typically occur at times that are oriented toward D.C. area weekday peak commuting hours.

Though I have [recently] seen single-family homes for sale in Caroline County, Va. that were clearly being marketed to residents of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.  Not sure that this justifies a barrier-separated roadway south to (and beyond) Thornburg - but just putting that out there.

The VA I-95 general purpose roadways should be a minimum of 4 lanes each way between I-295 and I-495.

If VDOT can figure out how to pay for an additional lane on each side, it makes all the sense in the  world to me.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on August 29, 2012, 05:25:59 PM
Separate issue not raised yet: One of the things I found myself wondering is about the specific issue of the center carriageway being reversible. At what point does extending a reversible carriageway ever further out (south, in this case) begin to introduce operational problems? I've seen some comments about the reversible facility that suggest that VDOT could do a better job of reversing them if they'd use cameras and automate the process instead of insisting on having trucks driving the length of the thing opening and closing the gates. On the other hand, I also understand why VDOT is absolutely paranoid about the risk of a head-on collision between vehicles with a closing speed of 130 mph or more (65 mph x 2) and why they are therefore overly cautious. I can't really blame them. Also, cameras do malfunction, and bad weather sometimes reduces cameras' usefulness, especially given the predilection of Northern Virginia drivers to drive illegally without headlights in the rain and snow. So I think it's fair to presume that VDOT will continue to impose very strict regulations as to the process of reversing the lanes, even if Fluor and Transurban take over the responsibility of managing the reversal in the HO/T portion. All of which builds up to the point—at what point does extending the reversible lanes potentially reduce the lanes' useful hours of operation if the process of reversing the direction winds up taking longer?

(edited to fix busted quote)

It was discussed years ago when the reversible lanes were extended south from Springfield (just south of Va. 644) to Lorton and then to Dumfries in the 1990's. 

In my opinion,  VDOT has well-developed and safe procedures to be followed when reversing the lanes which have worked out well.  It used to be VDOT peopple that reversed the lanes, now days I think the maintenance contractor that has the contract for the adjacent sections of I-95 and I-395 does it.

Even if the reversible lanes were to be extended all the way to Massaponax in Spotsylvania County, I think they can be managed, and managed well.

Yeah, no disagreement with any of your comments about how they've developed procedures that work very well. My comment was simply a practical one that I think is still a legitimate comment—at what point do you start to encounter difficulty due to the ever-increased length of the reversible roadway? I'm sure that probably happens at some point, but I have no idea of what that point might be. As a purely hypothetical example, surely if there were to be talk of adding HO/T or other managed lanes all the way down to Richmond at some point it would become more reasonable to do something like what Maryland is doing northeast of Baltimore with two separate managed carriageways. I don't necessarily mean making them ETLs like Maryland is, mind you—just that beyond a certain distance it seems like the lanes would be more effectively, uh, managed if the need to reverse them weren't present.

I think they should definitely have a truck go through to ensure that the lanes are clear before opening them up in the opposite direction.  You just cannot take a risk that an electronic device will fail when you have potential head-on crashes that could happen.  Remember what happened in Pittsburgh...

I have only a vague memory of that, but from your words above, it sounds bad.  Please describe in a little more detail.  Is that the wreck that happened in 1985, killing 6 people (mentioned here (http://pittsburgh.pahighways.com/busways/nbusway.html))?

I think they can improve the reversing procedure though, and I bet the private operators of the lanes will have strong financial incentives to do so, as any times the lanes sit idle means lost potential toll revenue.  For example....the lanes are operating southbound.  You start closing them at the Pentagon.  The truck drives south from the Pentagon to Shirlington, and observes that the lanes are clear.  Why not open the northbound entrance from Shirlington at that time, rather than wait until every southbound entrance is closed and the entire roadway is clear before opening any northbound entrances?  In otherwords, during reversing times, you could have traffic operating in two different directions at the same time....so long as the traffic is going from the middle towards the ends, there is no need to worry about oncoming traffic.  The truck would simply shut the southbound gates, ensure that the roadway is clear, and then open the northbound gates, then continue south, and so on and so forth.

But remember that the lanes north of Turkeycock Run will continue to be the (un-tolled) HOV-3 roadway, thanks in large part to Arlington County's opposition, so the operator of the priced lanes on  I-95 will presumably have to cooperate closely with whatever contractor that VDOT has in charge of the reversing procedure on I-395.

In some cases, I could see them having the lanes operating in both directions on different segments.  For example, I think it was in 2009, July 4th fell on a Saturday.  This was a "getaway" day for a long weekend, with a lot of DC area residents heading south on I-95.  VDOT had the HOV lanes opened northbound, presumably to accomodate the surge of traffic into DC for the fireworks.  This created a massive traffic jam going south on I-95.  This would be a perfect time to allow the lanes to be open from the Beltway to points south in the southbound direction (to accomodate the getaway traffic), and the lanes to be open from Turkeycock to DC in the northbound direction (to accomodate fireworks traffc).  Then, not only do you serve everyone's needs early in the day, but later in the day, there's an awful lot less miles of lane that need to be reversed to accomodate those leaving the fireworks (since the lanes south of the Beltway are already pointed outbound). 

I have a vague memory of the lanes running in one direction from Newington to points south, and the opposite direction from Va. 644 (Franconia Road) to points in Arlington County and D.C.  But such a configuration is highly unusual, and I don't think VDOT likes to do that - for reasons of safety.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: Beltway on August 29, 2012, 05:28:10 PM
The proposed Massaponax terminal for the reversible roadway is logical, because any directional split south of there wouldn't typically occur at times that are oriented toward D.C. area weekday peak commuting hours.

Though I have [recently] seen single-family homes for sale in Caroline County, Va. that were clearly being marketed to residents of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.  Not sure that this justifies a barrier-separated roadway south to (and beyond) Thornburg - but just putting that out there.

Not very many people would make a 70+ mile commute, not to where it would significantly impact a 6-lane Interstate.  Plus, that is only about 35 miles from Richmond, which is a more reasonable commuting distance.

I would need to see a peak commuting hours traffic engineering analysis of I-95 south of Massaponax, before I could decide.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on August 29, 2012, 05:48:26 PM
The VA I-95 general purpose roadways should be a minimum of 4 lanes each way between I-295 and I-495.

If VDOT can figure out how to pay for an additional lane on each side, it makes all the sense in the  world to me.

Maybe the proposed mainline tolls (not the HO/T tolls, the other toll proposal) could someday help with that. The toll revenue has to be dedicated solely to I-95.

If the tolls don't come to pass and they had to choose between a fourth lane for I-95 versus a third lane for I-81, I'd vote for I-81 every time if I had a say in the matter, even though I use I-95 more.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on September 05, 2012, 09:17:35 AM
TOLLROADSnews: Capital Beltway toll lanes concessionaire offers 2-weeks toll-free for early sign-up, sets $12.50 penalties for no tag (http://www.tollroadsnews.com/node/6171)

Quote
495 Express Lanes is offering drivers who open a new E-ZPass transponder account this month (September) two weeks of toll-free travel on the 12 mile toll expressway in the middle of the Capital Beltway when it opens. There's still no official date for the opening but they are shooting for November-December.

Quote
According to surveys, the 495 Lanes people say, about half the people driving the Beltway already have E-ZPass accounts - for use you imagine on the nearby Dulles Toll Road and Dulles Greenway on the toll bridges and tunnels of the Baltimore area, Montgomery County's Inter County Connector or toll facilities further afield.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on September 05, 2012, 09:27:56 AM
The VA I-95 general purpose roadways should be a minimum of 4 lanes each way between I-295 and I-495.

If VDOT can figure out how to pay for an additional lane on each side, it makes all the sense in the  world to me.

Maybe the proposed mainline tolls (not the HO/T tolls, the other toll proposal) could someday help with that. The toll revenue has to be dedicated solely to I-95.

The Virginia elected and appointed officials that are on-record in favor of tolls on I-95 in the Commonwealth should state clearly that this is one of the things that the toll dollars will be spent on (after maintenance, which must come first).

If the tolls don't come to pass and they had to choose between a fourth lane for I-95 versus a third lane for I-81, I'd vote for I-81 every time if I had a say in the matter, even though I use I-95 more.

I-81 across Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania cries out for tolling (of all traffic, not just trucks) - all the way from Bristol, Va. to someplace in Pennsylvania (Hazleton, or Scranton perhaps?).  The problem (at least in Pennsylvania) is how to prevent hourly transit workers in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh (represented by some of the more militant unions in the nation) from asserting that they have a "right" to their "fair share" of the toll revenues.  This is one of the reasons that Pennsylvania's proposal to toll its segment of I-80 was rejected by the federal government.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: Beltway on September 05, 2012, 10:54:27 AM
I-81 across Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania cries out for tolling (of all traffic, not just trucks) - all the way from Bristol, Va. to someplace in Pennsylvania (Hazleton, or Scranton perhaps?).

The collective voice of motorists cry against such tolling...
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on September 05, 2012, 11:09:19 AM
The VA I-95 general purpose roadways should be a minimum of 4 lanes each way between I-295 and I-495.

If VDOT can figure out how to pay for an additional lane on each side, it makes all the sense in the  world to me.

Maybe the proposed mainline tolls (not the HO/T tolls, the other toll proposal) could someday help with that. The toll revenue has to be dedicated solely to I-95.

The Virginia elected and appointed officials that are on-record in favor of tolls on I-95 in the Commonwealth should state clearly that this is one of the things that the toll dollars will be spent on (after maintenance, which must come first).

....

I think they need to do more than that. I'm not necessarily against tolling I-95 (or I-81). Nobody likes to pay more, of course, but I understand the potential benefit of doing it. The problem is that the politicians have done an utterly inadequate job of explaining it. Most people out there hear "toll" and they understandably object that we have a gas tax to pay for these things; they also less-understandably envision the backed-up toll plazas of the Northeast from the pre–E-ZPass days. The politicians haven't even tried to explain why an increase in the gas tax wouldn't solve the problem and why tolling I-95 would in theory provide a more stable and direct form of funding for that road. Heck, a former colleague of mine who ran for state senate last year (he lost) wasn't familiar with all the reasoning behind the toll proposal until I gave him an eight-page briefing paper about it.

When I've explained to people I know that a gas tax increase would be subject to the same apportionment formula we have now, such that some part of it would have to go to, say, Big Stone Gap or Wise, and that only a very small percentage would be available for I-95, they begin to understand better. I don't know why VDOT and the politicians seem to have this aversion to giving the public a thorough explanation. Of course I also understand how the average person out there will ignore the information and will just squawk various emotional uninformed rants, same as we see now as to the HO/T projects. But if the full explanation is out there, it's their own fault if they fail to learn about it.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on September 05, 2012, 11:58:07 AM
I-81 across Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania cries out for tolling (of all traffic, not just trucks) - all the way from Bristol, Va. to someplace in Pennsylvania (Hazleton, or Scranton perhaps?).

The collective voice of motorists cry against such tolling...

But I think the truck-only tolling that was studied in Virginia's part of the I-81 corridor ultimately failed (in part) because it was perceived as unfair to the trucking industry, even though  Virginia is one of the few states that imposes a higher Diesel fuel tax on heavier trucks, which must pay an additional 3.5¢ per gallon.

In a perfect world, trucks operating on toll roads and toll crossings would be able to log the miles on such facilities as "free" of motor fuel tax if they operate interstate and are required to file an IFTA tax return.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: Beltway on September 05, 2012, 02:01:57 PM
I-81 across Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania cries out for tolling (of all traffic, not just trucks) - all the way from Bristol, Va. to someplace in Pennsylvania (Hazleton, or Scranton perhaps?).

The collective voice of motorists cry against such tolling...

But I think the truck-only tolling that was studied in Virginia's part of the I-81 corridor ultimately failed (in part) because it was perceived as unfair to the trucking industry, even though  Virginia is one of the few states that imposes a higher Diesel fuel tax on heavier trucks, which must pay an additional 3.5¢ per gallon.

They cried against it when it was revised to tolling all vehicles, and they are crying against it now that the TEA-21 pilot project has been transferred to VA I-95.  They cry against it everywhere ... :-(
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on September 05, 2012, 02:58:24 PM
I-81 across Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania cries out for tolling (of all traffic, not just trucks) - all the way from Bristol, Va. to someplace in Pennsylvania (Hazleton, or Scranton perhaps?).

The collective voice of motorists cry against such tolling...

But I think the truck-only tolling that was studied in Virginia's part of the I-81 corridor ultimately failed (in part) because it was perceived as unfair to the trucking industry, even though  Virginia is one of the few states that imposes a higher Diesel fuel tax on heavier trucks, which must pay an additional 3.5¢ per gallon.

They cried against it when it was revised to tolling all vehicles, and they are crying against it now that the TEA-21 pilot project has been transferred to VA I-95.  They cry against it everywhere ... :-(

As I have told you in the past, I am indifferent as to how the maintenance and expansion of the highway system is funded. 

But most states (including Virginia) will need to choose between [higher] motor fuel taxes, tolls or perhaps a VMT tax (similar to the TollCollect.de (http://www.toll-collect.de/en/home.html) system used to collect tolls from heavy trucks on the German autobahn network and certain other highways).
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on September 05, 2012, 04:42:16 PM
The proposed Massaponax terminal for the reversible roadway is logical, because any directional split south of there wouldn't typically occur at times that are oriented toward D.C. area weekday peak commuting hours.

Though I have [recently] seen single-family homes for sale in Caroline County, Va. that were clearly being marketed to residents of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.  Not sure that this justifies a barrier-separated roadway south to (and beyond) Thornburg - but just putting that out there.

Not very many people would make a 70+ mile commute, not to where it would significantly impact a 6-lane Interstate.

Plenty of people commute from the Eastern Panhandle counties (Jefferson and Berkeley) of West Virginia to D.C. and places in its orbit, including Loudoun and Fairfax Counties in Virginia and Frederick and Montgomery Counties in Maryland.  The Maryland Department of Transportation's MARC commuter rail system even provides service between Martinsburg, W.Va. and Washington Union Station (according to Google Maps, that's better than 80 miles by highway). 

Real estate agents in those West Virginia counties routinely market properties to residents of jurisdictions closer to D.C. (and frequently tout how far it is from a property to the nearest MARC stop).
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on September 05, 2012, 05:19:00 PM
[Full disclosure - I know Lon Anderson somewhat personally]

WTOP Radio: AAA renews debate on length of I-95 Express Lanes (http://www.wtop.com/654/3021754/AAA-renews-debate-on-length-of-I-95-Express-Lanes)

Quote
Construction of the new Express Lanes on Interstate 95 in Northern Virginia has reopened the debate on why the project won't go all the way to the D.C. line.

Quote
On WTOP, AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman Lon Anderson again pointed the finger at Arlington County for filing a lawsuit that led to a decision to shorten the Express Lanes.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: Beltway on September 05, 2012, 05:47:12 PM
Not very many people would make a 70+ mile commute, not to where it would significantly impact a 6-lane Interstate.

Plenty of people commute from the Eastern Panhandle counties (Jefferson and Berkeley) of West Virginia to D.C. and places in its orbit, including Loudoun and Fairfax Counties in Virginia and Frederick and Montgomery Counties in Maryland.  The Maryland Department of Transportation's MARC commuter rail system even provides service between Martinsburg, W.Va. and Washington Union Station (according to Google Maps, that's better than 80 miles by highway). 

Real estate agents in those West Virginia counties routinely market properties to residents of jurisdictions closer to D.C. (and frequently tout how far it is from a property to the nearest MARC stop).

Still not enough to where a 2-lane freeway roadway has been provided over the whole distance, though.  That reinforces my point.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mtantillo on September 06, 2012, 01:30:54 PM
Free trial on the I-495 Express Lanes for two weeks in January.  There's a catch: you have to sign up for a Virginia E-ZPass in the month of September, register for the I-495 Express website, and be a legal resident of DC, Charles/PG/Montgomery/Frederick Counties (MD), or Arlington/Fairfax/Prince William/Loudoun Counties (VA). 

Details here: http://495expresslanes.com/offer

If we can get enough locals signed up for this offer and/or people to get Flex transponders and pack 3 into a vehicle, I might consider hosting an informal meet on one of those two weekends to drive the lanes for free. 
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on September 12, 2012, 07:50:01 PM
Washington Post: Fairfax board approves express buses to Tysons (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/dr-gridlock/post/fairfax-board-approves-express-buses-to-tysons/2012/09/12/be34239e-fd0b-11e1-8adc-499661afe377_blog.html)

Quote
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a plan Tuesday to provide express bus service that will travel to Tysons Corner using the 495 Express Lanes.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on September 13, 2012, 10:25:07 AM
Free trial on the I-495 Express Lanes for two weeks in January.  There's a catch: you have to sign up for a Virginia E-ZPass in the month of September, register for the I-495 Express website, and be a legal resident of DC, Charles/PG/Montgomery/Frederick Counties (MD), or Arlington/Fairfax/Prince William/Loudoun Counties (VA). 

Details here: http://495expresslanes.com/offer

If we can get enough locals signed up for this offer and/or people to get Flex transponders and pack 3 into a vehicle, I might consider hosting an informal meet on one of those two weekends to drive the lanes for free. 

I understand the rationale of restricting this to new E-ZPass subscribers, but it still kind of bugs me that those of us who have had the transponders for years don't get any kind of a break. It's sort of like how DirecTV constantly goes after new customers with promos like free NFL Sunday Ticket but doesn't offer anything comparable to people who have been long-time customers.

I will not be getting the Flex transponder since I almost never have three people in the car and I don't want to pay a fee when our two current transponders are still free. Perhaps when it comes time to replace them I might consider the Flex, but I doubt it.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: Beltway on September 13, 2012, 10:38:48 AM
I will not be getting the Flex transponder since I almost never have three people in the car and I don't want to pay a fee when our two current transponders are still free. Perhaps when it comes time to replace them I might consider the Flex, but I doubt it.

Same here ... I live in the Richmond area, where there are no managed lanes, I'll probably benefit from NOVA HOT lanes maybe 3 or 4 times per year.  No need for the Flex transponder.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on September 17, 2012, 11:41:33 PM
WTOP Radio: Transportation secretary weighs in on Va. Express Lanes project (http://www.wtop.com/120/3041616/Transportation-secretary-weighs-in-on-Va-Express-Lanes-project)

Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on September 24, 2012, 10:46:04 PM
Dr. Gridlock reported this weekend that one casualty of the I-95 HO/T project is to be the express lane exit marked "Lorton" that's located just south of the Fairfax County Parkway interchange in Newington. Traffic entering the reversible carriageway from the Franconia–Springfield Parkway will not be able to exit until the US-1 interchange near Woodbridge (Exit 161 from the general-purpose lanes) and won't be able to pop over to the general-purpose lanes via a slip ramp until the flyover near Potomac Mills Mall.

That puts a serious crimp in my theory about being willing to pay the toll southbound for the short distance from the Parkway to that ramp, as it is to be a permanent closure. There's to be a new HO/T exit at about that same place (connecting more or less to Boudinot Drive at Alban Road), so the closure is probably to make way for that construction.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on October 17, 2012, 03:00:14 PM
WTOP Radio: Drivers urged to get E-ZPass before Express Lanes open (http://www.wtop.com/41/3081668/Drivers-urged-to-get-E-ZPass-before-Express-Lanes-open)
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on October 17, 2012, 05:25:11 PM
WTOP Radio: Drivers urged to get E-ZPass before Express Lanes open (http://www.wtop.com/41/3081668/Drivers-urged-to-get-E-ZPass-before-Express-Lanes-open)

Dr. Gridlock had two blog entries about the new lanes today. The second one, titled Virginia express lanes operator prepares for opening (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/dr-gridlock/wp/2012/10/17/virginia-express-lanes-operator-prepares-for-opening/), contains the following sentence that I think in some ways constitutes the best, most succinct distillation I've heard of how the new lanes are to work:

Quote
“We’re opening a new Interstate highway inside an Interstate highway,” Jennifer Aument, a Transurban vice president, said Wednesday during a briefing about the new lanes.

The idea of thinking of the Express Lanes as a separate road is a very useful way to think about how the lanes function because they have their own separate set of exits and entrances, rather than serving as an adjunct to the general-purpose lanes.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on October 31, 2012, 12:59:17 PM
Examiner: Beltway Express Lanes to open before Thanksgiving (http://washingtonexaminer.com/beltway-express-lanes-to-open-before-thanksgiving/article/2512203)

Quote
Drivers could be using the Beltway Express lanes to cruise to Thanksgiving feasts.

Quote
The 14 miles of special toll lanes will open early, as soon as Nov. 17, in plenty of time for Turkey Day travel, the Virginia Department of Transportation announced Wednesday.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on October 31, 2012, 02:18:06 PM
The project's website confirms it is indeed Saturday the 17th. Interesting twist in having it open prior to the Thanksgiving travel crunch.

Once upon a time I might have considered trying to go out there at night to be the "first one to drive there," but since they've had test caravans going through for months that seems dumb. I may try to go for a drive on it that weekend, but I may not—Ms1995hoo and I are hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year and that weekend is a prime opportunity to get a lot of stuff done.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on October 31, 2012, 03:37:28 PM
The project's website confirms it is indeed Saturday the 17th. Interesting twist in having it open prior to the Thanksgiving travel crunch.

Once upon a time I might have considered trying to go out there at night to be the "first one to drive there," but since they've had test caravans going through for months that seems dumb. I may try to go for a drive on it that weekend, but I may not—Ms1995hoo and I are hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year and that weekend is a prime opportunity to get a lot of stuff done.

Interestingly, Maryland got the Contracts B and C section of the InterCounty Connector open just before Thanksgiving last year.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on November 01, 2012, 11:42:28 AM
TOLLROADSnews: VA/495 Express Lanes to open November 17 (http://www.tollroadsnews.com/node/6259)

Quote
For a bold project the announcement of its start-up sounded tentative, even timid. The 495 Express Lanes "will open as early as November 17," the first announcement from VDOT and the Express Lanes operator Transurban said.

Quote
They were aiming for November 17, a Saturday start-up, but it just might be postponed, probably to the following weekend if complications arose in the meantime.

Quote
When pressed today however the Transurban people soon said November 17 was indeed a firm start date. And a couple of hours later the 495 Express Lanes (495XL) website discarded the wimpish "as soon as" saying simply the express lanes "will open" November 17.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: Mapmikey on November 01, 2012, 12:08:54 PM
Most of the tarps have been removed from BGSs in the express lanes as of this morning...

In other news, tree removal on the I-95 HOT lanes south of Dumfries is very far along...essentially no trees left north of Exit 148 with some grading work occurring.

Major progress on tree removal from Aquia Creek to the Telegraph Rd overpass has also occurred.

Mapmikey
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 01, 2012, 12:14:05 PM
I'll be interested in seeing how the new HOV ramps in the Springfield Interchange alter the traffic flow through there. Those are the part of this whole thing to which I've most been looking forward because I might use them regularly—or at least, I would have used them regularly if the NHL weren't in a lockout again (we have Capitals season tickets).

We're heading out to the mountains on Saturday, so perhaps we can snag some pictures of the nearly-completed lanes. There's an "E-ZPass Express" reassurance shield just north of the new Braddock Road HO/T ramp on the left side of the road and I've been unsuccessful in getting a picture of it (always too grainy due to distance). Doubt I can get that one, but I'm interested in finally seeing all the signs. I've seen some of them and so I have a pretty good sense of what the others look like, but to me one of the biggest questions about this project was always whether they would do an adequate job with the signs. We'll soon find out.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 02, 2012, 05:29:47 PM
Dr. Gridlock put this image on Twitter. It's taken from the new Jones Branch Drive entrance to the Express Lanes looking south towards Tysons Corner Center (barely visible on the right below the "Shopping Bag Building"). I'm not sure what the other on-ramp to the left is, but I assume it probably comes from the Dulles Toll Road. I asked him about it and will edit this post if he replies.

(https://pbs.twimg.com/media/A6ubu-_CIAAqpAk.jpg:large)
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 03, 2012, 10:55:04 PM
Took the Beltway to I-66 this morning on the way out and then took it from the Toll Road to Van Dorn on the way home. Best look yet at the new signs, although I didn't get any pictures (too dark on the way home, traffic on the way out). Most of the signs look pretty good. Ms1995hoo remarked that uncovering them two weeks early is, in theory, a good idea because people can learn where the exits are even if they don't visit the project website. I agree in theory, though I think in practice it won't really work out that way.

What I wish the website had is some more photos, and specifically I think photos of some of the new ramp configurations would be nice. The Dulles Toll Road interchange is the main one where this would help. There are a lot of new ramps there going in various directions and it'd be nice to see some detailed pictures before driving them for the first time.

BTW, since they resurfaced the road it's a much nicer drive. Finally having reflectors as part of the lane markings is long-overdue. Maybe it's a sign of my eyes aging, but I sure like how they make the lane delineations clearer.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on November 06, 2012, 09:00:04 AM
Los Angeles, California is also in the process of opening HOV/toll lanes.

See this thread that I started in the  Pacific Southwest forum for details: Metro Debuts New Express Lanes On 110 Freeway (https://www.aaroads.com/forum/index.php?topic=8029.0)
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 09, 2012, 05:23:21 PM
Couple of pictures from the Virginia Megaprojects website:


This one is looking north through the Tysons area and it was taken on October 18. The Shopping Bag Building is on the left just after the interchange and then Tysons Corner Center is just beyond that. The long concrete overpass about three-quarters of the way up the photo is the elevated structure for the Metrorail line.

(http://www.vamegaprojects.com/tasks/render/file/?fileID=6BAADD44-33C2-4460-9FA442BB59B8EADB&ext=.jpg)


Aerial view of the Springfield Interchange, also from October 18. Top of the picture is south.

(http://www.vamegaprojects.com/tasks/render/file/?fileID=3C4DECF0-F743-49C2-8B9949329BB74312&ext=.jpg)


Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on November 11, 2012, 04:50:45 PM
Washington Post's Dr. Gridlock: In Beltway HOT lanes, where will snow go, and what if a car hits the dividing poles? (http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/in-beltway-hot-lanes-where-will-snow-go-and-what-if-a-car-hits-the-dividing-poles/2012/10/20/7f0772c6-17d6-11e2-8792-cf5305eddf60_story.html)

Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: NJRoadfan on November 11, 2012, 05:26:09 PM
So, will people wanting to get to/from the I-95 HOV lanes from the Beltway be able to do so with those new ramps without paying a tolls? That flyover from the HOV lanes to I-95 northbound to get on the Beltway and stay with I-95 is quite annoying.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: Mapmikey on November 11, 2012, 08:35:37 PM
Yes...the Beltway express lanes end well before the Springfield Interchange.

Although in 2-3 yrs it won't matter once I-95/395 HOV become HOT lanes themselves...

Mapmikey
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on November 12, 2012, 09:07:33 AM
Yes...the Beltway express lanes end well before the Springfield Interchange.

Not exactly - it will be possible to navigate through the Springfield Interchange while staying on the toll lanes in  both directions on the Capital Beltway.

Although in 2-3 yrs it won't matter once I-95/395 HOV become HOT lanes themselves...

The lanes will not extend north of Turkeycock Run (at the Fairfax County/City of Alexandria border, thanks in large part to objections raised by Arlington County).
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 12, 2012, 09:57:59 AM
Yes...the Beltway express lanes end well before the Springfield Interchange.

Not exactly - it will be possible to navigate through the Springfield Interchange while staying on the toll lanes in  both directions on the Capital Beltway.

....

Well, yes and no. I wrote into the project managers to ask about the ramps to/from Shirley Highway and they confirmed that there is no toll to use them. I was wondering about it because of the toll gantries located just to the west of those ramps and because "froggie" of this forum had said that the HO/T system will extend east through the Springfield Interchange, although the project's website says the toll system ends where the Express Lanes begin/end to the west of the Robinson Terminal. The project team said the ramps will be untolled, although as Mapmikey points out the eventual conversion of the portion of the Shirley Highway HOV lanes to which those ramps connect will mean that traffic will be unable to use those ramps without paying a toll somewhere (unless you're an HOV). I've tried to find out why there are toll gantries there if there is no toll but I haven't gotten a straight answer. Dr. Gridlock seems not to have any interest in that part of the project.

What's odd, though, is that new lanes built by the HO/T project extend east through the Springfield Interchange even though (a) there is to be no toll there and (b) there are no plastic bollards separating them from the general-purpose lanes. On the Inner Loop, for example, if you take the new left exit for the HOV ramp, you'll see the sign shown below (the ramp in the background with the truck driving uphill is the I-95 South flyover). Notice the BGS for the Beltway. It doesn't have the "E-ZPass Express" banner all the HO/T signs are required to have. The lane to which it refers curves back to the right and becomes the left lane of the Beltway, passing under a toll gantry at the west end of the HOV ramps (where there is to be no toll collected).

I suspect the idea is that eventually they might want to extend the system eastward and they've constructed this part of the system as a provision for that in the future.

(http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Road%20sign%20pictures/c9fa6718.jpg)
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: deathtopumpkins on November 12, 2012, 10:23:28 AM
And/or maybe (this is pure speculation) the HOT lanes project included the implementation of an ITS and they're using an E-ZPass reader to measure traffic flow.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on November 12, 2012, 01:45:25 PM
And/oryt maybe (this is pure speculation) the HOT lanes project included the implementation of an ITS and they're using an E-ZPass reader to measure traffic flow.

I believe that all of the E-ZPass reader stations along the project also have inductive loop detectors under the gantries (not certain about this, since I have not been able to get a good look at the pavement). 

The toll collection gantries on Md. 200 (ICC) have loops in the pavement beneath them.

EDIT:  Upon further inspection (yesterday), there are some sort of detectors in the blacktop below the E-ZPass transponder readers.  Not sure how they work (they appear not to be the traditional loops (usually circular in Virginia, sometimes a square tilted 45° (rather like the North Carolina state highway shield)), but are almost metallic "strips" mounted across both  lanes).
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 13, 2012, 01:51:09 PM
As the 495 Express Lanes prepare to open on Saturday, public ignorance continues. Dr. Gridlock's column from Sunday's paper (http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/new-e-zpass-signs-can-confuse-drivers/2012/11/10/5e7954d2-29df-11e2-b4e0-346287b7e56c_story.html) contains the following letter from a local resident:

Quote
Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I keep seeing signs for E-ZPass along both sides of Interstate 66 between Arlington County and the Nutley Street exit. What does this mean, and how it does it affect me?

I am not a commuter. I use I-66 only occasionally to go into Arlington from Fairfax County and return. Can I still use I-66, or will I have to purchase an E-ZPass?

 — Carolyn Nugent, Fairfax

 :banghead: :banghead: :banghead:

When I read that I shook my head. OK, I guess it's fair to acknowledge that the advance signs on I-66 do not include an I-495 shield. Oscar posted this picture last May in the "Virginia" thread:

(http://www.alaskaroads.com/I-495-express-lanes-sign-at-I-66-w%27bound-at-exit-66_DSC8907.jpg)

It's interesting to note that the identical sign on the Dulles Access Road has an I-495 shield at the top above the "E-ZPASS EXPRESS" banner (and it's a bit of an odd-looking shield in terms of not having any kind of background—it's a cut-out centered above the "E-ZPASS EXPRESS" plaque). I wonder why they didn't do something similar with the signs on I-66. The added cost would have been negligible.

Either way, I can't begin to fathom that someone from Fairfax is unaware of the high occupancy/toll project on the Beltway, yet her letter implies that she claims ignorance. That project has been perhaps THE central fact of transportation in Northern Virginia for the past four years as the Beltway has been rebuilt, and it's regularly mentioned on the news and on the traffic reports. You'd really have to be making a serious effort to avoid knowing about it.

But seeing her letter makes me think that the fact that she wrote into Dr. Gridlock indicates that she must have at least some minimal knowledge of traffic and transit issues—after all, presumably she reads his column and so knew where to write, correct? That makes me wonder how many people there are out there who are even MORE ignorant.

Eastbound I-66 is going to be pretty darn interesting during the morning rush hour for awhile as people get used to the new setup. You'll have HOV-2 drivers who used to use the left exit who now must exit to the right if they don't want to pay the toll. While that's the same as it's been for the past month or two of construction, you now have a new twist: Single-occupant vehicles who now want to move LEFT to use the left-side exit into the Express Lanes because they're willing to pay the toll. Having criss-crossing traffic like that doesn't strike me as a wonderful situation in an area that's already congested (and eastbound I-66 at the Beltway has been heavily congested every morning for at least the past 20 years).

Meanwhile, you still have people asking questions like whether the HOV-or-toll restriction will be in effect 24/7 (it will)—they seem to think that at non-rush hour it will be free for all.

Then you have clods who are just stupid or who place blind faith in their sat-navs. One of the comments to Dr. Gridlock's column on Sunday read as follows:

Quote
BAD SIGNS. My sister from Philadelphia wanted to exit on 66W from the beltway today, and the signs kept telling her to exit left, which of course she couldn't do, so she missed the exit completely. There is NOTHING on those signs that indicate that the left 66 exits are for HOT lanes only. This needs to be fixed ASAP.

That's all bullshit, of course. There are NO signs over the general-purpose lanes referring to a left exit to I-66. The signs over the Express Lanes have a huge white "E-ZPASS EXPRESS EXITS" plaque, not to mention they're physically located over the Express Lanes, not over the general-purpose ones. I strongly suspect this guy (and not his sister) was following a sat-nav telling him to use the old left-side exit from the Beltway that closed in 2011 and has been demolished. I still regularly see people slowing down in the left lane, presumably looking for that exit. This is why sat-navs have those annoying nag screens with the legal disclaimers.....


So I kind of shake my head at the ignorance out there and I wonder how it's all going to work next week when this is open on commute days for the first time, though perhaps the following week might pose more of a valid test because next week many people may be out of town for Thanksgiving. I think I may test it out on Monday when I need to make a trip to Potomac, though I'll likely wait until after rush hour just to get a lower toll.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 13, 2012, 04:12:51 PM
Overhead pictures of the Dulles Toll Road/Beltway interchange from VDOT (taken on October 16). This is the sort of thing I thought should have been posted on the 495 Express Lanes website. Useful stuff for helping you visualize exactly where some of the ramps go—for me, the hardest one to picture at that interchange was the one from the eastbound Toll Road to the southbound Express Lanes.

In this image, south is at the top of the map—the Inner Loop is on the left with the traffic. The two overpasses towards the top right are the new Jones Branch Drive exit.

(http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8192/8122673903_82b2884afa_c.jpg)


This image is from further west than the first but still looks south. The one-lane ramp from the Toll Road to the southbound Express Lanes runs next to the stopped traffic on the other ramp (leading to the Inner Loop) and it surfaces to the left of the Express Lanes but to the right of the ramps to/from Jones Branch Drive.

(http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8464/8122680687_90480d84e3_c.jpg)


More zoomed-out view of the area:

(http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8464/8122690534_fbccc88453_c.jpg)


I-66 interchange here (I-66 crosses the picture with west being at the top left). What I find amusing is that the new Express Lanes ramp from the Inner Loop to westbound I-66 essentially restores the original left-side exit that had been re-routed in the mid-1990s.

(http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8055/8122669033_34d4429f4f_c.jpg)
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 14, 2012, 09:51:58 AM
Dr. Gridlock's blog has this very grainy photo, I assume taken on a mobile phone, looking north towards the Dulles interchange and the end of the Express Lanes. I post it here because I find it interesting that there are no exit tabs for the Express exit to the Dulles Access and Toll Roads. I suppose, when you get down to it, the white "E-ZPASS EXPRESS EXIT" banner serves the functional purpose of a tab and that the only reason the other exits have tabs is to comply with the new standard of having a yellow notice for a left exit.

BTW, I have to say the HO/T project has resulted in much better signs for that particular interchange. For so many years the BGS for the westbound toll road never said anything at all about where the road went, just "267 WEST/TOLL ROAD." Though I do find it amusing that Leesburg is not listed, as the road ultimately goes there. I wonder if that might be a political thing to do with the privately-owned Dulles Greenway.

(http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/dr-gridlock/files/2012/11/Tysons-signs.jpg)
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: NE2 on November 14, 2012, 02:15:28 PM
What's with some of the TOLL boxes being white?
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 14, 2012, 02:20:24 PM
What's with some of the TOLL boxes being white?

Huh, good catch. Interesting. All the TOLL boxes on the old signs were in white, so someone probably just did the same on those particular new signs.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on November 15, 2012, 07:39:23 AM
Dr. Gridlock in the Washington Post: Beltway HOT lanes: Innovation born of necessity (http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/beltway-hot-lanes-innovation-born-of-necessity/2012/11/14/1e452290-28f6-11e2-b4e0-346287b7e56c_story.html)

Quote
One of the nation’s best-known highways is getting a makeover for the 21st century.

Quote
Early Saturday, a new set of lanes is set to open on the Virginia side of the Capital Beltway, and it’s not just new asphalt. The 495 Express Lanes represent a new approach to paying for highways and managing traffic.





Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 15, 2012, 07:51:28 AM
I notice one of Dr. Gridlock's latest items references that website you frequently link and some others complain about, TollRoadsNews.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on November 15, 2012, 08:17:41 AM
I notice one of Dr. Gridlock's latest items references that website you frequently link and some others complain about, TollRoadsNews.

Hoo, that's correct.  Like him or not, Peter writes good and informative stuff on his site.  And unlike some others, he appreciates comments and corrections from his readers.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: Mapmikey on November 15, 2012, 01:39:00 PM
BTW, I have to say the HO/T project has resulted in much better signs for that particular interchange. For so many years the BGS for the westbound toll road never said anything at all about where the road went, just "267 WEST/TOLL ROAD." Though I do find it amusing that Leesburg is not listed, as the road ultimately goes there. I wonder if that might be a political thing to do with the privately-owned Dulles Greenway.


There are separate small green signs indicating Leesburg for Exit 45 in both directions of the beltway...

Mapmikey
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 15, 2012, 02:05:38 PM
BTW, I have to say the HO/T project has resulted in much better signs for that particular interchange. For so many years the BGS for the westbound toll road never said anything at all about where the road went, just "267 WEST/TOLL ROAD." Though I do find it amusing that Leesburg is not listed, as the road ultimately goes there. I wonder if that might be a political thing to do with the privately-owned Dulles Greenway.


There are separate small green signs indicating Leesburg for Exit 45 in both directions of the beltway...

Mapmikey

Yeah, and there used to be LGSs for Reston and Herndon when they weren't on the main signs. I thought their omission from the main signs was odd too.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on November 16, 2012, 09:16:35 AM
Here come the Beltway HOT Lanes — you ready? (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-state-of-nova/post/here-come-the-beltway-hot-lanes--you-ready/2012/11/16/c1aaa2fc-2f9f-11e2-9f50-0308e1e75445_blog.html)

Quote
The world is watching. Or at least the world of traffic engineers, and the world of drivers that swirls through Northern Virginia on the Capital Beltway every day. The High Occupancy Toll lanes open Saturday between the Mixing Bowl and the Toll Road. It will almost be strange not to have the construction on the Beltway anymore. But I’m sure Metro’s work around Tysons, followed by the construction of Tysons City, will keep things in a mess there.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 16, 2012, 09:22:28 AM
We had an HOA meeting last night and two of the local elected officials (Supervisor Jeff McKay and Delegate Mark Sickles) put in an appearance. The HO/T lanes were one of the major topics of discussion during their portion of the program and the discussion underscored to me just how much of a learning curve there will apparently be as to the public. Several of the people who asked what I'd consider to be somewhat silly questions are people who are, on the whole, pretty well-informed (one of them is the HOA president), but they didn't seem to understand some fairly basic points, such as the new lanes being HOV-or-toll on a 24/7 basis and not just during rush hour like the Shirley Highway lanes are now.

It makes me think people must (a) just make assumptions about how the project will work and (b) accept misinformation from other people as fact, and in both cases (c) they don't bother to do the minimal research to find out whether the information is accurate.

Gonna be interesting to see how it all works. The feeling I sensed in the room is that the I-95 Express Lanes project concerns people in our area a lot more, which is understandable because a lot of us use those reversible lanes during the non-HOV hours. If we're coming from the south on a Sunday, it's a lot easier to reach our neighborhood from the HOV lanes than it is from the general-purpose lanes, and people were quite dismayed to realize that in the future they'll have to pay to continue in the express lanes from Turkeycock to the Franconia–Springfield Parkway (whereas nowadays they just have to wait until after 6:00 PM when HOV ends).

The other thing I found myself thinking: Understanding the Beltway Express Lanes, and the tolling mechanism, is a very simple matter compared to what people will encounter on I-95. I'm sure I've noted it before in this thread, but because the I-95 lanes have ramps that allow you to exit back into the general-purpose lanes, your toll is not locked in for the entire length of the trip when you enter (whereas on the Beltway it is). Instead, if you enter at, say, Potomac Mills Mall, you'll see the toll to the flyover ramp just north of the Fairfax County Parkway. As you approach that ramp, you'll see a separate toll to Turkeycock and you'll have to decide whether to pay that toll or whether to exit into the local lanes there. That's not an issue on the Beltway because you cannot exit into the local lanes. People are going to assume—quite understandably—that the two projects will work the same way.



Here come the Beltway HOT Lanes — you ready? (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-state-of-nova/post/here-come-the-beltway-hot-lanes--you-ready/2012/11/16/c1aaa2fc-2f9f-11e2-9f50-0308e1e75445_blog.html)

Quote
The world is watching. Or at least the world of traffic engineers, and the world of drivers that swirls through Northern Virginia on the Capital Beltway every day. The High Occupancy Toll lanes open Saturday between the Mixing Bowl and the Toll Road. It will almost be strange not to have the construction on the Beltway anymore. But I’m sure Metro’s work around Tysons, followed by the construction of Tysons City, will keep things in a mess there.

As usual with those articles, don't read the reader comments at the bottom unless you want to feel your intelligence dribbling away.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on November 16, 2012, 12:07:51 PM
We had an HOA meeting last night and two of the local elected officials (Supervisor Jeff McKay and Delegate Mark Sickles) put in an appearance. The HO/T lanes were one of the major topics of discussion during their portion of the program and the discussion underscored to me just how much of a learning curve there will apparently be as to the public. Several of the people who asked what I'd consider to be somewhat silly questions are people who are, on the whole, pretty well-informed (one of them is the HOA president), but they didn't seem to understand some fairly basic points, such as the new lanes being HOV-or-toll on a 24/7 basis and not just during rush hour like the Shirley Highway lanes are now.

My  property in the Fairland Master Plan Area of Silver Spring, Montgomery County adjoins the Maryland 200 (ICC) and U.S. 29 (Columbia Pike) interchange.  We have had an assortment of people out to speak with  the HOA dating back to the early 1990's (when the environmental impact statement study that was ultimately scuppered by then-Gov. Parris Glendening was getting under way). 

In spite of that, when the Contract B/Contract C section of the road finally opened in November 2011, and in the year since then, I have gotten a lot of questions about the road, which indicate that people were (and still are) remarkably uninformed about where it goes and how the tolls work.

It makes me think people must (a) just make assumptions about how the project will work and (b) accept misinformation from other people as fact, and in both cases (c) they don't bother to do the minimal research to find out whether the information is accurate.

That tells me that persons and groups in favor of a project have not done an especially good job of informing the public (and goodness knows, they have tried).

Gonna be interesting to see how it all works. The feeling I sensed in the room is that the I-95 Express Lanes project concerns people in our area a lot more, which is understandable because a lot of us use those reversible lanes during the non-HOV hours. If we're coming from the south on a Sunday, it's a lot easier to reach our neighborhood from the HOV lanes than it is from the general-purpose lanes, and people were quite dismayed to realize that in the future they'll have to pay to continue in the express lanes from Turkeycock to the Franconia–Springfield Parkway (whereas nowadays they just have to wait until after 6:00 PM when HOV ends).

Certain elected officials in Arlington County have done the region a huge disservice by forcing this change to the project (though it also means that non-HOV non-peak period travel from Turckeycock Run to the Pentagon and D.C. will remain "free" for the time being). 

Regarding access to your community, has anyone asked their elected officials if there is any prospect of building those ramps from the mainline of I-95 to Va. 289 (Franconia-Springfield Parkway)?  I am pretty certain that there is no money for them, and because there are effectively "frontage" roads on both sides of I-95 near there (Va. 789, Loisdale Drive on the east side and Va. 617, Backlick Road on the west side), ramps like that would be extremely expensive.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on November 16, 2012, 02:27:28 PM
NBC4 TV: Envy in Maryland Over 495 Express Lanes (http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/Envy-in-Maryland-Over-495-Express-Lanes-179658781.html)

Quote
Saturday's opening of the I-495 Express Lanes in Virginia is causing a little envy across the river.

Quote
Some in Maryland are questioning why their isn't a similar plan for their side of the Beltway.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 16, 2012, 03:34:49 PM
I went to Tysons earlier today. Got stuck in hideous traffic on the way back and was gazing longingly at those Express Lanes. I eventually got off at US-50 and took a different way home.

I did note that all the signs are uncovered with the exception of one on the Outer Loop in the Springfield Interchange to the east of the HOV ramps where a single lane splits off to the left only to rejoin the Outer Loop at the eastern end of the I-95 flyover (this is the peculiar lane whose purpose nobody seems to be able to explain). I saw a lot of the types of trailblazers shown in the picture below (this one is at the ramp from westbound 50 to Gallows outside the Yorktowne Centre; the northbound Express Lanes entrance is from Gallows and the southbound one is from Lee Highway). Lots of these in Tysons, especially (I made several stops in the Tysons area and so drove around a fair bit). Smaller versions of the white signs explaining the E-ZPass requirements are posted on the arterial roads too.

(http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Road%20sign%20pictures/MiscellaneousNovember2012077.jpg)


The significant thing that is not present anywhere is a sign on the Beltway prior to the lanes' southern end (I assume the same is true on the Outer Loop, but will find out for sure on Monday) telling you where the exits are—something similar to the sign at the southern end of the I-95 HOV carriageway that says "EXITS FROM RESTRICTED LANES" and then gives the mileage to Springfield, the Pentagon, and Washington. I guess the idea is that the signs giving the toll rates help tell you where the exits are. We'll see! The sign at the exact southern entrance has the white "E-ZPASS EXPRESS" banner and then underneath it just a simple green panel that says only "ENTRANCE" with two downward-pointing arrows for the two lanes. Seems like that sign could have said "Merrifield" and "Tysons Corner," perhaps.

Well, it will be interesting to see it in practice!


It makes me think people must (a) just make assumptions about how the project will work and (b) accept misinformation from other people as fact, and in both cases (c) they don't bother to do the minimal research to find out whether the information is accurate.

That tells me that persons and groups in favor of a project have not done an especially good job of informing the public (and goodness knows, they have tried).

I don't think that's the entire problem because no matter how hard you try, you can't inform people who are unwilling to be informed. Read some of the comments on Dr. Gridlock's blog and you'll see what I mean. A lot of those lunkheads are still arguing that the lanes shouldn't have been built, which is a really stupid fight to be trying to make now!


....

Regarding access to your community, has anyone asked their elected officials if there is any prospect of building those ramps from the mainline of I-95 to Va. 289 (Franconia-Springfield Parkway)?  I am pretty certain that there is no money for them, and because there are effectively "frontage" roads on both sides of I-95 near there (Va. 789, Loisdale Drive on the east side and Va. 617, Backlick Road on the west side), ramps like that would be extremely expensive.

Not recently. The current supervisor's predecessor (Dana Kauffman) mentioned it once and said not to hold your breath. It's not just the cost of the construction of the ramps themselves. There are also eminent domain issues due to private businesses butting right up against I-95 on the west side, and the Virginia constitution was just amended to make eminent domain proceedings more difficult. There's also the problem that you'd be squeezing in a new interchange adjacent to an existing one (Route 644) and so you would almost definitely have to build C/D roads, thus further increasing the cost and the construction mess (in a place that has seemingly been under construction at least since 1990).

What I'm interested in seeing is how many people get addicted to using the new Beltway-to-HOV connection as a shortcut to and from the Franconia–Springfield Parkway. For example, suppose I park the car at the Springfield Metro and ride somewhere and then someone drives me back to the car. If we're coming down the Beltway at night, it becomes way easier to take the HOV ramp and then exit onto the Parkway instead of exiting onto I-95, then exiting onto Franconia Road, going through two lights, turning onto Frontier Drive, and going through five more traffic lights! Stuff like that makes me think more people in my area might become willing to pay the toll for that short segment than now think they'll do that.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on November 16, 2012, 04:14:50 PM
It makes me think people must (a) just make assumptions about how the project will work and (b) accept misinformation from other people as fact, and in both cases (c) they don't bother to do the minimal research to find out whether the information is accurate.

That tells me that persons and groups in favor of a project have not done an especially good job of informing the public (and goodness knows, they have tried).

I don't think that's the entire problem because no matter how hard you try, you can't inform people who are unwilling to be informed.

Though they consider themselves to be "informed" (I use that word loosely) enough to complain about "traffic" and why it is so bad.

Read some of the comments on Dr. Gridlock's blog and you'll see what I mean. A lot of those lunkheads are still arguing that the lanes shouldn't have been built, which is a really stupid fight to be trying to make now!

Heck, at the two ribboncuttings for the ICC (Contract A in February 2011 and Contracts B and C in November 2011) some of the same people that have been raising objections to the road since the 1980's (and maybe earlier) were there to complain.  At the Contract A ceremony, at least one or two were informed to cease their activities (attempting to disrupt/shout down the several speakers, mostly elected officials) or be arrested by the numerous MdTA Police who were present. 

I don't think anyone actually was arrested, though it would have been incredibly amusing if the very first arrest made by the MdTA Police in Montgomery County was of an anti-ICC protester.

....
Quote
Regarding access to your community, has anyone asked their elected officials if there is any prospect of building those ramps from the mainline of I-95 to Va. 289 (Franconia-Springfield Parkway)?  I am pretty certain that there is no money for them, and because there are effectively "frontage" roads on both sides of I-95 near there (Va. 789, Loisdale Drive on the east side and Va. 617, Backlick Road on the west side), ramps like that would be extremely expensive.

Not recently. The current supervisor's predecessor (Dana Kauffman) mentioned it once and said not to hold your breath. It's not just the cost of the construction of the ramps themselves. There are also eminent domain issues due to private businesses butting right up against I-95 on the west side, and the Virginia constitution was just amended to make eminent domain proceedings more difficult. There's also the problem that you'd be squeezing in a new interchange adjacent to an existing one (Route 644) and so you would almost definitely have to build C/D roads, thus further increasing the cost and the construction mess (in a place that has seemingly been under construction at least since 1990).

Agreed regarding the challenges of building those ramps, but I understand that still more jobs may (at some point) be coming to the Fort Belvoir North Area, which (in addition to everything else that's happening) is going to increase the load on the I-95/Va. 286 (Fairfax County Parkway) interchange at Newington.  Maybe that will push those ramps along in spite of their cost (though I don't think they are in the TPB's Constrained Long Range Plan now) (TPB is the designated metropolitan planning organization for the Washington metropolitan area).

Regarding the Virginia Constitution, I thought that amendment forbade the Commonwealth and its political subdivisions from using eminent domain to condemn and purchase land for private entities (in other words, for "economic development"), but still allowed it to use those powers for public purposes (such as highway construction and improvement)?  Wasn't it a reaction to the (U.S.) Supreme Court's Kelo decision?

What I'm interested in seeing is how many people get addicted to using the new Beltway-to-HOV connection as a shortcut to and from the Franconia–Springfield Parkway. For example, suppose I park the car at the Springfield Metro and ride somewhere and then someone drives me back to the car. If we're coming down the Beltway at night, it becomes way easier to take the HOV ramp and then exit onto the Parkway instead of exiting onto I-95, then exiting onto Franconia Road, going through two lights, turning onto Frontier Drive, and going through five more traffic lights! Stuff like that makes me think more people in my area might become willing to pay the toll for that short segment than now think they'll do that.

I think that's a very good question. 

For the most part, the reversible nature of the I-95/I-395 Express Lanes works well in that corridor, but this is one place where it hurts, since I think there is demand in both directions most of the time, which the reversible configuration cannot handle.

Before the Springfield Interchange reconstruction was completed, I talked to people that would go north from I-495 on I-395 to Va. 236 (Duke Street), then turn around and enter the Express Lanes southbound at Turkeycock Run just so they could use that exit from the Express Lanes at Va. 289 (f/k/a 7900).

That's been a few years now, but I think it may be a (small) indicator of how popular that movement might be.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 16, 2012, 05:00:20 PM
Regarding the Virginia Constitution, I thought that amendment forbade the Commonwealth and its political subdivisions from using eminent domain to condemn and purchase land for private entities (in other words, for "economic development"), but still allowed it to use those powers for public purposes (such as highway construction and improvement)?  Wasn't it a reaction to the (U.S.) Supreme Court's Kelo decision?

It is a reaction to that case, but my understanding is that the amendment goes further than what you state because it requires compensation for more than just the value of the land—there also has to be compensation for things like lost income/lost profits. That makes it a much more complicated equation.

....

Before the Springfield Interchange reconstruction was completed, I talked to people that would go north from I-495 on I-395 to Va. 236 (Duke Street), then turn around and enter the Express Lanes southbound at Turkeycock Run just so they could use that exit from the Express Lanes at Va. 289 (f/k/a 7900).

That's been a few years now, but I think it may be a (small) indicator of how popular that movement might be.

Wow. That's one move that's never crossed my mind, but then it wouldn't because I live closer to Van Dorn Street. Also, the Duke Street interchange is absolutely horrid and I avoid it whenever possible. Still, that's wild to hear that people use it as you've just described.

Those new HOV ramps (the former "Phase VIII" of the Springfield Interchange) have really been completely overlooked in the media coverage of this whole thing, and I think that does a disservice to a lot of people. Those ramps make it possible for the slugging system to grow to serve Tysons Corner and Alexandria because it eliminates the nuisance of exiting the HOV at Newington and fighting everyone else through Springfield. It may take quite some time for slugging to develop, especially seeing as how the slug community are some of the most vehmently against HO/T projects because they think drivers won't want to pick up slugs anymore (a stupid theory: Why would any sane person pay a $15 or $20 toll to be an SOV when he can ride free if he picks up slugs like he has for years?).
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on November 16, 2012, 07:46:08 PM
Regarding the Virginia Constitution, I thought that amendment forbade the Commonwealth and its political subdivisions from using eminent domain to condemn and purchase land for private entities (in other words, for "economic development"), but still allowed it to use those powers for public purposes (such as highway construction and improvement)?  Wasn't it a reaction to the (U.S.) Supreme Court's Kelo decision?

It is a reaction to that case, but my understanding is that the amendment goes further than what you state because it requires compensation for more than just the value of the land—there also has to be compensation for things like lost income/lost profits. That makes it a much more complicated equation.

Thank you.  Not being a resident of Virginia, I had not read the (now-approved) amendment in any detail - I was relying on what the media said.

However, let's look at the  provision for lost income and profits from the flipside.  Maybe it will mean that someone who has property that is needed for a legitimate public use is more-likely to come to agreement with the public agency that needs the land with such provisions in place?

I have long felt that governments should be able to offer slightly more than appraised value of real property that it wants to purchase by eminent domain.  I don't think it will significantly increase the cost of a project, and it might allow things to go to settlement much more quickly. 

....

Before the Springfield Interchange reconstruction was completed, I talked to people that would go north from I-495 on I-395 to Va. 236 (Duke Street), then turn around and enter the Express Lanes southbound at Turkeycock Run just so they could use that exit from the Express Lanes at Va. 289 (f/k/a 7900).

That's been a few years now, but I think it may be a (small) indicator of how popular that movement might be.

Wow. That's one move that's never crossed my mind, but then it wouldn't because I live closer to Van Dorn Street. Also, the Duke Street interchange is absolutely horrid and I avoid it whenever possible. Still, that's wild to hear that people use it as you've just described.

Not a scientific sample, but recall how terrible traffic was before the Springfield Interchange was reconstructed (and the additional lane added to I-95 between Va. 286 (7100 then) and Va. 123 in Prince William County during the peak P.M. commute period)?

Looping around at Duke Street was a method to avoid all of that mess.

Those new HOV ramps (the former "Phase VIII" of the Springfield Interchange) have really been completely overlooked in the media coverage of this whole thing, and I think that does a disservice to a lot of people. Those ramps make it possible for the slugging system to grow to serve Tysons Corner and Alexandria because it eliminates the nuisance of exiting the HOV at Newington and fighting everyone else through Springfield. It may take quite some time for slugging to develop, especially seeing as how the slug community are some of the most vehmently against HO/T projects because they think drivers won't want to pick up slugs anymore (a stupid theory: Why would any sane person pay a $15 or $20 toll to be an SOV when he can ride free if he picks up slugs like he has for years?).

Agreed on all points above.  Those new ramps are a huge improvement for drivers wanting to get from southern Fairfax County and eastern Prince William County to employment at Tysons Corner and along the Dulles Toll Road corridor.

The slugs and body snatches are indeed unhappy about the new projects, though I agree with you - I don't think their fears are justified, and the new lanes on the Beltway may indeed open up some new slug line markets.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: Mapmikey on November 16, 2012, 08:51:52 PM

The significant thing that is not present anywhere is a sign on the Beltway prior to the lanes' southern end (I assume the same is true on the Outer Loop, but will find out for sure on Monday) telling you where the exits are—something similar to the sign at the southern end of the I-95 HOV carriageway that says "EXITS FROM RESTRICTED LANES" and then gives the mileage to Springfield, the Pentagon, and Washington. I guess the idea is that the signs giving the toll rates help tell you where the exits are. We'll see! The sign at the exact southern entrance has the white "E-ZPASS EXPRESS" banner and then underneath it just a simple green panel that says only "ENTRANCE" with two downward-pointing arrows for the two lanes. Seems like that sign could have said "Merrifield" and "Tysons Corner," perhaps.


On the outer loop there is a sign before the HOT lane entrance with the first 3 exits and distances to them.

Mapmikey
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 16, 2012, 09:50:41 PM
Interesting, thanks for the info. Maybe a similar sign will go up tonight on the Inner Loop. I'll find out tomorrow, got to go drop off some stuff at my parents' house. But on the other hand, the first three Outer Loop exits come up very quickly and are in the core area the project is meant to serve (Tysons), so maybe it'll stay the way it is.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 17, 2012, 10:57:57 AM
Adam Tuss of NBC-4 tweeted that there were two accidents in the new lanes overnight, but he didn't report on the cause or what happened (did someone go through the pylons, for example).

Meanwhile, the 10:38 traffic report on WTOP said there have been multiple instances of people backing up on the Beltway and reports of wrong-way drivers in the new lanes (the former doesn't surprise me; if the latter is true, why aren't there more media outlets reporting it)?

I won't be heading to Fairfax until the afternoon. Guess I will monitor the traffic reports. Wouldn't be using the new lanes anyway, the first exit is too far out of the way.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mtantillo on November 17, 2012, 11:49:02 AM
I can see how there could easily be wrong way drivers in these lanes.  I hope there aren't too many instances of that.  At the Route 7 entrance, the T-intersection is a NB exit ramp and SB entrance ramp.  Coming east on Route 7 and making the right-turn, it is a fairly sharp right turn onto the SB entrance, and the median nose on those ramps is pulled very far back (presumably to allow buses to make the sharp right), so if you don't take that turn sharp enough, you might end up driving south on the NB exit ramp without even realizing.  The Gallows, merrifield, and Braddock ramps all have similar designs. 
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mtantillo on November 17, 2012, 12:16:20 PM
Just rode the new Express Lanes a few times.  Not many people using them, and many of the people I did see using them did not appear to have an E-ZPass mounted on their windshield.  Wondering how many days until people start getting bills for toll + $12 service charge and start complaining.  Another thing I just thought of regarding E-ZPass mounting.  If you have your tag properly mounted in the center of the windshield, you shouldn't have to worry about your tag being read in the left-most regular lane.  But I've seen some people mount their tag or hold their tag in their left hand on the left side of the vehicle.  Those people might have to worry...but I suppose if they complain, the HOT lane operators will just say that they didn't mount their tag properly so it is their own fault. 

I did drive around to all of the entrances and jotted down the toll rates.  The minimum toll for the entire length appears to be $1.65, and the toll remained $1.65 the whole time I was out there.  So all of these toll rates are presumably the minimums, and I assume that as more cars enter the lanes, they will proportionally increase.  The toll rates did appear to be "top heavy", similar to the NJ Turnpike which uses a higher per-mile rate north of Exit 9.  The 495 express lanes were charging 30 cents to go less than a mile between the north end and Jones Branch Road, and 45 cents to go from the north end to Westpark Drive, barely over a mile.  But only $1.65 to drive 14 miles end to end.  I bet they are charging higher tolls at the north end to alleviate concerns over congestion at the merge point between the north end the lanes and the American Legion Bridge.  In otherwords, the operators were right in that the lane configuration and toll rates are optimized more for Virginia commuters than for those going to/from Maryland. 

So here are what I believe to be the minimum toll rates....

Northern Terminus of lanes:
Jones Bridge: 30¢
I-66: 80¢
I-95/I-395: $1.65

Dulles Toll Road (access to SB only):
Westpark Drive: 30¢
I-66: 65¢
I-95/I-395: $1.50

Jones Bridge:
I-66: 50¢
I-95/I-395: $1.35
I-495 north: 30¢
Braddock: $1.15

Westpark Drive:
Jones Bridge: 25¢
Dulles Toll Road: 30¢
I-495 north: 45¢
I-66: 35¢
Braddock: $1.00
I-95/I-395: $1.20

Route 7 (access to SB only):
I-66: 25¢
Braddock: 85¢
I-95/I-395: $1.05

I-66 (no WB to NB or SB to EB access):
Gallows: 30¢
Braddock: 65¢
I-95/I-395: 85¢
Route 7: 25¢
Jones Bridge: 45¢
I-495 north: 75¢

Merrifield/Lee Highway (access to SB only):
Gallows: 25¢
Braddock: 50¢
I-95/I-395: 70¢

Gallows Road (access to NB only):
I-66: 35¢
Westpark Drive: 65¢
I-495 north: $1.10

Braddock Road (access to NB only):
I-66: 70¢
Westpark Drive: $1.00
I-495 north: $1.45

Southern Terminus of Lanes:
I-66: 90¢
Westpark Drive: $1.20
I-495 north: $1.65
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: vdeane on November 17, 2012, 12:33:02 PM
That or they're saying "local traffic, keep out".
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on November 17, 2012, 02:14:46 PM
But only $1.65 to drive 14 miles end to end.  I bet they are charging higher tolls at the north end to alleviate concerns over congestion at the merge point between the north end the lanes and the American Legion Bridge.  In otherwords, the operators were right in that the lane configuration and toll rates are optimized more for Virginia commuters than for those going to/from Maryland.

The fault  for that lies with the Montgomery County, Maryland County Council, which pretends that no residents of their county work in Northern Virginia (except in Arlington County near its Metro stops, which is allowed according to Montgomery County ideology) and none of its residents and visitors use Dulles Airport.

I think the congestion on the Inner Loop of I-495 from the Va. 267 (Dulles Toll Road) interchange through the express lane merge and across the American Legion Bridge at least as far as I-270Y is going to be epic, especially afternoons (weekdays and weekends), in large part because Dulles Airport is an afternoon peaking facility, and in spite of what some Montgomery County planners and their overseers at the Montgomery County Council want to believe, there are a lot of their residents that want and need to use Dulles.

Mark my words, there are going to be an assortment of "activists" blaming VDOT (!) for this state of affairs, and calling for I-495 from the Toll Road to I-270Y to be re-striped with narrower lanes to add one lane, presumably for a few transit buses only (a really bad idea, especially on the bridge itself), and another attempt at WMATA bus service from Tysons Corner to the Bethesda Metrorail station (like the last time, 2000 to 2002, a few buses won't ease congestion at all).
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: Beltway on November 17, 2012, 02:18:43 PM
I did drive around to all of the entrances and jotted down the toll rates.  The minimum toll for the entire length appears to be $1.65, and the toll remained $1.65 the whole time I was out there.  So all of these toll rates are presumably the minimums, and I assume that as more cars enter the lanes, they will proportionally increase.

This would be the weekend rate, as well.  It may be a lot higher during peak periods on weekdays.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 17, 2012, 02:58:43 PM
We're in a standstill near the Robinson Terminal. No toll rates shown: Signs say "495 Express incident/Use general lanes."

Big wreck right at lanes' beginning. Express Lanes entry blocked.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on November 17, 2012, 03:19:41 PM
We're in a standstill near the Robinson Terminal. No toll rates shown: Signs say "495 Express incident/Use general lanes."

Big wreck right at lanes' beginning. Express Lanes entry blocked.

That's cause for concern.  Wonder if people are having a hard time figuring out  how to use  these lanes?
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 17, 2012, 04:40:44 PM
We're in a standstill near the Robinson Terminal. No toll rates shown: Signs say "495 Express incident/Use general lanes."

Big wreck right at lanes' beginning. Express Lanes entry blocked.

That's cause for concern.  Wonder if people are having a hard time figuring out  how to use  these lanes?

Back home now.

I suspect that what is happening is that it's the typical DC-area driver being absolutely oblivious even though there are MULTIPLE nice clear signs saying the two left lanes become the Express Lanes, driving along in those, then reaching the split and saying, "Oh, SHIT, I didn't want to use this," then SLAMMING on the brakes and/or swerving madly to dive for the general-purpose lanes. When I posted earlier I was in the passenger seat of my wife's car and the Express Lanes entrance was blocked; a Porsche Cayenne SUV was up on the back of a tow truck.

After our stop in Fairfax we tried to go to Tysons but the traffic around the mall was so bad we gave up. Toll coming home was $1.05, so we took the Express Lanes. So my first experience turned out to be with my wife driving. I'll upload some videos and you'll see that she was generally fairly clueless about the configuration, and being married to me you'd think she'd know something more about it than the general public. But she can get rather snide about my being "obsessed" (her word) with roads and traffic and.....well, you'll hear her complaining from time to time.

Thing is, I think my wife is an erratic driver and so I was HAPPY to be in the Express Lanes if she's driving because it's less nerve-wracking. She didn't wear a seatbelt until 2004 and only started then after I got rear-ended and pointed out to her that the seatbelt saved me from broken ribs and such. She still doesn't signal most of the time and, as you'll see in the videos, she does not share my habit of religiously using the left lane solely for passing whenever possible. But on the other hand, she backseat drives as a passenger and it drives me crazy and she pooh-poohs it when I complain, so I sometimes try to do the same thing to her to try to get her to understand how annoying it is.

I'll edit this after I get the videos uploaded.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on November 17, 2012, 05:26:29 PM
We're in a standstill near the Robinson Terminal. No toll rates shown: Signs say "495 Express incident/Use general lanes."

Big wreck right at lanes' beginning. Express Lanes entry blocked.

That's cause for concern.  Wonder if people are having a hard time figuring out  how to use  these lanes?

Back home now.

I suspect that what is happening is that it's the typical DC-area driver being absolutely oblivious even though there are MULTIPLE nice clear signs saying the two left lanes become the Express Lanes, driving along in those, then reaching the split and saying, "Oh, SHIT, I didn't want to use this," then SLAMMING on the brakes and/or swerving madly to dive for the general-purpose lanes.

That happens at several places in the  D.C. area. 

Perhaps the single-worst spot is the I-395 Express Lanes southbound, coming across the 14th Street Bridge coming out of the District of Columbia, at the so-called "Temp" ramp (https://maps.google.com/maps?q=arlington+county,+va&hl=en&ll=38.871464,-77.045875&spn=0.004669,0.009645&sll=38.804821,-77.236966&sspn=2.392779,4.938354&t=h&hnear=Arlington,+Virginia&z=17) (it's been there since about 1988) in Arlington County near the Boundary Channel Drive underpass, where the southbound HOV-3 restrictions start in the afternoon peak commute period.  Drivers will also SLAM on the brakes and decide at the very last minute (or even back up (!)) to get out of the HOV lanes and into the general-purpose lanes there. 

Another favorite spot for this type of clueless driving (and stopping) is the Outer Loop of the Beltway in Prince George's County in College Park, where I-95 North exits off of the Beltway on the right (https://maps.google.com/maps?q=college+park+md&hl=en&ll=39.022976,-76.943157&spn=0.004659,0.009645&sll=38.871464,-77.045875&sspn=0.004669,0.009645&t=h&hnear=College+Park,+Prince+George%27s,+Maryland&z=17), and people do not notice in spite of the massive signage that SHA has long had in place there. 

A more-recent (as in newer) location for this is I-370 eastbound in Montgomery County, approaching the last "free" exit (https://maps.google.com/maps?q=rockville+md&hl=en&ll=39.13135,-77.170147&spn=0.004652,0.009645&sll=39.022976,-76.943157&sspn=0.004659,0.009645&t=h&hnear=Rockville,+Montgomery,+Maryland&z=17) (at "secret" Md. 200A for Shady Grove Road and the Shady Grove Metro station, where 370 ends and tolled Md. 200 begins).

You can probably name a few other places where this sort of thing happens frequently.

In my perfect world, anyone that pulls a stunt like that would be charged with reckless driving by law enforcement (Maryland has a "Reckless and negligent driving" section in the Transportation Article (§ 21-901.1 (http://mlis.state.md.us/asp/statutes_respond.asp?article=gtr&section=21-901.1&Extension=HTML)), but it is apparently not used as the basis for charging a driver nearly as much as it is in Virginia).

When I posted earlier I was in the passenger seat of my wife's car and the Express Lanes entrance was blocked; a Porsche Cayenne SUV was up on the back of a tow truck.

That is going to be expensive to fix!
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on November 17, 2012, 05:31:16 PM
Washington Post: Two teens hurt in crash on Beltway express lanes (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/crime-scene/post/two-teens-hurt-in-crash-on-beltway-express-lanes/2012/11/17/54884a84-30db-11e2-a30e-5ca76eeec857_blog.html)

Quote
Two teenagers were injured in a crash Saturday on the Capital Beltway’s new 495 Express Lanes — one of two collisions on the newly opened roadway.

Quote
Neither teens’ injuries were expected to be life threatening, said Corinne Geller, a spokeswoman for the Virginia State Police. In the other crash, she said, no one was hurt.

Quote
The crash involving the teens occurred just before 7 a.m.near Braddock Road, where the general lanes of 495 now split off into the express lanes, Geller said. She said a 19-year-old woman headed north swerved right at the split, then overcorrected to the left — sending her vehicle across the general lanes and over the white divider posts that separate them from the express lanes. The vehicle, she said, eventually crashed into a jersey wall.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 17, 2012, 05:40:58 PM
Following up on my earlier post.....since cpzilliacus has responded, I'll put in a new post rather than editing.

I guess the benefit of being the passenger is that it gave me a lot more flexibility to take pictures and video.

First advance sign on the Inner Loop for the new ramps to the Shirley Highway HOV. Didn't see anybody using those ramps. I may test them out on Monday during non–rush hour since I can use the Franconia–Springfield Parkway for easy access, then take the Beltway Express Lanes to Maryland.

(http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Road%20sign%20pictures/BeltwayExpressLanesfirstday001.jpg)


Not sure if you can see this.....just after the sign shown above there's a trailblazer on the right for the Express Lanes. I had noted a covered-up sign for several months and it was obviously an Interstate shield from its shape, so now I know what it is.

(http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Road%20sign%20pictures/BeltwayExpressLanesfirstday002.jpg)


Another advance sign for the HOV ramps.

(http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Road%20sign%20pictures/BeltwayExpressLanesfirstday003.jpg)


Going up the hill on the Inner Loop out of Springfield. I knew what these signs looked like but I find it interesting to see them uncovered at last.

(http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Road%20sign%20pictures/BeltwayExpressLanesfirstday004.jpg)


Advance LGS for the Express Lanes. My wife initially told me I was wrong when I told her she had to move right because the lane we were in becomes one of the Express Lanes. She thought that only applied to the lane on the other side of the double white lines. She should know better than to argue with me about where lanes go. (More on that later).

(http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Road%20sign%20pictures/BeltwayExpressLanesfirstday005.jpg)


Passing the Robinson Terminal, you start to see the overheads.....no toll rates shown for the reasons I mentioned in my prior posts.

(http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Road%20sign%20pictures/BeltwayExpressLanesfirstday006.jpg)


This video taken just after the previous photo shows how they use the VMS to give notices other than toll rates. (Click to play; it's a link to the video—everything from here to the end consists of videos where the image here is a link)

(http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Road%20sign%20pictures/th_BeltwayExpressLanesfirstday007_zpsbb25fca0.jpg) (http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Road%20sign%20pictures/BeltwayExpressLanesfirstday007_zpsbb25fca0.mp4)


Now we're on the way home from Tysons. First video starts on eastbound Route 7. I was going to have her use the Westpark Drive entrance, but the mall traffic was so messed up I decided Route 7 made more sense.....and, as you can tell from her voice, the traffic had already pissed her off big-time and so she took it out on me and I responded in kind!

(http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Road%20sign%20pictures/th_BeltwayExpressLanesfirstday008_zps8114315c.jpg) (http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Road%20sign%20pictures/BeltwayExpressLanesfirstday008_zps8114315c.mp4)


Passing through the I-66 interchange. My wife thinks the van behind her can't use the lanes right as I stop the video. I replied that two-axle vehicles are allowed and that it's the big trucks that are banned. A van is not a truck.

(http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Road%20sign%20pictures/th_BeltwayExpressLanesfirstday009_zpsc37d4414.jpg) (http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Road%20sign%20pictures/BeltwayExpressLanesfirstday009_zpsc37d4414.mp4)


She then got pissed at the van driver for tailgating her and I pissed her off even more by taking his side. She shouldn't have been in the left lane after she went past the Prius. This video is just after we passed US-29 (Lee Highway).

(http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Road%20sign%20pictures/th_BeltwayExpressLanesfirstday010_zps3332d7e4.jpg) (http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Road%20sign%20pictures/BeltwayExpressLanesfirstday010_zps3332d7e4.mp4)


Southern end of the Express Lanes. As the video ends my wife asks what "Divided Lanes End" means. I had hit "stop" right as she asked the question. I thought the sign's meaning is obvious because the pylons end there, but I replied patiently that it's the end of the Express Lanes.

(http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Road%20sign%20pictures/th_BeltwayExpressLanesfirstday011_zps379ad30d.jpg) (http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Road%20sign%20pictures/BeltwayExpressLanesfirstday011_zps379ad30d.mp4)



Now for the real fun when we both start yelling at each other. You might recall that in the "Virginia" thread, and probably in this one previously, I had wondered why a single lane continues through the Springfield Interchange past the HOV ramps, then curves left and rejoins the Beltway to the left of the I-95 flyover. Well, I directed my wife to use that lane, in part because some guy was hanging next to her and making it hard to get over.

This was not the best thing to tell her to do. "Stay in this lane" evidently isn't as clear an instruction as I think it is. This goes to my point earlier: Don't argue with me about the lane, just go where I said to go! I know where it will come out! She scared the crap out of me when she slammed on the brakes.

(http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Road%20sign%20pictures/th_BeltwayExpressLanesfirstday012_zps4d93febd.jpg) (http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Road%20sign%20pictures/BeltwayExpressLanesfirstday012_zps4d93febd.mp4)



Edited to add: The Washington Post piece cpzilliacus linked more or less confirms my theory about the accidents!
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mtantillo on November 17, 2012, 05:47:39 PM
1995hoo hits the nail right on the head.  All accidents happened because drivers swerved at the beginning of the south end of the lanes.  Read the effin signs people!! 

Also, I correct my previous post with toll rates. They are not necessarily proportional.  In the morning, at route 7, Braddock was 90a cents, south end $1.10.  But when the accident that 1995hooI described happened, there was likely traffic at the south end of the lanes.  At route 7, it was still 90a cents to Braddock, but $1.75 to the south end. 
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 17, 2012, 06:11:07 PM
Just rode the new Express Lanes a few times.  Not many people using them, and many of the people I did see using them did not appear to have an E-ZPass mounted on their windshield.  Wondering how many days until people start getting bills for toll + $12 service charge and start complaining.  ....

The other thing I want to see is how many of the HOV crowd get busted for not having Flex devices. I've seen an awful lot of "outraged" comments from carpoolers who contend they should not be required to have a transponder and that because it's a ridiculous requirement they are not going to abide by it and will simply put their E-ZPasses in the no-read bags.

To which I say, good luck with that! I find the "outrage" especially amusing because it's been known for at least five years that the HOV-rides-free provision would be handled via switchable transponders. Plus, compare it to Miami, where as you know you have to register your carpool and you can't register an out-of-state plate. Virginia's system is far friendlier to the customer. I'm not getting a Flex. But suppose I had one and suppose our relatives from Miami or Fort Myers came to visit with their kids. Can't fit six or seven people in our cars (especially not the two-seater), but with the E-ZPass Flex I could just take the transponder with us and ride in their minivan. The Miami system doesn't allow that.


PS. BTW, Mike, I am chuffed to see that I am not the only person in this country who remembers the cent sign and knows how to type one!
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mtantillo on November 17, 2012, 07:59:30 PM
Just rode the new Express Lanes a few times.  Not many people using them, and many of the people I did see using them did not appear to have an E-ZPass mounted on their windshield.  Wondering how many days until people start getting bills for toll + $12 service charge and start complaining.  ....

The other thing I want to see is how many of the HOV crowd get busted for not having Flex devices. I've seen an awful lot of "outraged" comments from carpoolers who contend they should not be required to have a transponder and that because it's a ridiculous requirement they are not going to abide by it and will simply put their E-ZPasses in the no-read bags.

To which I say, good luck with that! I find the "outrage" especially amusing because it's been known for at least five years that the HOV-rides-free provision would be handled via switchable transponders. Plus, compare it to Miami, where as you know you have to register your carpool and you can't register an out-of-state plate. Virginia's system is far friendlier to the customer. I'm not getting a Flex. But suppose I had one and suppose our relatives from Miami or Fort Myers came to visit with their kids. Can't fit six or seven people in our cars (especially not the two-seater), but with the E-ZPass Flex I could just take the transponder with us and ride in their minivan. The Miami system doesn't allow that.


PS. BTW, Mike, I am chuffed to see that I am not the only person in this country who remembers the cent sign and knows how to type one!

Amazing how many people think the Flex transponder is just a regular transponder with an on/off switch.  And yes, much more user-friendly to accept regular E-ZPass and to have a switchable E-ZPass for carpoolers that they can change on the spot.  You bring up a good point about Florida making you register (and I think I may have been the one who shared a story of a colleague of mine who snow-birds in Florida but keeps his WV license plates being denied free passage on the 95 Express lanes in Miami when he tried to register).  Georgia is in between.  You can choose to register your PeachPass sticker as either "toll" or "HOV", but you can toggle from one to the other using the PeachPass app on your phone (hopefully not while you're driving) or on the PeachPass website.  You can even set it so that it works toll on weekends/HOV on weekdays, or set a normal toll mode tag to HOV mode temporarily for 4 hours, 1 day, or 1 week. 

I just heard on WTOP that if you go online to the 495 Express Lanes site and go to the "missed a toll" section, you can input your license plate number and pay the toll there, plus a $1.50 service fee.  This is much better than the $12.50 service fee if they have to track you down and send an invoice.  So if you don't have E-ZPass, you can still use the lanes for a reasonable price as long as you come forward to pay up before they come to you. 

And I had to use the character map to get the cent sign, and I just left it on my clipboard while I typed that post :)
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: hbelkins on November 17, 2012, 08:18:10 PM
I'm interested to know if a regular E-ZPass user (with an out-of-state E-ZPass tag) can use the new lanes, with one person in the vehicle.

I'm planning on going to the Doylestown, Pa. meet in December. On the way back I plan to clinch I-83 from Harrisburg down to Baltimore, and I want to drive the new WV 9 routing from the state line to Charles Town (or maybe even on to Martinsburg) so I figure the best way to get from Baltimore to VA 9 is I-95 to the Beltway's Outer Loop to VA 267 to VA 7 to VA 9. This might give me a chance to check out a small portion of the new lanes, and it would be on a Sunday afternoon.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: NE2 on November 17, 2012, 08:20:03 PM
https://www.495expresslanes.com/using-ezpass
"All drivers need an E-ZPass to use the 495 Express Lanes.  If you have an E-ZPass in your car already, you can use the 495 Express Lanes when they open."
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: hbelkins on November 17, 2012, 08:23:22 PM
https://www.495expresslanes.com/using-ezpass
"All drivers need an E-ZPass to use the 495 Express Lanes.  If you have an E-ZPass in your car already, you can use the 495 Express Lanes when they open."

So I will be charged differently than a driver using a Flex device?
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: NE2 on November 17, 2012, 08:42:23 PM
https://www.495expresslanes.com/using-ezpass
"All drivers need an E-ZPass to use the 495 Express Lanes.  If you have an E-ZPass in your car already, you can use the 495 Express Lanes when they open."

So I will be charged differently than a driver using a Flex device?

As far as I can tell, no, unless that Flex user is carpooling (and thus using the lanes for free). They don't outright say that non-Maryland/Virginia EZPass owners pay the same toll, but they say nothing about a different toll either. https://www.495expresslanes.com/faqs
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 17, 2012, 08:54:02 PM
https://www.495expresslanes.com/using-ezpass
"All drivers need an E-ZPass to use the 495 Express Lanes.  If you have an E-ZPass in your car already, you can use the 495 Express Lanes when they open."

So I will be charged differently than a driver using a Flex device?

Depends. You'd pay whatever the rate is when you enter the lanes, regardless of how many people are in your car. Whether you pay more than the Flex user depends on how many people he has. If he's an SOV or an HOV-2, he pays the same rate you do. If he's an HOV-3+, he flips the switch to "HOV on" and pays no toll.

BTW, the same applies to those of us who live here but don't get a Flex. I'm in that group. I pay nothing for either of our current transponders. The Flex would cost us $1.00 a month per transponder, but we have three or more people in the car MAYBE three to five times a year (and several of those are usually in Florida). So it makes no sense for us to get the Flex. If we ever have three people and want to use the Express Lanes, we will simply pay the toll.




....
 
PS. BTW, Mike, I am chuffed to see that I am not the only person in this country who remembers the cent sign and knows how to type one!

....

And I had to use the character map to get the cent sign, and I just left it on my clipboard while I typed that post :)

Well, crap. I hold down Alt and type 0162 on the 10-key. Way to bust my bubble, man! (I'm typing this on my phone, however, and as far as I know I can't do the cent sign on here.)

BTW, regarding turning yourself in for a violation, I saw that on their website today, but other than the WTOP report I have not heard it publicized anywhere else and I doubt the average driver knows you can do that. Of course, it's not in Fluor/Transurban's interest to publicize it!
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on November 18, 2012, 07:45:58 AM
WTOP Radio: Rocky start for 495 Express Lanes (http://www.wtop.com/120/3123999/Express-Lanes-plagued-by-accidents)

Quote
The new 495 Express Lanes in Virginia opened to a rocky start Saturday with multiple accidents and reports of drivers backing up along the entry ramps to avoid the tolls.

Quote
The express lanes' operator Transurban urged drivers to be alert and to pay close attention to highway signs when they are on the Capital Beltway.

Quote
The lanes officially opened to the public at 2 a.m. Saturday after several years of construction. The 14-mile express lane section runs from the Springfield Interchange to just north of the Dulles Toll Road. The express lanes - two northbound and two southbound - supplement the existing eight lanes in that area.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: Stephane Dumas on November 18, 2012, 11:31:29 AM
Google maps didn't made the changes yet to mention the HOT lanes but Bing maps and Mapquest did
http://binged.it/XoU1Gs http://mapq.st/SEZRfg  Strange then Mapquest didn't used the green color for the HOT lanes as they did for VA-267/Dulles Airport access Road.

And kudos for the pictures 1995hoo :) did you taken one or 2 of the HOT ramps to US-29?
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 18, 2012, 12:30:20 PM
Bing Maps has actually shown the new lanes for several months (but not all the ramps).

We didn't take any of the Express Lane ramps to/from US-29. On our way out we were headed to my parents' house in Fairfax to drop off a bunch of clothes—we have about a dozen relatives who live in the Breezy Point neighborhood in New York where the big fire was during the hurricane and my mom's been collecting stuff to donate. Since they live off Route 236, taking the Express Lanes on the way there makes no sense because the first exit (Route 29) is too far out of the way. Once we were there we decided to go to Tysons and my wife decided she wanted to go through the streets instead of on the Beltway (which then prompted her to complain about all the interminable red lights). We took the Express Lanes only on the way home, entering from VA-7 and following them to their southern end and then taking that very peculiar single lane to the left through the Springfield Interchange (the one whose purpose I do not understand).
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: Interstatefan78 on November 18, 2012, 01:00:19 PM
https://www.495expresslanes.com/using-ezpass
"All drivers need an E-ZPass to use the 495 Express Lanes.  If you have an E-ZPass in your car already, you can use the 495 Express Lanes when they open."

So I will be charged differently than a driver using a Flex device?

Depends. You'd pay whatever the rate is when you enter the lanes, regardless of how many people are in your car. Whether you pay more than the Flex user depends on how many people he has. If he's an SOV or an HOV-2, he pays the same rate you do. If he's an HOV-3+, he flips the switch to "HOV on" and pays no toll.

BTW, the same applies to those of us who live here but don't get a Flex. I'm in that group. I pay nothing for either of our current transponders. The Flex would cost us $1.00 a month per transponder, but we have three or more people in the car MAYBE three to five times a year (and several of those are usually in Florida). So it makes no sense for us to get the Flex. If we ever have three people and want to use the Express Lanes, we will simply pay the toll.




....
 
PS. BTW, Mike, I am chuffed to see that I am not the only person in this country who remembers the cent sign and knows how to type one!

....

And I had to use the character map to get the cent sign, and I just left it on my clipboard while I typed that post :)

Well, crap. I hold down Alt and type 0162 on the 10-key. Way to bust my bubble, man! (I'm typing this on my phone, however, and as far as I know I can't do the cent sign on here.)

BTW, regarding turning yourself in for a violation, I saw that on their website today, but other than the WTOP report I have not heard it publicized anywhere else and I doubt the average driver knows you can do that. Of course, it's not in Fluor/Transurban's interest to publicize it!
Great idea but what about E-Z Pass New Jersey users can't they just walk up to a E-Z Pass Virginia costumer service representative and trade the original E-Z Pass tag for the flex tag so that they don't have to pay the toll if they are carpooling on the Capitol Beltway HOT lanes
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 18, 2012, 01:04:42 PM
Great idea but what about E-Z Pass New Jersey users can't they just walk up to a E-Z Pass Virginia costumer service representative and trade the original E-Z Pass tag for the flex tag so that they don't have to pay the toll if they are carpooling on the Capitol Beltway HOT lanes

No, of course not. The E-ZPass New Jersey tag belongs to the New Jersey customer service center and would have to be returned to them. It can't be traded in for a Virginia device. If someone with a New Jersey transponder wants to get a Flex transponder from Virginia, the best thing to do would be to set up the Virginia account and obtain the Flex device and THEN cancel the New Jersey account (and send the transponder back, preferably wrapped in foil) once the Virginia one is operative. That's what I did when Virginia finally joined the E-ZPass system. I had an old Smart Tag from Virginia (which I kept) and an E-ZPass from New Jersey. New Jersey charged a fee, Virginia didn't. So I got a second transponder from Virginia (for the second car) and after it came I cancelled the New Jersey account. That way I didn't have a stretch of time with just the one device.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: vdeane on November 18, 2012, 02:01:25 PM
As far as I'm concerned, HOV is HOV.  All requirements beyond that to ride free in a HOT lane when you meet the HOV provision should be OUTLAWED.  So should service fees for non-transponder use of toll roads without manned cash booths, as well as charging different rates to people who are out of state, and fees for transponders.  All of this should be done at the federal level conditioned on the loss of federal funds to any state that even has so much as a nanometer of highway in violation.  There should be no discrimination between local drivers and non-local drivers.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: oscar on November 18, 2012, 04:03:13 PM
No, of course not. The E-ZPass New Jersey tag belongs to the New Jersey customer service center and would have to be returned to them. It can't be traded in for a Virginia device. If someone with a New Jersey transponder wants to get a Flex transponder from Virginia, the best thing to do would be to set up the Virginia account and obtain the Flex device and THEN cancel the New Jersey account (and send the transponder back, preferably wrapped in foil) once the Virginia one is operative.

But has VDOT lightened up on its historical policy of not issuing Virginia E-ZPass transponders to residents of other states (or at least the ones in the E-ZPass consortium)?  The only movement I've seen on that front is the concession that residents of D.C. (not in the consortium) can get E-ZPasses from VDOT.  See https://www.ezpassva.com/CreateAccount/CreateAccountHome.aspx which points residents of consortium states to their own states' E-ZPass sites.  My wild guess is that those other states won't issue you a Flex transponder, at least not until Virginia's implementation of HOT lanes spreads to other states.

Out-of-staters might be able to get "On-The-Go" E-ZPass transponders, including Flex transponders, in-person at some Virginia grocery stores and other retail outlets.  However, they are supposed to register the transponders later (for replenishment of their accounts, after tolls and monthly fees draw down the prepaid balance).  I can't tell if VDOT will allow registration by out-of-staters, or if the participating retailers will even issue "On-The-Go" transponders to out-of-staters.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mtantillo on November 18, 2012, 04:40:20 PM
No, of course not. The E-ZPass New Jersey tag belongs to the New Jersey customer service center and would have to be returned to them. It can't be traded in for a Virginia device. If someone with a New Jersey transponder wants to get a Flex transponder from Virginia, the best thing to do would be to set up the Virginia account and obtain the Flex device and THEN cancel the New Jersey account (and send the transponder back, preferably wrapped in foil) once the Virginia one is operative.

But has VDOT lightened up on its historical policy of not issuing Virginia E-ZPass transponders to residents of other states (or at least the ones in the E-ZPass consortium)?  The only movement I've seen on that front is the concession that residents of D.C. (not in the consortium) can get E-ZPasses from VDOT.  See https://www.ezpassva.com/CreateAccount/CreateAccountHome.aspx which points residents of consortium states to their own states' E-ZPass sites.  My wild guess is that those other states won't issue you a Flex transponder, at least not until Virginia's implementation of HOT lanes spreads to other states.

Out-of-staters might be able to get "On-The-Go" E-ZPass transponders, including Flex transponders, in-person at some Virginia grocery stores and other retail outlets.  However, they are supposed to register the transponders later (for replenishment of their accounts, after tolls and monthly fees draw down the prepaid balance).  I can't tell if VDOT will allow registration by out-of-staters, or if the participating retailers will even issue "On-The-Go" transponders to out-of-staters.


I don't believe VDOT had ever had a policy that said they wont issue an E-ZPass to a resident of another E-ZPass state.  The site simply directs users to the most appropriate place to sign up. 

If you say you are from Virginia on that first screen, when you get to the application where you put in your address, you can put in another state.  Another example of this is NY.  NY E-ZPass has a similar welcome screen, but elsewhere on the site they say that a resident if any state can get a NY E-ZPass.  This because the MTA bridges and tunnels only give the E-ZPass toll rate to NY accounts, so they want to avoid being accused of giving a different rate to residents vs non residents.

E-ZPass NY welcome screen that re-directs to other states: https://www.e-zpassny.com/en/signup/facility.shtml

NY MTA site (see language at the top of the page) stating that only NY issued E-ZPass tags get the discounted toll rate, but anyone regardless of residency can apply for a NY E-ZPass (this despite that the NY E-ZPass site re-directs people away from NY if you are from another E-ZPass state): http://mta.info/bandt/traffic/btmain.html
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mtantillo on November 18, 2012, 04:43:28 PM
I might also add that I have E-ZPass accounts from 3 states to participate in various discount programs...VA, MD, and NY. Never had a problem signing up once past that welcome screen.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 18, 2012, 05:33:08 PM
Had to make another trip out to Fairfax to deliver some more coats to my mom and this time I took the Franconia–Springfield Parkway to the I-95 HOV so I could use the new ramp to the Beltway. I liked the convenience the ramp offers, but I think for the next few weeks I may avoid it because (as I already knew) it puts you on the left side of the Beltway and you have to move right two lanes to use the general-purpose lanes. Doing that puts you in the leftmost general-purpose lane and I think for now I'd rather be further to the right to avoid jackasses swerving at the last instant.....and I do mean jackasses because you have to be incredibly stupid if you can't understand the overhead signs for the managed lanes that have a yellow-and-black "ONLY" banner with downward-pointing arrows.

The toll rates posted at the southern end were the same as Mike reported yesterday, BTW.

I used the Express Lanes again on the way home (went well out of my way up to Merrifield and US-29), partly so I could drive through that weird single-lane spot seen in my final video from yesterday. I think I like the Express Lanes a lot simply for the saner ride, but I don't think I'll use that single-lane spot because I have to change to the right over six or seven lanes to my exit right after there. Plus people on the I-95 flyover aren't prepared for traffic coming from the left and the merge area is fairly short.

Video to follow if the files aren't too big to upload.


Edited to add: Dr. Gridlock reports the Express Lanes website has some updated info, including showing the current toll rates. Check this out, sounds like they're making an effort to be helpful. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/dr-gridlock/wp/2012/11/18/beltway-express-lanes-web-site-adds-travel-information/)

Second edit: Having trouble with the video since one, at about 5 minutes, is 354 MB and the other, at 10 minutes exactly, is 758 MB. If I can get them to play on my PC (so far I can't), I'll take some screenshots of stuff. Otherwise, well, I suppose the new HOV ramp isn't THAT fascinating.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mtantillo on November 18, 2012, 05:47:12 PM
Found another good use for the 495 Express Lanes today.  I typically take GW Parkway to the Beltway to the Dulles Airport Access Highway to get to Dulles from DC (mainly to avoid I-66 in Arlington).  Did that today (well, Whitehurst to Canal Road to Chain Bridge to 123 to GW Parkway because of the weekend closure at Spout Run), and remembered that you have to make 5 quick lane changes to the left to reach the Dulles Airport Access Highway from Route 267, since the ramp from the Outer Loop puts you onto the far right side of Route 267.  Then I realized I could pay a fairly minimal toll (30¢, I think the toll to 267 from the north end is the same as is displayed on the signs to Jones Bridge, as there is not another set of E-ZPass readers between 267 and the Jones Bridge exit) to use the express lanes for a short distance, and that ramp drops me onto the left side of Route 267, so no lane changes needed to reach the airport access lanes.  I did this, and it worked very nicely!  To get to the Express lanes from GW Parkway, you only have to make 3 lane changes and you have about 4 times the distance to do that as you do to make 5 lane changes on 267.

Of course, coming back from the airport, there is no access to the express lanes going north, but there is a dedicated ramp from the Airport Access Highway to the Beltway which would get you around most of the congestion that occurs on that ramp during peak times. 
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 18, 2012, 05:53:06 PM
Found another good use for the 495 Express Lanes today.  I typically take GW Parkway to the Beltway to the Dulles Airport Access Highway to get to Dulles from DC (mainly to avoid I-66 in Arlington).  Did that today (well, Whitehurst to Canal Road to Chain Bridge to 123 to GW Parkway because of the weekend closure at Spout Run), and remembered that you have to make 5 quick lane changes to the left to reach the Dulles Airport Access Highway from Route 267, since the ramp from the Outer Loop puts you onto the far right side of Route 267.  Then I realized I could pay a fairly minimal toll (30¢, I think the toll to 267 from the north end is the same as is displayed on the signs to Jones Bridge, as there is not another set of E-ZPass readers between 267 and the Jones Bridge exit) to use the express lanes for a short distance, and that ramp drops me onto the left side of Route 267, so no lane changes needed to reach the airport access lanes.  I did this, and it worked very nicely!  To get to the Express lanes from GW Parkway, you only have to make 3 lane changes and you have about 4 times the distance to do that as you do to make 5 lane changes on 267.

Of course, coming back from the airport, there is no access to the express lanes going north, but there is a dedicated ramp from the Airport Access Highway to the Beltway which would get you around most of the congestion that occurs on that ramp during peak times. 

The Express Lanes' website is now supposed to be able to tell you the historic toll rates so you can look up what it was when you drove (this per the Dr. Gridlock link in my last comment), but it wasn't working when I tried it a few minutes ago. You're almost certainly correct about the rate being the same, though.

BTW, I really love the following statement in that Dr. Gridlock blog entry:

Quote
Everybody makes mistakes out of confusion. A driver who backs up on the Beltway is risking lives to save a $1.50 fee plus the toll to the next exit. A driver who engages in that sort of life-threatening behavior should have his license confiscated and his car impounded. Such a person has no business on our roads.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: NJRoadfan on November 18, 2012, 05:56:28 PM
Seems like the roadway of the inner loop near the beginning of the lanes could use some pavement markings. Those nifty purple/white skip line markings they use for E-ZPass only lanes plus some "EXPRESS ONLY" markings might make it clearer to drivers.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 18, 2012, 05:57:58 PM
Seems like the roadway of the inner loop near the beginning of the lanes could use some pavement markings. Those nifty purple/white skip line markings they use for E-ZPass only lanes plus some "EXPRESS ONLY" markings miht make it clearer to drivers.

I'm intrigued by how rush hour will go tomorrow. I wish there were a safe place to sit out there with a video camera to watch it unfold.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mtantillo on November 18, 2012, 06:06:07 PM
I want to nickname that section of the Inner Loop near Springfield: "HOT or Not"  :D
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on November 18, 2012, 06:28:02 PM
Seems like the roadway of the inner loop near the beginning of the lanes could use some pavement markings.

BINGO!  I think that's a contributor to the problems on the Inner Loop.

Unlike the Outer Loop approach, which is on a (relatively) straight segment after coming down the hill from Va. 193 (Georgetown Pike), the Inner Loop pavement markings passing the Robinson Terminal and approaching the entrance to the Inner Loop Express Lanes are on a curve, and the pavement markings are currently inconsistent and misleading.

Images coming.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 18, 2012, 06:37:18 PM
Seems like the roadway of the inner loop near the beginning of the lanes could use some pavement markings.

BINGO!  I think that's a contributor to the problems on the Inner Loop.

Unlike the Outer Loop approach, which is on a (relatively) straight segment after coming down the hill from Va. 193 (Georgetown Pike), the Inner Loop pavement markings passing the Robinson Terminal and approaching the entrance to the Inner Loop Express Lanes are on a curve, and the pavement markings are currently inconsistent and misleading.

Images coming.

Virginia seems to object to using much in the way of pavement markings, but I have noted the E-ZPass logo appears in the dedicated lanes on the Dulles Toll Road as you approach the main toll plaza in Tysons. They could do something like that, at least. I can't say I've ever seen Virginia use colored skip lines or other stuff of the sort used in the New York area to denote different sorts of lanes, and Virginia also refuses to use the flashing yellow light to denote "E-ZPass Only" lanes at toll plazas the way states up north do.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on November 18, 2012, 06:52:35 PM
mtantillo (https://www.aaroads.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=1140), 1995hoo (https://www.aaroads.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=2455), oscar (https://www.aaroads.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=1107) and NJRoadfan (https://www.aaroads.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=1006), please look at the images below, in sequence from about the Va. 617 (Backlick Road) underpass to the beginning of the Express Lanes on the Inner Loop of I-495.  Note that the pavement markings first imply that it is the left lane (only) that becomes the restricted lane, then, as we get very close to the entrance to the Express Lanes, the markings suddenly shift to show that it is the two left lanes that become the Express Lanes.  Sorry for the blurry nature of these, but I think the point I am making is pretty clear.

(http://www.toward.com/cpz/dsc01428.jpg)

(http://www.toward.com/cpz/dsc01429.jpg)

(http://www.toward.com/cpz/dsc01430.jpg)

(http://www.toward.com/cpz/dsc01431.jpg)

(http://www.toward.com/cpz/dsc01432.jpg)

(http://www.toward.com/cpz/dsc01433.jpg)

(http://www.toward.com/cpz/dsc01434.jpg)
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on November 18, 2012, 06:58:33 PM
No, of course not. The E-ZPass New Jersey tag belongs to the New Jersey customer service center and would have to be returned to them. It can't be traded in for a Virginia device. If someone with a New Jersey transponder wants to get a Flex transponder from Virginia, the best thing to do would be to set up the Virginia account and obtain the Flex device and THEN cancel the New Jersey account (and send the transponder back, preferably wrapped in foil) once the Virginia one is operative.

But has VDOT lightened up on its historical policy of not issuing Virginia E-ZPass transponders to residents of other states (or at least the ones in the E-ZPass consortium)?  The only movement I've seen on that front is the concession that residents of D.C. (not in the consortium) can get E-ZPasses from VDOT.  See https://www.ezpassva.com/CreateAccount/CreateAccountHome.aspx which points residents of consortium states to their own states' E-ZPass sites.  My wild guess is that those other states won't issue you a Flex transponder, at least not until Virginia's implementation of HOT lanes spreads to other states.

The Maryland Transportation Authority will apparently be issing E-ZPass Flex units, even though  I do not believe they have no intention of allowing a similar HOV exemption on the I-95 Express Toll Lanes in Baltimore County between I-895 and Md. 43.

I had Virginia E-ZPass (and before that, SmarTag) transponders for many years, even though I have never lived in the Commonwealth. I changed not long before Maryland decided to start charging a monthly fee of low-use customers. :-)

Out-of-staters might be able to get "On-The-Go" E-ZPass transponders, including Flex transponders, in-person at some Virginia grocery stores and other retail outlets.  However, they are supposed to register the transponders later (for replenishment of their accounts, after tolls and monthly fees draw down the prepaid balance).  I can't tell if VDOT will allow registration by out-of-staters, or if the participating retailers will even issue "On-The-Go" transponders to out-of-staters.

I think VDOT will issue anyone an  E-ZPass transponder, especially if you walk-in to one of their offices.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: oscar on November 18, 2012, 08:47:43 PM
Please look at the images below, in sequence from about the Va. 617 (Backlick Road) underpass to the beginning of the Express Lanes on the Inner Loop of I-495.  Note that the pavement markings first imply that it is the left lane (only) that becomes the restricted lane, then, as we get very close to the entrance to the Express Lanes, the markings suddenly shift to show that it is the two left lanes that become the Express Lanes.  Sorry for the blurry nature of these, but I think the point I am making is pretty clear.

Not having driven the express lanes or the Beltway after they were opened, I'm assuming that you were in the left-most lane when you took the first photos, then stayed in that lane after another lane was added on the left.  If so, I don't see the pavement markings as confusing.  If at the Backlick Road underpass you're on the right side of the short-dashed line separating restricted from general purpose lanes, you won't have to change lanes to stay in the general purpose lanes.  If you're on the left side of the line, you don't have to move to stay in the restricted lanes, though you have the option of moving left as a second restricted lane is added on the left.  The only possible confusion is if drivers are misinformed that only the left-most lane feeds into the express lanes, rather than however many lanes (one at first, two later) are to the left of the short-dashed line. 
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mtantillo on November 18, 2012, 09:35:32 PM
Please look at the images below, in sequence from about the Va. 617 (Backlick Road) underpass to the beginning of the Express Lanes on the Inner Loop of I-495.  Note that the pavement markings first imply that it is the left lane (only) that becomes the restricted lane, then, as we get very close to the entrance to the Express Lanes, the markings suddenly shift to show that it is the two left lanes that become the Express Lanes.  Sorry for the blurry nature of these, but I think the point I am making is pretty clear.

Not having driven the express lanes or the Beltway after they were opened, I'm assuming that you were in the left-most lane when you took the first photos, then stayed in that lane after another lane was added on the left.  If so, I don't see the pavement markings as confusing.  If at the Backlick Road underpass you're on the right side of the short-dashed line separating restricted from general purpose lanes, you won't have to change lanes to stay in the general purpose lanes.  If you're on the left side of the line, you don't have to move to stay in the restricted lanes, though you have the option of moving left as a second restricted lane is added on the left.  The only possible confusion is if drivers are misinformed that only the left-most lane feeds into the express lanes, rather than however many lanes (one at first, two later) are to the left of the short-dashed line. 

That isn't how it works though.  No new lanes are added on the left.  The short skips are between the left and second from left lanes, in otherwords, between the two express lanes.  So the lane to the right of the short skips is also an express lane.  Then, just before the split the short skips "jump" over one lane to the right to where they should have been all along. 

So the signs are right, the pavement markings are wrong up until about the last quarter mile before the split. 
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 18, 2012, 09:40:35 PM
Actually, Oscar, that's not correct. cpzilliacus has it right. The far left lane as you pass over Backlick is the one coming from the HOV ramps. It's the one to the left of the skip line with the smaller, closer-spaced dots. If you're coming from the Wilson Bridge or Van Dorn and you're in the left lane (#%^* to those people), that lane is the one immediately to the right of the aforementioned skip line. It then becomes the right lane of the Express Lanes.

So if you rely solely on pavement markings, you might find it ambiguous. But how many real people actually do that on an Interstate? I stand by my prior opinion that the signs are OBVIOUS and that anyone who knows what "EXIT ONLY" means has no excuse for confusion.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on November 18, 2012, 09:49:03 PM
Please look at the images below, in sequence from about the Va. 617 (Backlick Road) underpass to the beginning of the Express Lanes on the Inner Loop of I-495.  Note that the pavement markings first imply that it is the left lane (only) that becomes the restricted lane, then, as we get very close to the entrance to the Express Lanes, the markings suddenly shift to show that it is the two left lanes that become the Express Lanes.  Sorry for the blurry nature of these, but I think the point I am making is pretty clear.

Not having driven the express lanes or the Beltway after they were opened, I'm assuming that you were in the left-most lane when you took the first photos, then stayed in that lane after another lane was added on the left.

Correct about what lane I was in - I entered that lane after taking the left-side exit that runs off from the left of the Inner Loop (or, actually, the long, soaring I-95 southbound ramp).

No, there is no "extra" lane added on the right.  I did move one lane to the right.

If so, I don't see the pavement markings as confusing.  If at the Backlick Road underpass you're on the right side of the short-dashed line separating restricted from general purpose lanes, you won't have to change lanes to stay in the general purpose lanes.  If you're on the left side of the line, you don't have to move to stay in the restricted lanes, though you have the option of moving left as a second restricted lane is added on the left.  The only possible confusion is if drivers are misinformed that only the left-most lane feeds into the express lanes, rather than however many lanes (one at first, two later) are to the left of the short-dashed line.

No, the two lanes that become the Express Lanes on the Inner Loop are "there" as one crosses over the Va. 617 (Backlick Road) overpass.  But the pavement markings imply that it's only one lane that goes to the  two Express Lanes, up until the fresh blacktop starts, then the markings are correct.

That isn't how it works though.  No new lanes are added on the left.  The short skips are between the left and second from left lanes, in otherwords, between the two express lanes.  So the lane to the right of the short skips is also an express lane.  Then, just before the split the short skips "jump" over one lane to the right to where they should have been all along. 

So the signs are right, the pavement markings are wrong up until about the last quarter mile before the split. 

That is correct.  Oscar, I think my choice of lane when I snapped those images might have been misleading, and I apologize for that.

Actually, Oscar, that's not correct. cpzilliacus has it right. The far left lane as you pass over Backlick is the one coming from the HOV ramps. It's the one to the left of the skip line with the smaller, closer-spaced dots. If you're coming from the Wilson Bridge or Van Dorn and you're in the left lane (#%^* to those people), that lane is the one immediately to the right of the aforementioned skip line. It then becomes the right lane of the Express Lanes.

So if you rely solely on pavement markings, you might find it ambiguous. But how many real people actually do that on an Interstate? I stand by my prior opinion that the signs are OBVIOUS and that anyone who knows what "EXIT ONLY" means has no excuse for confusion.

Hoo, that is right.  And there are plenty of brain-dead people out there that rely only on the pavement markings (and I think some drivers probably are not capable of comprehending signs anyway).
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 18, 2012, 09:52:24 PM
At the end of this story, WTOP says extra markings are planned, though they don't say what they'll be. (http://wtop.com/?nid=893&sid=3123999)
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on November 18, 2012, 09:55:44 PM
At the end of this story, WTOP says extra markings are planned, though they don't say what they'll be. (http://wtop.com/?nid=893&sid=3123999)

Thanks for sharing that.  I think they need to fix the pavement markings along the Inner Loop passing the Va. 617 underpass and the Robinson Terminal.  It means griding away the "short skip" markings between lanes 1 and 2, and painting those between lanes 2 and 3 instead.

It is not a matter of extra markings.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 18, 2012, 10:17:12 PM
BTW, cp, it sounds as though you exited left from the Inner Loop towards the HOV ramps but then bore right back to the Beltway (similar to the Outer Loop movement in my final video from yesterday). If that's accurate, can you tell why they even built that lane? It really seems to serve little or no purpose as far as I can tell, unless it's just a bailout route for people who misunderstand the signs for the HOV ramps (which I think is very unlikely!).
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: NE2 on November 18, 2012, 10:21:21 PM
I stand by my prior opinion that the signs are OBVIOUS and that anyone who knows what "EXIT ONLY" means has no excuse for confusion.
https://www.aaroads.com/forum/index.php?topic=6633.msg185202#msg185202
:banghead:
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: NE2 on November 18, 2012, 10:45:47 PM
BTW, cp, it sounds as though you exited left from the Inner Loop towards the HOV ramps but then bore right back to the Beltway (similar to the Outer Loop movement in my final video from yesterday). If that's accurate, can you tell why they even built that lane? It really seems to serve little or no purpose as far as I can tell, unless it's just a bailout route for people who misunderstand the signs for the HOV ramps (which I think is very unlikely!).
I suppose it provides a better route to/from the express lanes over the bridge, since it feeds to the left of the I-95 lanes.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on November 18, 2012, 11:05:20 PM
BTW, cp, it sounds as though you exited left from the Inner Loop towards the HOV ramps but then bore right back to the Beltway (similar to the Outer Loop movement in my final video from yesterday). If that's accurate, can you tell why they even built that lane? It really seems to serve little or no purpose as far as I can tell, unless it's just a bailout route for people who misunderstand the signs for the HOV ramps (which I think is very unlikely!).

I did indeed come that way - entering from Va. 241/Telegraph Road.

Allow me to speculate -  I think they built that with the idea that there may be managed lanes between the Wilson Bridge and the Springfield Interchange at some point in the future.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: Mapmikey on November 19, 2012, 06:25:16 AM
Toll rate at 530 a.m. on a Monday is still $1.65 for full length.

The VMS sign that was blank in the photos by CP this morning had a flashing message that the left two lanes are express lanes only.  The VMS before and after this sign still list toll rates.

There were 0 users of the lanes in either direction as far as I could tell which makes sense because the beltway is still wide open at that hour.  Will be curious to see what the rates are when I go home at 445.


Mapmikey
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: Beltway on November 19, 2012, 07:11:04 AM
BTW, cp, it sounds as though you exited left from the Inner Loop towards the HOV ramps but then bore right back to the Beltway (similar to the Outer Loop movement in my final video from yesterday). If that's accurate, can you tell why they even built that lane? It really seems to serve little or no purpose as far as I can tell, unless it's just a bailout route for people who misunderstand the signs for the HOV ramps (which I think is very unlikely!).

I did indeed come that way - entering from Va. 241/Telegraph Road.

Allow me to speculate -  I think they built that with the idea that there may be managed lanes between the Wilson Bridge and the Springfield Interchange at some point in the future.

That is exactly the reason, the Springfield Interchange Project Phase 8 included provisions for future managed lanes on the Beltway.  The inner lane of the outer loop delivers traffic to the inner lane of the outer loop downstream of the I-95 direct connection ramp, providing continuous access through the interchange area.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 19, 2012, 07:27:02 AM
Woke up at 7:00 and heard WTOP report another crash at the lanes' southern end, this one involving multiple vehicles.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 19, 2012, 08:17:50 AM
The lanes' website is currently listing a toll of $1.80 to drive the full length on the Inner Loop. That's significantly less than I'd expected.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on November 19, 2012, 08:46:46 AM
That is exactly the reason, the Springfield Interchange Project Phase 8 included provisions for future managed lanes on the Beltway.  The inner lane of the outer loop delivers traffic to the inner lane of the outer loop downstream of the I-95 direct connection ramp, providing continuous access through the interchange area.

Though there is nothing in the long-range or short-range plans about such a project, at least not right now.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 19, 2012, 08:59:51 AM
That is exactly the reason, the Springfield Interchange Project Phase 8 included provisions for future managed lanes on the Beltway.  The inner lane of the outer loop delivers traffic to the inner lane of the outer loop downstream of the I-95 direct connection ramp, providing continuous access through the interchange area.

Though there is nothing in the long-range or short-range plans about such a project, at least not right now.

I tweeted one of your pictures to Adam Tuss and Dr. Gridlock with the comment about moving the closely-spaced skip line one lane further to the right. It's a good point. One of the things I forgot to mention yesterday is that when I came off the HOV ramps onto the Beltway (therefore in the left-most lane), there was a tractor-trailer in the lane that becomes the right lane of the Express Lanes. I wasn't able to look in the mirror to see whether he got over in a timely fashion because I was dealing with other traffic.

Meantime, I've seen Twitter comments and heard people on the radio saying they tried the lanes this morning and found it reduced their travel time substantially. No doubt the very low toll rates this morning help. I can't make the "On the Road Now" part of their website work on my phone or in Firefox, so I loaded it in Internet Explorer. It's pretty slick, it displays a map and you can click to see what the toll rate sign says at any given point by clicking the "i" icons. It shows $1.65 to run the length of the Inner Loop lanes right now.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on November 19, 2012, 09:24:01 AM
That is exactly the reason, the Springfield Interchange Project Phase 8 included provisions for future managed lanes on the Beltway.  The inner lane of the outer loop delivers traffic to the inner lane of the outer loop downstream of the I-95 direct connection ramp, providing continuous access through the interchange area.

Though there is nothing in the long-range or short-range plans about such a project, at least not right now.

I tweeted one of your pictures to Adam Tuss and Dr. Gridlock with the comment about moving the closely-spaced skip line one lane further to the right. It's a good point. One of the things I forgot to mention yesterday is that when I came off the HOV ramps onto the Beltway (therefore in the left-most lane), there was a tractor-trailer in the lane that becomes the right lane of the Express Lanes. I wasn't able to look in the mirror to see whether he got over in a timely fashion because I was dealing with other traffic.

Hoo, thanks for sending that along.  I just sent those images on to my contacts on the VDOT Northern Virginia District staff as well.

Because this is about safety, I think they will find their way  to the right people at VDOT and Transurban pretty quickly.

I really hope that they can get someone out there fast and correct the the pavement markings.

Meantime, I've seen Twitter comments and heard people on the radio saying they tried the lanes this morning and found it reduced their travel time substantially. No doubt the very low toll rates this morning help. I can't make the "On the Road Now" part of their website work on my phone or in Firefox, so I loaded it in Internet Explorer. It's pretty slick, it displays a map and you can click to see what the toll rate sign says at any given point by clicking the "i" icons. It shows $1.65 to run the length of the Inner Loop lanes right now.

$1.65 on a Monday?

That must be the "introductory" rate! 

Heck, I think at that price, those lanes are quickly going to be as jammed-up as the conventional lanes!
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 19, 2012, 09:38:51 AM
I have to wonder if part of it is that traffic volume might be lower today since it's Thanksgiving week? Van Dorn Street was heavier than usual, but I think that was bailout traffic from I-395 since WTOP mentioned a wreck in DC and a consequent big backup.

I was really flabbergasted by the low toll rates. As best I can tell, it's never hit $2.00 this morning! That really gives the lie to the whiners who say these lanes are "for the 1%" or "Lexus Lanes" or whatever. People pay more than that one-way on the Dulles Toll Road daily, not to mention what people pay on toll bridges and such elsewhere (especially in New York).

Some clown on Dr. Gridlock's blog has been complaining that all the accidents are VDOT's fault.....just what I said on Saturday, people want to blame everyone except the drivers who don't pay attention. Even if we all agree that some improvements can be made to the markings, the bottom line is that you're still responsible for driving safely and being aware of your surroundings and where you're going, and to throw it in reverse on the Beltway or to swerve at the last minute all to save 70¢ is reprehensible. (I really don't know why I waste my time arguing with the trolls. In this case it might be that I don't have much work that has to be done this week.)
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: jrouse on November 19, 2012, 09:46:05 AM
Just rode the new Express Lanes a few times.  Not many people using them, and many of the people I did see using them did not appear to have an E-ZPass mounted on their windshield.  Wondering how many days until people start getting bills for toll + $12 service charge and start complaining.  ....

The other thing I want to see is how many of the HOV crowd get busted for not having Flex devices. I've seen an awful lot of "outraged" comments from carpoolers who contend they should not be required to have a transponder and that because it's a ridiculous requirement they are not going to abide by it and will simply put their E-ZPasses in the no-read bags.

To which I say, good luck with that! I find the "outrage" especially amusing because it's been known for at least five years that the HOV-rides-free provision would be handled via switchable transponders. Plus, compare it to Miami, where as you know you have to register your carpool and you can't register an out-of-state plate. Virginia's system is far friendlier to the customer. I'm not getting a Flex. But suppose I had one and suppose our relatives from Miami or Fort Myers came to visit with their kids. Can't fit six or seven people in our cars (especially not the two-seater), but with the E-ZPass Flex I could just take the transponder with us and ride in their minivan. The Miami system doesn't allow that.


PS. BTW, Mike, I am chuffed to see that I am not the only person in this country who remembers the cent sign and knows how to type one!

The new I-110 Express Lanes in Los Angeles also require all users (including HOV) to carry a transponder, and they are issuing switchable transponders so carpoolers can travel toll free.  This requirement seems to be the most controversial part of the change, because carpoolers who could formerly use the lanes at any time now have to carry the transponder, which requires setting up a prepaid account, and it includes a $3/month service fee (not in effect yet, starts in the spring when the companion Express Lanes on I-10 open).
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: Beltway on November 19, 2012, 01:40:39 PM
That is exactly the reason, the Springfield Interchange Project Phase 8 included provisions for future managed lanes on the Beltway.  The inner lane of the outer loop delivers traffic to the inner lane of the outer loop downstream of the I-95 direct connection ramp, providing continuous access through the interchange area.

Though there is nothing in the long-range or short-range plans about such a project, at least not right now.

It was in the plans when the Springfield Interchange Project was designed in the late 1990s, as part of Phase 8.  That ramp is there in the schematic that was published then and used throughout the project.  Phase 8 as built in the I-495 HOT Lanes Project is virtually the same as when originally conceived.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on November 19, 2012, 02:29:13 PM
Some clown on Dr. Gridlock's blog has been complaining that all the accidents are VDOT's fault.....just what I said on Saturday, people want to blame everyone except the drivers who don't pay attention. Even if we all agree that some improvements can be made to the markings, the bottom line is that you're still responsible for driving safely and being aware of your surroundings and where you're going, and to throw it in reverse on the Beltway or to swerve at the last minute all to save 70¢ is reprehensible.

This is absolutely correct. 

Even though there is the notion of "contributory negligence" in law (and I don't know how the Virginia appellate courts feel about that), the bottom line is this - the person behind the wheel is responsible. 

Now that may change in the coming years, as we see more in the way of driverless cars, but for now, if you drive, you need to be watching where you are going.

(I really don't know why I waste my time arguing with the trolls. In this case it might be that I don't have much work that has to be done this week.)

There is a well-known disorder across the Commonwealth of Virginia.  It's called "VDOT-Bashing," and has been around since the days that VDOT was known as the Virginia Department of Highways. 

Populations known to be at especially risk for this syndrome include county elected officials in densely-populated suburban counties, who resent that their subdivision streets are part of the state secondary highway network; as well as anti-highway activists and promoters of Smart Growth schemes.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on November 19, 2012, 02:32:46 PM
That is exactly the reason, the Springfield Interchange Project Phase 8 included provisions for future managed lanes on the Beltway.  The inner lane of the outer loop delivers traffic to the inner lane of the outer loop downstream of the I-95 direct connection ramp, providing continuous access through the interchange area.

Though there is nothing in the long-range or short-range plans about such a project, at least not right now.

It was in the plans when the Springfield Interchange Project was designed in the late 1990s, as part of Phase 8.  That ramp is there in the schematic that was published then and used throughout the project.  Phase 8 as built in the I-495 HOT Lanes Project is virtually the same as when originally conceived.

Correct. 

I remember very well when it was deleted from the "original" Springfield Interchange project about 10 or 12 years ago (for reasons of cost), and recall being especially unhappy about it too, because it forced drivers in the I-95 HOV lanes to exit via the Newington flyover into the local lanes, and then slog their way through mixed traffic to get to the Inner Loop of the Capital Beltway.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 19, 2012, 02:57:33 PM
I'm back from Potomac. I drove the length of the Express Lanes both ways for $1.65 in each direction. On the way back I went to a shop in Alexandria off Quaker Lane and then I used the new southbound HOV ramp from I-395 to the Outer Loop.

I'll have screenshot pictures later today, but a few comments:

—At the south end, the second VMS said that the left two lanes were for the Express Lanes only. Good move.

—A couple of shiny new bollards with metal black-and-yellow chevron-type markers at the entrances at both ends (similar to what you sometimes see on the end of a jersey wall). Also a good move.

—Saw two cops in each direction, both times at the toll gantry just north of the W&OD overpass and just south of the Idylwood overpass. The cops were parked and were out of their cars talking and not running radar, but I slowed down anyway (I had had my cruise control set at 65 mph so I could cruise in 6th gear).

—Regular lanes were very busy, Express Lanes were clear sailing. I really like driving in there just for the reduced traffic.

—The sign at the northern end on the Outer Loop is NOTABLY different from the southern end on the Inner Loop because the Outer Loop's left lane is "Express Lanes Only" but the second lane from the left is an option lane. On the Inner Loop, both left lanes enter.

Pictures to come. Got some calls to return first.

Edited: Here are pictures from the south end. I want to tweet these to two of the local reporters so I did this first. Others to come later.

I took the "single lane" to the left that cpzilliacus and I were discussing and the first few pictures are of that.

(http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Road%20sign%20pictures/HOT1.jpg)

(http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Road%20sign%20pictures/HOT2.jpg)

(http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Road%20sign%20pictures/HOT3.jpg)

(http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Road%20sign%20pictures/HOT4.jpg)


Now for the important part. First sign looked the same as yesterday:

(http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Road%20sign%20pictures/HOT5.jpg)


Second one had something new. Good idea. They should still revise the skip lines as cpzilliacus suggested, but this is a good way to do it in the meantime.

(http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Road%20sign%20pictures/HOT6.jpg)


Finally, new markers at the entrance itself:

(http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Road%20sign%20pictures/HOT7.jpg)
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 19, 2012, 04:18:21 PM
Pictures from the northbound end on the way back.

I find this interesting: Unlike the Inner Loop, a new left lane forms to become one of the Express Lanes.

(http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Road%20sign%20pictures/HOT7a.jpg)


The next sign marks the new left lane as "EXIT ONLY" (I was surprised to see the word "EXIT," as the MUTCD seems to prefer the word "Entrance" in this context) and marks the next lane (the left lane prior to the Old Dominion Drive underpass) as an option lane.

(http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Road%20sign%20pictures/HOT8.jpg)


Then the option lane splits. Hard to tell from this picture, but the third car up started into the Express Lanes and then pulled right (sigh.....).

(http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Road%20sign%20pictures/HOT9.jpg)


Bad lighting at around 2 PM or so, but you can see this end has the pylons with the chevrons too.....and one of them looks damaged.

(http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Road%20sign%20pictures/HOT10.jpg)


The Express Lane ramp towards Dulles is an impressive setup. Wish I'd had time to try it.

(http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Road%20sign%20pictures/HOT11.jpg)


Approaching Tysons is interesting. The ramp from the Dulles Toll Road comes in from the left and the ramp from Jones Branch Drive comes in from the right at the same place. Very weird spot.

(http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Road%20sign%20pictures/HOT12.jpg)


The Jones Branch Drive acceleration lane ends and the Dulles Toll Road ramp's acceleration lane becomes exit-only at the Westpark Bridge; meanwhile, the left lane is an option lane.

(http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Road%20sign%20pictures/HOT13.jpg)



The video of the southbound HOV ramp from I-395 didn't turn out well due to operator error on my part. I can confirm that when you head to the Outer Loop it is a very sharp curve. I find I can often disregard the yellow advisory speed signs and take ramps a bit faster than they say—well, not in this case, at least not the first time through in my Acura sedan (in the RX-7 it might be a different story). I won't be surprised to hear of drivers getting their "Springfield Stripe" (a play on NASCAR's "Darlington Stripe") when they go too fast. Saw some traffic using the HOV ramps, not a whole lot.

And the final item of interest....I tweeted some pictures to Dr. Gridlock and he had one of his colleagues give me a call to interview me about my experience. They may or may not run a story in tomorrow's paper. I will certainly have my eyes peeled!
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on November 19, 2012, 04:24:14 PM
WTOP Radio: New Express Lanes cause confusion (http://www.wtop.com/41/3125243/New-Express-Lanes-cause-confusion)

Quote
Drivers on the Capital Beltway are finding themselves confused by the traffic patterns created with opening of the new 495 Express Lanes.

Quote
"Like with any new facility or road that opens, there's going to be some driver confusion. These signs are new so people aren't used to them," said Transurban spokeswoman Pierce Coffee. Transurban is the company operating the Express Lanes.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 19, 2012, 04:47:48 PM
Channel 4's Adam Tuss tweeted:

Quote
According to Express Lanes officials, they will: extend merge area and alert drivers sooner to the Express Lanes entrance

Quote
Also this: Add new pavement markings saying "E-ZPass Only" approximately one mile and again one half mile before Express Lanes entrance
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on November 20, 2012, 08:34:20 AM
The new I-110 Express Lanes in Los Angeles also require all users (including HOV) to carry a transponder, and they are issuing switchable transponders so carpoolers can travel toll free.

The I-110 Express Lanes are still HOV-2 for car-poolers, right? 

The only HOV-3 in Southern California is I-10 ( San Bernardino Freeway) east of downtown L.A. to El Monte, right? 
This requirement seems to be the most controversial part of the change, because carpoolers who could formerly use the lanes at any time now have to carry the transponder, which requires setting up a prepaid account, and it includes a $3/month service fee (not in effect yet, starts in the spring when the companion Express Lanes on I-10 open).

I wish that someone would wake up and smell the coffee regarding such fees.  They discourage people from obtaining transponders, which is (in my opinion) incredibly stupid and short-sighted. 
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on November 20, 2012, 08:42:02 AM
Washington Post: New Beltway express lanes lead to crashes and changes (http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/new-beltway-express-lanes-lead-to-crashes-and-changes/2012/11/19/ca0fb4cc-3289-11e2-9cfa-e41bac906cc9_story.html)

Quote
The Capital Beltway’s new lanes have been open to the public for just a few days, but it’s already time for a bit of a makeover.

Quote
A spate of accidents at the entrance to the northbound 495 express lanes, all stemming from last-minute maneuvers to avoid the new lanes, has transportation authorities scrambling to make changes.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 20, 2012, 08:48:36 AM
My comments for that article were a lot more positive about the lanes than he made them seem. I said staying to the far right if you don't want to enter is simply common sense, just like moving left a lane when someone is merging onto the highway.

I think the editors told him to quite worried drivers.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on November 20, 2012, 09:34:29 AM
My comments for that article were a lot more positive about the lanes than he made them seem. I said staying to the far right if you don't want to enter is simply common sense, just like moving left a lane when someone is merging onto the highway.

I think the editors told him to quite worried drivers.

Hoo, is this the ghost of John Nestor, MD (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Nestor), come back to haunt us on the Capital Beltway?
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 20, 2012, 09:50:37 AM
My comments for that article were a lot more positive about the lanes than he made them seem. I said staying to the far right if you don't want to enter is simply common sense, just like moving left a lane when someone is merging onto the highway.

I think the editors told him to quite worried drivers.

Hoo, is this the ghost of John Nestor, MD (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Nestor), come back to haunt us on the Capital Beltway?

I remember that guy.

The current troll is an idiot calling himself "FergusonFoont" who rails on about what he calls "Lexus Lanes" and attacks anyone who disagrees with him as being employed by Fluor and Transurban. I find it very easy to enrage him, but what I enjoy is that he keeps insisting that the left lane on the Legion Bridge forces you into the Express Lanes. It doesn't, and I've posted the photographic evidence at least four times. Doesn't seem to embarrass the guy in the least to be caught lying. I really don't know why I waste my time.

Got to sign off for a while, so I guess he'll be thrilled to think he's scared me off.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 20, 2012, 10:57:54 AM
I just came back from a trip to Springfield. Took the HOV ramp from I-95 to the Outer Loop. It's a great new option to have, especially if you're coming from further away because it eliminates the need to exit into the mainline at Newington. It's also a great new shortcut for Franconia–Springfield Parkway traffic, as we've discussed before.

Only thing I dislike is that when you merge in with the traffic coming from the I-95 flyover, there is very little space afforded to accomplish the maneuver, and I think people understandably aren't yet used to the idea of people appearing from the left there.


Seems to me the same people who find the Beltway entrances to the Express Lanes difficult should have trouble with this spot:

(http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Road%20sign%20pictures/HOV1.jpg)


The barriers blocking the Inner Loop ramp do come up a bit suddenly as you go around the curve:

(http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Road%20sign%20pictures/HOV2.jpg)


Short merge area as you join the Beltway:

(http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Road%20sign%20pictures/HOV3.jpg)
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: andrewkbrown on November 20, 2012, 01:40:26 PM
Aerial video of what not to do.
http://www.wusa9.com/news/article/230063/158/VIDEO-Mini-Cooper-Driver-Pulls-Major-No-No-On-Express-Lanes (http://www.wusa9.com/news/article/230063/158/VIDEO-Mini-Cooper-Driver-Pulls-Major-No-No-On-Express-Lanes)

Notice another car towards the end of the video clip merges back into the regular lanes, directly in front of a semi truck. Behind him, a little white SUV has its right turn signal on, about to attempt to move back to the right as well.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on November 20, 2012, 02:10:14 PM
Aerial video of what not to do.
http://www.wusa9.com/news/article/230063/158/VIDEO-Mini-Cooper-Driver-Pulls-Major-No-No-On-Express-Lanes (http://www.wusa9.com/news/article/230063/158/VIDEO-Mini-Cooper-Driver-Pulls-Major-No-No-On-Express-Lanes)

Notice another car towards the end of the video clip merges back into the regular lanes, directly in front of a semi truck. Behind him, a little white SUV has its right turn signal on, about to attempt to move back to the right as well.

Thanks for sharing.

That is (in my opinion) an example of reckless driving (Code of Virginia § 46.2-852 (http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+46.2-852)).

Where are the blue lights of the Virginia State Police when you need them?  Sheesh!
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: andrewkbrown on November 20, 2012, 02:15:55 PM
Actually, if you look closely, there is a Virginia state trooper driving in the express lanes as the video clip begins.

And look at the number of skid marks in the left-most lane of the regular lanes.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: roadman on November 20, 2012, 02:58:03 PM
mtantillo (https://www.aaroads.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=1140), 1995hoo (https://www.aaroads.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=2455), oscar (https://www.aaroads.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=1107) and NJRoadfan (https://www.aaroads.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=1006), please look at the images below, in sequence from about the Va. 617 (Backlick Road) underpass to the beginning of the Express Lanes on the Inner Loop of I-495.  Note that the pavement markings first imply that it is the left lane (only) that becomes the restricted lane, then, as we get very close to the entrance to the Express Lanes, the markings suddenly shift to show that it is the two left lanes that become the Express Lanes.  Sorry for the blurry nature of these, but I think the point I am making is pretty clear.

(http://www.toward.com/cpz/dsc01428.jpg)

(http://www.toward.com/cpz/dsc01429.jpg)

(http://www.toward.com/cpz/dsc01430.jpg)

(http://www.toward.com/cpz/dsc01431.jpg)

(http://www.toward.com/cpz/dsc01432.jpg)

(http://www.toward.com/cpz/dsc01433.jpg)

(http://www.toward.com/cpz/dsc01434.jpg)

I concur with the pavement marking issue.  I also see a problem with the signing, which may explain some of the driver reaction issues.  Instead of showing the pricing, the 1/2 mile lane assignment sign should have simply said Entrance - like the one at the gore point does, which you can't see really well far in advance because of the curve in the road and the fact the 'gore' sign is just at the start of the divider and not before it.  Another overhead 'Entrance" lane assignment sign a quarter mile before the split would also help matters.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on November 20, 2012, 04:11:46 PM
I concur with the pavement marking issue.

Thank you.  It may have gotten fixed last night (apparently VDOT and Transurban were going to be working on the pavement markings in the overnight hours last night). 

I also see a problem with the signing, which may explain some of the driver reaction issues.  Instead of showing the pricing, the 1/2 mile lane assignment sign should have simply said Entrance - like the one at the gore point does, which you can't see really well far in advance because of the curve in the road and the fact the 'gore' sign is just at the start of the divider and not before it.  Another overhead 'Entrance" lane assignment sign a quarter mile before the split would also help matters.

I agree.  Now they did reprogram one of the variable message signs (Hoo posted an image showing that), which probably helped a little.

But an "extra" sign saying "If you stay in these two lanes, you will be in the HOV/Toll lanes soon" would be nice.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on November 20, 2012, 04:22:30 PM
TOLLROADSnews: After swerve incidents VA/495 Express Lanes make modifications to southern entry to give drivers more time to choose (http://www.tollroadsnews.com/node/6284)

Quote
Northern Virginia's new toll express lanes on the Capital Beltway are getting modifications to the southern entry in night-time work for the next several days. This in response to a spate of swerving incidents that included six crashes in the first 72 hours of operation of the 495 Express Lanes (XLs.)

Quote
The first modifications done November 18/19 overnight provided more warning of split and entry to the toll express lanes by:

Quote
- adding additional colored reflectors to the channelizing barrier posts

Quote
- changing digital messages on electronic signs to read “new traffic pattern” and “use caution” and “two left lanes express lanes only”

Quote
November 19/20 overnight they are extending the diverge area and informing drivers sooner of the express lanes entrance.

Quote
Heading north from Springfield Interchange, they are changing the pavement striping to begin transitional dotted line right back  in the area where the Springfield Interchange ramps meet the Beltway nearly a mile south of the original toll express lanes entrance. This striping should indicate to drivers more clearly that the two left lanes will turn into express lanes to give them more time to think about whether they'll choose the toll express or free lanes.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 20, 2012, 06:01:02 PM
I drove around the Inner Loop to Annandale this afternoon. No incidents. I paid special attention to the lane arrangement as I drove and it's readily apparent that NO driver who is not heading for the Express Lanes has any reason to be in the FAR left lane, as that lane does not come from the Wilson Bridge. Instead, it's that strange lane cpzilliacus and I were discussing that splits off out of the HOV ramps to I-95 and rejoins the Beltway on the left under I-395. It's probably fair to say 95% of drivers or more will never use that particular part of it because of where it is: You have to take the left exit marked "Restricted Lanes" but then bear right. Most people won't know it's there and it doesn't really serve much purpose for most people.
 
So at this point, the "left lane" of the regular Beltway after the I-95 flyover splits off becomes the second lane from the left.
 
Then after you pass I-395, the new far left lane that comes from the HOV exit is joined by the other end of the HOV ramps in a standard acceleration lane that merges into the far left lane.
 
After that, the far left lane becomes the left Express Lane and the second lane from the left does so as well.
 
The only people who should be in a position where they need to move right are the ones who were in the "left lane" after the I-95 flyover, i.e., the ones who are in the second lane from the left. It becomes the right Express Lane. If the skip lines are redone through that area, as the media have implied will be done, then it will clarify matters, although it also bears noting that the 3/4 mile advance overhead sign now says, in big orange letters, "2 LEFT LANES/EXPRESS LANES ONLY," and the advance signs show those two lanes are "ONLY" (in black-on-yellow) for the Express Lanes.
 
So what happens on the Inner Loop is: Two lanes coming from I-95 and I-395 become the two right lanes and continue to the general-purpose roadway. Two lanes coming from Alexandria become the two middle lanes and continue to the general-purpose roadway. The single left lane coming from Alexandria becomes the right Express Lane, and the single lane coming from the new I-95/I-395 HOV ramps becomes the far left lane and eventually the left Express Lane.
 
On the whole, it's a pretty sensible design. Correcting the location of the skip line between the far left lane and the second lane from the left would be the major correction needed, and I heard on the radio that next week they'll paint some "E-ZPass Express Only" markings on the pavement.
 
In this picture, the BMW SUV is in the left lane of the three; the lane that comes from the HOV ramps is to his left and is separated by four solid white lines (no pylons in this area). The only reason why any normal driver would be in that far left lane is if he's coming from the HOV ramps, since just about nobody will use the strange single lane to the left of the I-95 southbound flyover. Sorry there's so much dashboard. I had my sun visor tilted too low.

The lane I'm using in this picture becomes the second lane from the left in the general-purpose lanes.

(http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Road%20sign%20pictures/HOT14.jpg)
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 20, 2012, 06:03:16 PM
I concur with the pavement marking issue.

Thank you.  It may have gotten fixed last night (apparently VDOT and Transurban were going to be working on the pavement markings in the overnight hours last night). 

....

Not as of about 1:30 this afternoon. The last picture I posted is a video capture; the video continues after that and the striping is the same as yesterday.

If they do not get to it tonight, don't expect to see anything until next week. Roadwork is suspended at noon tomorrow for Thanksgiving. I do not expect anything to happen tonight because Dr. Gridlock told me that Virginia's specified lane marking material requires an air temperature of 45°F or higher when it is installed or else it does not adhere properly. I believe it's suppose to be in the upper 30s tonight.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: roadman on November 20, 2012, 06:43:29 PM
Not just VDOT - A minimum 45 degrees application temperature for pavement markings is pretty much standard for most state DOTs.

And, I'm curious what material VDOT uses for markings on their Interstates (and I hope it's not paint).  Most states like Massachusetts that now provide friction-course pavements (the coarse "black popcorn" asphalt mix) on their Interstates and freeways no longer specify thermoplastic markings for these roads.  The interaction of the hot material with the coarse pavement results in premature failure of the pavement bond where the markings are applied.  This normally manifests itself during the first good snowfall, when plow blades hit the raised marking and end up pulling up chunks of asphalt.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mtantillo on November 20, 2012, 08:52:17 PM
Not just VDOT - A minimum 45 degrees application temperature for pavement markings is pretty much standard for most state DOTs.

And, I'm curious what material VDOT uses for markings on their Interstates (and I hope it's not paint).  Most states like Massachusetts that now provide friction-course pavements (the coarse "black popcorn" asphalt mix) on their Interstates and freeways no longer specify thermoplastic markings for these roads.  The interaction of the hot material with the coarse pavement results in premature failure of the pavement bond where the markings are applied.  This normally manifests itself during the first good snowfall, when plow blades hit the raised marking and end up pulling up chunks of asphalt.

Virginia uses "wet night reflective preformed plastic tape" (Type B Class 6 in VDOT road and bridge specs)
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: Beltway on November 20, 2012, 08:54:06 PM
Not just VDOT - A minimum 45 degrees application temperature for pavement markings is pretty much standard for most state DOTs.

And, I'm curious what material VDOT uses for markings on their Interstates (and I hope it's not paint).  Most states like Massachusetts that now provide friction-course pavements (the coarse "black popcorn" asphalt mix) on their Interstates and freeways no longer specify thermoplastic markings for these roads.  The interaction of the hot material with the coarse pavement results in premature failure of the pavement bond where the markings are applied.  This normally manifests itself during the first good snowfall, when plow blades hit the raised marking and end up pulling up chunks of asphalt.

"Thermoplastic resin material has various uses, including being a durable pavement marking material. Thermoplastic is a blend of solid ingredients that become liquid when heated. It comes from the manufacturer intermixed with some refl ective beads. When heated and properly agitated, the dry thermoplastic compound becomes a homogenized liquid. Refl ective beads are intermixed and suspended in this liquid. Applied at the proper temperature, the thermoplastic melts into the upper surface of the HMA pavement forming a thermal bond. When applying thermoplastic to PCC, a primer/sealer from the thermoplastic manufacturer shall be used to ensure a proper bond to the surface.

Thermoplastic provides a visible, durable pavement marking because of its thickness and the use of intermixed and drop-on beads.

http://virginiadot.org/business/resources/Materials/MCS_Study_Guides/bu-mat-PaveMarkCh4.pdf
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mtantillo on November 20, 2012, 09:09:16 PM
Thermoplastic is rare on freeways in VA.  The inlaid B-6 tape is much more reflective and durable than thermoplastic. 

The document that requires the tape on limited access roads is Traffic Engineering Memo TE-261.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: vdeane on November 21, 2012, 12:07:31 PM
They could also fix the striping to comply with the MUTCD.  Dashed means "to one side exits, the other through".  The dashed line here seems to be random and means nothing, given that it's the two lanes that become the HOT lanes, not the one.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 21, 2012, 12:41:53 PM
I haven't been on the Beltway today and probably won't be. Have the day off and have been cooking for tomorrow, which meant drinking the leftover wine from one recipe, checking the rum for another....  Anyway, anyone know if they tweaked the markings? It is downright WARM out there today, so one hopes they might have done something this morning after rush hour ended.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: Beltway on November 21, 2012, 09:03:43 PM
I haven't been on the Beltway today and probably won't be. Have the day off and have been cooking for tomorrow, which meant drinking the leftover wine from one recipe, checking the rum for another....  Anyway, anyone know if they tweaked the markings? It is downright WARM out there today, so one hopes they might have done something this morning after rush hour ended.

The continuous marking for the express lanes today start near I-395 on the inner loop.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: roadman on November 23, 2012, 06:12:33 PM
Thanks for the feedback on the markings.  One final question - has VDOT started recessing the markings?  That appears to be the way to maximize durability, especially in a snow state.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: Stephane Dumas on November 25, 2012, 10:09:51 AM
Here one more picture spotted at the Beyond DC blog showing I-495 HOT lanes northbound from the Lee Hwy (US-29) overpass http://beyonddc.com/log/?p=4088

Edit: Some folks had already filmed some videos
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 26, 2012, 12:58:53 PM
I checked my E-ZPass statement online this morning and I see the toll gantries associated with the Shirley Highway HOV ramps are active, but they don't make any difference in the amount of the toll. When you use the 495 Express Lanes, the statement shows the entry and exit points (similar to a "ticket system" toll road) and if you pass under the HOV ramp gantries it says "H95" for the entry/exit point. It appears to say "ELS" if you enter/exit at the lanes' southern end without passing under the HOV gantries.

No particular significance to this post, but I thought I'd mention it because I was the person who was interested in the issue in the past.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mtantillo on November 26, 2012, 01:04:01 PM
I checked my E-ZPass statement online this morning and I see the toll gantries associated with the Shirley Highway HOV ramps are active, but they don't make any difference in the amount of the toll. When you use the 495 Express Lanes, the statement shows the entry and exit points (similar to a "ticket system" toll road) and if you pass under the HOV ramp gantries it says "H95" for the entry/exit point. It appears to say "ELS" if you enter/exit at the lanes' southern end without passing under the HOV gantries.

No particular significance to this post, but I thought I'd mention it because I was the person who was interested in the issue in the past.

It is significant to me, as I was interested too!  Thanks for the info. 
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on November 26, 2012, 01:58:28 PM
I checked my E-ZPass statement online this morning and I see the toll gantries associated with the Shirley Highway HOV ramps are active, but they don't make any difference in the amount of the toll. When you use the 495 Express Lanes, the statement shows the entry and exit points (similar to a "ticket system" toll road) and if you pass under the HOV ramp gantries it says "H95" for the entry/exit point. It appears to say "ELS" if you enter/exit at the lanes' southern end without passing under the HOV gantries.

No particular significance to this post, but I thought I'd mention it because I was the person who was interested in the issue in the past.

It is significant to me, as I was interested too!  Thanks for the info. 

So was I.  Thanks for sharing!
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 26, 2012, 04:16:10 PM
Here's a 15-second video I shot today showing the beauty of the Express Lanes just before 3 PM on a Monday afternoon near Tysons (that's the ramp from Route 7 on the left). Click to play. Sorry about the graininess, Photobucket resizes the image and it always distorts a bit.

I had my cruise control set at 65 mph, BTW. Saw cops on the Inner Loop side at the gantry just north of US-29 both times I went through; also saw a cop pulling over a pickup on the Inner Loop just north of Gallows (don't know what for). Some guy blew past me doing well over 80 mph shortly after that and I can certainly understand why. It's hard not to speed in there.

On the return trip I wanted to go to Springfield so I took the HOV ramp to southbound I-95. Interesting drive in this direction (I had previously used it from northbound I-95 to the Inner Loop). The exit from the Outer Loop feels like it's plunging down into a cave or a canyon as it leaves the Beltway to the left. The ramp has a bit of a roller-coaster feel to it, IMO, and this just accentuates it. Then coming out of the long curve to the left is a great place to accelerate hard if the road is clear....which today it wasn't. HOV lanes were slow, 25 mph slow, probably due to construction.

(http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Road%20sign%20pictures/th_MiscellaneousNovember2012110_zpsbdd7eadd.jpg) (http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Road%20sign%20pictures/MiscellaneousNovember2012110_zpsbdd7eadd.mp4)
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 26, 2012, 04:46:29 PM
BTW, I forgot to mention that the revised skip line on the Inner Loop prior to the lanes' southern beginning does indeed clarify things a good bit. The lady ahead of me slowed and moved right as soon as the short skips began.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: Mapmikey on November 26, 2012, 08:37:51 PM
Here's a 15-second video I shot today showing the beauty of the Express Lanes just before 3 PM on a Monday afternoon near Tysons (that's the ramp from Route 7 on the left). Click to play. Sorry about the graininess, Photobucket resizes the image and it always distorts a bit.

I had my cruise control set at 65 mph, BTW. Saw cops on the Inner Loop side at the gantry just north of US-29 both times I went through; also saw a cop pulling over a pickup on the Inner Loop just north of Gallows (don't know what for). Some guy blew past me doing well over 80 mph shortly after that and I can certainly understand why. It's hard not to speed in there.

On the return trip I wanted to go to Springfield so I took the HOV ramp to southbound I-95. Interesting drive in this direction (I had previously used it from northbound I-95 to the Inner Loop). The exit from the Outer Loop feels like it's plunging down into a cave or a canyon as it leaves the Beltway to the left. The ramp has a bit of a roller-coaster feel to it, IMO, and this just accentuates it. Then coming out of the long curve to the left is a great place to accelerate hard if the road is clear....which today it wasn't. HOV lanes were slow, 25 mph slow, probably due to construction.

(http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Road%20sign%20pictures/th_MiscellaneousNovember2012110_zpsbdd7eadd.jpg) (http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Road%20sign%20pictures/MiscellaneousNovember2012110_zpsbdd7eadd.mp4)

95 HOV was slow this afternoon because of a wreck near the former Lorton ramp.  One of the cops on the inner loop had a semi pulled over in the express lanes when I drove by around 5.

With the caveat that I did not go to work last Wednesday, the highest outer loop toll I have seen so far is $1.90.  One day last week in the afternoon rush I saw that the inner loop toll was $2.20.

So far I have noticed that even though the Express lanes are lightly used in afternoon rush, it is enough to make the main lanes of the Outer Loop run fairly smoothly throughout at near-highway speeds.

Does anyone know if one can exit the outer loop express at Braddock and go straight at the light to head back onto the mainline beltway?  I am not inclined to use the beltway express to the south end because I would have to get over 3 lanes in a very short distance to make the ramp to mainline 95 south which is suicidal at 5:15 in the afternoon...


Mapmikey

Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 26, 2012, 09:45:16 PM
Interesting question about Braddock. I don't know the answer, but since you can turn right or left you ought to be able to go straight since there's no competing movement.

You can also accomplish the "express-to-local" switch at Gallows if you exit, turn right, then take the loop-around ramp on the right. Forces you to spend more time with the general traffic, though.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on November 27, 2012, 07:52:40 AM
Washington Post's Dr. Gridlock: Drivers assess new Beltway lanes (http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/drivers-assess-new-beltway-lanes/2012/11/23/1ba33460-334f-11e2-bb9b-288a310849ee_story.html)

Quote
Only in the D.C. area, where after months of notices and with signage that could be seen for miles, would drivers be unaware that they were about to enter toll lanes! Then they swerve recklessly into traffic or suddenly stop, causing accidents.

They then have the gall to blame the Virginia Department of Transportation and the express lanes’ operators. Of course their excess speed, lack of road awareness and left-lane selfishness could not have anything to do with it. If there is any good to come of the problems, it may be if more drivers behave as one writer who said he would: “Move to the far-right lane and stay there.”

 — Ed Conley, Fairfax
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 27, 2012, 11:11:58 AM
I checked my E-ZPass statement online this morning and I see the toll gantries associated with the Shirley Highway HOV ramps are active, but they don't make any difference in the amount of the toll. When you use the 495 Express Lanes, the statement shows the entry and exit points (similar to a "ticket system" toll road) and if you pass under the HOV ramp gantries it says "H95" for the entry/exit point. It appears to say "ELS" if you enter/exit at the lanes' southern end without passing under the HOV gantries.

No particular significance to this post, but I thought I'd mention it because I was the person who was interested in the issue in the past.

It is significant to me, as I was interested too!  Thanks for the info. 

I checked it again this morning but yesterday's trips haven't posted yet. So far this is what I see it showing:

SR7 for Leesburg Pike—entered there southbound on the first day
LEE for Lee Highway (US-29)—entered there southbound on the second day
H95 for the Shirley Highway HOV ramps as well as for the east-side single-lane connections cpzilliacus and I discussed—used all these things multiple times so far
ELE for the lanes' northern end on the Inner Loop
ELS for the lanes' northern beginning on the Outer Loop
SPR for the lanes southern end on the Outer Loop; I assume it's probably the same on the Inner Loop but I don't know yet (need to see yesterday's trip to answer that)


It took three days for last week's trips to post to my Virginia E-ZPass account. VDOT says it can take up to seven days. They're treated as "out-of-agency" trips because VDOT does not manage the 495 Express Lanes.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on November 27, 2012, 11:45:48 AM
It took three days for last week's trips to post to my Virginia E-ZPass account. VDOT says it can take up to seven days. They're treated as "out-of-agency" trips because VDOT does not manage the 495 Express Lanes.

This is interesting.  Tolls from the privately-owned Dulles Greenway show up on my MdTA E-ZPass Account as "VDOT" for  some reason. 

Maybe because the main toll barrier on the Greenway collects money for VDOT (really MWAA now) for all traffic coming from the Dulles Toll Road?
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 27, 2012, 11:59:54 AM
It took three days for last week's trips to post to my Virginia E-ZPass account. VDOT says it can take up to seven days. They're treated as "out-of-agency" trips because VDOT does not manage the 495 Express Lanes.

This is interesting.  Tolls from the privately-owned Dulles Greenway show up on my MdTA E-ZPass Account as "VDOT" for  some reason. 

Maybe because the main toll barrier on the Greenway collects money for VDOT (really MWAA now) for all traffic coming from the Dulles Toll Road?

Yeah, it's funny, they all—including the 495 Express Lanes tolls—say "VDOT" under the "Agency" column when I view my transactions online. ("All" meaning Dulles Toll Road, Greenway, and 495 Express Lanes; recent trips on the Intercounty Connector and Pennsylvania's Route 43 just list the agency as MdTA or PTC, respectively.) But I read something on the E-ZPass Virginia site a few weeks ago that said something about checking your replenishment amount if you plan to be a regular user because Express Lanes tolls could take up to a week to post and it said something like "in the same manner as out-of-state tolls."

I can't find that on their website anymore, though. I do see that the ICC and PTC tolls took three days to post in October and the Greenway and Dulles Toll Road tolls posted same-day. The Express Lanes trips on the weekend (Saturday the 17th and Sunday the 18th) both posted on Wednesday the 21st, while the two trips on Monday the 19th both took three days and posted on November 22, which struck me as odd because that's Thanksgiving and I figured they might not post until the next day (just like how the bank doesn't let you schedule an electronic bill payment on a holiday).
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: Interstatefan78 on November 29, 2012, 09:45:37 PM
No, of course not. The E-ZPass New Jersey tag belongs to the New Jersey customer service center and would have to be returned to them. It can't be traded in for a Virginia device. If someone with a New Jersey transponder wants to get a Flex transponder from Virginia, the best thing to do would be to set up the Virginia account and obtain the Flex device and THEN cancel the New Jersey account (and send the transponder back, preferably wrapped in foil) once the Virginia one is operative.

But has VDOT lightened up on its historical policy of not issuing Virginia E-ZPass transponders to residents of other states (or at least the ones in the E-ZPass consortium)?  The only movement I've seen on that front is the concession that residents of D.C. (not in the consortium) can get E-ZPasses from VDOT.  See https://www.ezpassva.com/CreateAccount/CreateAccountHome.aspx which points residents of consortium states to their own states' E-ZPass sites.  My wild guess is that those other states won't issue you a Flex transponder, at least not until Virginia's implementation of HOT lanes spreads to other states.

The Maryland Transportation Authority will apparently be issing E-ZPass Flex units, even though  I do not believe they have no intention of allowing a similar HOV exemption on the I-95 Express Toll Lanes in Baltimore County between I-895 and Md. 43.

I had Virginia E-ZPass (and before that, SmarTag) transponders for many years, even though I have never lived in the Commonwealth. I changed not long before Maryland decided to start charging a monthly fee of low-use customers. :-)

Out-of-staters might be able to get "On-The-Go" E-ZPass transponders, including Flex transponders, in-person at some Virginia grocery stores and other retail outlets.  However, they are supposed to register the transponders later (for replenishment of their accounts, after tolls and monthly fees draw down the prepaid balance).  I can't tell if VDOT will allow registration by out-of-staters, or if the participating retailers will even issue "On-The-Go" transponders to out-of-staters.

I think VDOT will issue anyone an  E-ZPass transponder, especially if you walk-in to one of their offices.
A better sloution to this E-Z Pass flex problem is to have E-Z Pass New Jersey and New York offer flex tags because some of these E-Z Pass NJ/NY users would use the I-495 HOT lanes from VA-267 to I-395 in Springfield, VA  :D
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on November 29, 2012, 10:15:40 PM
A better sloution to this E-Z Pass flex problem is to have E-Z Pass New Jersey and New York offer flex tags because some of these E-Z Pass NJ/NY users would use the I-495 HOT lanes from VA-267 to I-395 in Springfield, VA  :D

MdTA does offer E-ZPass Flex transponder, even though there are no current plans for MdTA to be operating HOV/Toll lanes.

I know - I got one from the MdTA's Gaithersburg office (located in the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration's office there (=DMV in most other states)).
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: vdeane on November 29, 2012, 11:22:45 PM
No, of course not. The E-ZPass New Jersey tag belongs to the New Jersey customer service center and would have to be returned to them. It can't be traded in for a Virginia device. If someone with a New Jersey transponder wants to get a Flex transponder from Virginia, the best thing to do would be to set up the Virginia account and obtain the Flex device and THEN cancel the New Jersey account (and send the transponder back, preferably wrapped in foil) once the Virginia one is operative.

But has VDOT lightened up on its historical policy of not issuing Virginia E-ZPass transponders to residents of other states (or at least the ones in the E-ZPass consortium)?  The only movement I've seen on that front is the concession that residents of D.C. (not in the consortium) can get E-ZPasses from VDOT.  See https://www.ezpassva.com/CreateAccount/CreateAccountHome.aspx which points residents of consortium states to their own states' E-ZPass sites.  My wild guess is that those other states won't issue you a Flex transponder, at least not until Virginia's implementation of HOT lanes spreads to other states.

The Maryland Transportation Authority will apparently be issing E-ZPass Flex units, even though  I do not believe they have no intention of allowing a similar HOV exemption on the I-95 Express Toll Lanes in Baltimore County between I-895 and Md. 43.

I had Virginia E-ZPass (and before that, SmarTag) transponders for many years, even though I have never lived in the Commonwealth. I changed not long before Maryland decided to start charging a monthly fee of low-use customers. :-)

Out-of-staters might be able to get "On-The-Go" E-ZPass transponders, including Flex transponders, in-person at some Virginia grocery stores and other retail outlets.  However, they are supposed to register the transponders later (for replenishment of their accounts, after tolls and monthly fees draw down the prepaid balance).  I can't tell if VDOT will allow registration by out-of-staters, or if the participating retailers will even issue "On-The-Go" transponders to out-of-staters.

I think VDOT will issue anyone an  E-ZPass transponder, especially if you walk-in to one of their offices.
A better sloution to this E-Z Pass flex problem is to have E-Z Pass New Jersey and New York offer flex tags because some of these E-Z Pass NJ/NY users would use the I-495 HOT lanes from VA-267 to I-395 in Springfield, VA  :D
I'd rather they just use a camera to find out if there are passengers and waive the toll if there are.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 30, 2012, 04:32:28 PM
WTOP reports some initial statistics. (http://www.wtop.com/654/3138835/First-look-at-Express-Lanes-) The one I find interesting is the part about the maximum toll so far to drive the full length having been $2.70.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: iwishiwascanadian on December 01, 2012, 12:29:25 AM
A better sloution to this E-Z Pass flex problem is to have E-Z Pass New Jersey and New York offer flex tags because some of these E-Z Pass NJ/NY users would use the I-495 HOT lanes from VA-267 to I-395 in Springfield, VA  :D


MdTA does offer E-ZPass Flex transponder, even though there are no current plans for MdTA to be operating HOV/Toll lanes.

I know - I got one from the MdTA's Gaithersburg office (located in the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration's office there (=DMV in most other states)).

Aren't the Express Lanes on 95 in Baltimore County supposed to be HOT lanes?  If so that would explain why MdTA would be offering the flex transponders.  If not it would just be Maryland making life easier on those who live in the DC suburbs which isn't that bad either. 
quote: end. always.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on December 01, 2012, 11:13:04 AM
Aren't the Express Lanes on 95 in Baltimore County supposed to be HOT lanes?  If so that would explain why MdTA would be offering the flex transponders.  If not it would just be Maryland making life easier on those who live in the DC suburbs which isn't that bad either. 
quote: end. always.

MdTA has always called those lanes Express Toll Lanes, not HOV/Toll Lanes.

My guess is that they will stay that way, just barrier-separated toll lanes with electronic toll collection.

At one time, when I-95/JFK Highway  was widened from six lanes to eight lanes between Md. 43 (White Marsh), Exit 64 and Md. 24 (Edgewood and Bel Air), Exit 77, the left lane was marked "Future HOV Lane," but those signs were removed some years ago.

I think MdTA started offering the E-ZPass Flex transponder as a courtesy to D.C.-area Maryland users of the I-495 toll lanes, though there may come a time when a discount or free passage is offered to HOVs in Maryland.  As far as I know, there are no current plans for that on any of MdTA's toll roads or toll crossings.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 01, 2012, 11:23:14 AM
Everything I've read says that the lanes Maryland are building will be tolled for everyone at all times, no HOV exemption.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on December 01, 2012, 11:59:42 AM
Everything I've read says that the lanes Maryland are building will be tolled for everyone at all times, no HOV exemption.

The only HOV exemption currently in Maryland on toll roads and toll crossings is for buses. 

Most line-haul buses that run on the ICC or crossing the Bay Bridge (there are a few MTA transit routes that use the I-95 Fort McHenry Tunnel in Baltimore City, I am not aware of any that use the I-895 or I-695 crossings) have orange non-revenue E-ZPass transponders on their windshields (for some reason, I don't think Virginia issues non-revenue transponders in orange cases like Maryland does, even though the Dulles Toll Road, the Dulles Greenway and the I-495 HOV/Toll Lanes all provide free passage for line-haul buses).

The buses on the ICC and crossing the Bay Bridge to Queen Anne's County are all contractor-operated. 

The new service on the ICC could presumably have been run by WMATA, but I think Maryland DOT has made an (unstated for public consumption) policy decision not to have any new service provided by WMATA - even the Purple Line and Corridor Cities Transitway, if they get funded for construction, will not be operated by WMATA. 

The relatively recent arbitration win followed-up by  a court win awarding WMATA employees a generous wage increase when most other D.C.-area public employees have gotten little or nothing in recent years probably motivated that decision.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mtantillo on December 01, 2012, 09:43:42 PM
It took three days for last week's trips to post to my Virginia E-ZPass account. VDOT says it can take up to seven days. They're treated as "out-of-agency" trips because VDOT does not manage the 495 Express Lanes.

This is interesting.  Tolls from the privately-owned Dulles Greenway show up on my MdTA E-ZPass Account as "VDOT" for  some reason. 

Maybe because the main toll barrier on the Greenway collects money for VDOT (really MWAA now) for all traffic coming from the Dulles Toll Road?

Yeah, it's funny, they all—including the 495 Express Lanes tolls—say "VDOT" under the "Agency" column when I view my transactions online. ("All" meaning Dulles Toll Road, Greenway, and 495 Express Lanes; recent trips on the Intercounty Connector and Pennsylvania's Route 43 just list the agency as MdTA or PTC, respectively.) But I read something on the E-ZPass Virginia site a few weeks ago that said something about checking your replenishment amount if you plan to be a regular user because Express Lanes tolls could take up to a week to post and it said something like "in the same manner as out-of-state tolls."

I can't find that on their website anymore, though. I do see that the ICC and PTC tolls took three days to post in October and the Greenway and Dulles Toll Road tolls posted same-day. The Express Lanes trips on the weekend (Saturday the 17th and Sunday the 18th) both posted on Wednesday the 21st, while the two trips on Monday the 19th both took three days and posted on November 22, which struck me as odd because that's Thanksgiving and I figured they might not post until the next day (just like how the bank doesn't let you schedule an electronic bill payment on a holiday).

In some states in the Northeast that have multiple toll agencies, each agency issues its own tags (see NY, which has tags branded MTA, Port Authority, Thruway Authority, etc.), even if they are all issued through one service center per state (all the above mentioned agencies issue through the NY Service Center).  The key difference being that each agency is a member of the E-ZPass interagency group (IAG). 

In Virginia, a decision was made a while back (probably dating back to when Smart Tag, which had one service center for all toll agencies in Virginia, merged with E-ZPass) that VDOT as a whole would join the IAG, and all toll agencies in Virginia (VDOT, CBBT, City of Chesapeake, MWAA, RMA, Greenway, Pocahontas Parkway/495 express/95 express [all Transurban]) would go through VDOT for E-Zpass services.  Thus, every E-ZPass issued in Virginia is a VDOT branded tag, and the Greenway doesn't issue tags separately from MWAA, for example. 

Thus, any transaction occurring in Virginia is considered an internal "VDOT" transaction for Virginia account holders. 

The processing delay comes from the way the trips are linked I think.  The ICC uses a similar method of compiling trips....gantries over the mainline on each segment....and the computer has to go in and figure out that the multiple tag reads are one "trip" that is charged at the rate in effect when the first gantry was passed. The ICC also has a similar delay in processing trips, usually taking a couple of days more than any other standard MdTA or other out of state transaction to post.  I suppose this is because it takes a while to crunch all of the numbers, and it has to wait for "lack of any additional tag reads" to show that you've exited.  This is different from point-based barrier tolls where a certain amount is charged at each barrier, and multiple barriers passed = multiple tolls, not "one trip".  This is also different from a ticket-system based toll where each toll plaza lane is designated as an entry or exit.  At entry lanes, the entry information is written onto the E-ZPass tag.  At exit lanes, the entry information is read off the tag, the toll computed, and the transaction can post immediately for in-state or within a day for out-of-state. The writing of entry information onto the tag wouldn't work on the ICC or 495 express lanes, because one man's entry gantry could be another man's exit gantry...the system doesn't know until it stops seeing that tag within the system, and it takes a while for it to realize that, and then to compute the toll. 

But somehow toll agencies seem to prefer doing trip/distance based tolls with mainline gantries over each segment, instead of over each entry/exit ramp, as we've seen with the ICC, 495 express lanes, and the proposed conversion of the PA Turnpike.  I'm sure Transurban took into account this delay when they did their financial analysis.  Another downside of using VDOT for E-ZPass...they have to wait for transactions to post before they can get any money...VDOT holds the money in everyone's E-ZPass account.  This unlike the MTA in NY, for example, which gets to hold all of the money in anyone's E-ZPass account (for MTA tags issued by the NY Service Center) and collect interest on it while it sits there.  Transurban doesn't have that luxury, since it doesn't issue tags. 
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on December 03, 2012, 12:10:21 AM
Washington Post Op-Ed:  Coming to terms with ‘Lexus’ express lanes on the Virginia side of the Beltway (http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/coming-to-terms-with-lexus-express-lanes-on-the-virginia-side-of-the-beltway/2012/12/01/8e87ca86-3b4c-11e2-a263-f0ebffed2f15_story.html)

Quote
Let me start by stating plainly that I recoil at the concept of letting private corporations make millions of dollars by operating public roads.

Quote
Dwight Eisenhower built the interstate highway system with taxpayers’ dollars, and it’s been quite a success. So why are we letting a company based in Australia drain profits from our region for the next 75 years for running the new, confusingly tolled express lanes along 14 miles of the Beltway in Northern Virginia?
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: deathtopumpkins on December 03, 2012, 12:18:23 AM
I'd be inclined to agree with that person, if the entirety of the Beltway were being tolled.

I don't see how there's anything wrong with allowing private companies to build new roads that supplement existing roads. If you don't like the idea of Transurban making money off you, take the general purpose lanes rather than the Express lanes. He talks as if the Express lanes have become the ONLY lanes.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 03, 2012, 07:52:15 AM
I find the "Lexus Lanes" sloganeering especially tiresome in light of some other very high tolls. Taking the Dulles Greenway/Dulles Toll Road combination costs over $7.00 each way (total of about 26 miles). The Verrazano in New York was $13.00 last I knew. The ICC in Maryland is around $4.00. Nobody rails against the "Bentley Bridge" or the "Ferrari Freeway" or "Rolls-Royce Roadway." True, the Beltway toll is continuously variable and could at some point exceed the others I've mentioned—but right now it looks unlikely to do that anytime soon.

I think the point that the Beltway has exactly the same number of lanes as before, plus a massively-improved interchange at I-66 for all traffic, is the key point. It's also the key difference from the I-95 project, which I find very problematic for the reasons discussed at the beginning of this thread.

Incidentally, everyone I know who's driven in the Beltway lanes loved it. Went out to dinner with my parents on Saturday for my dad's birthday and he had used then earlier that day. His only complaint? Hard to keep it below 80 mph. (I was also surprised that when he exited at Gallows he took Woodburn to 236 instead of just looping into the local lanes for one exit. He said the idea never occurred to him!)
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on December 03, 2012, 10:35:56 AM
Washington Post Op-Ed:  Coming to terms with ‘Lexus’ express lanes on the Virginia side of the Beltway (http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/coming-to-terms-with-lexus-express-lanes-on-the-virginia-side-of-the-beltway/2012/12/01/8e87ca86-3b4c-11e2-a263-f0ebffed2f15_story.html)

TOLLROADSnews response: Lame-brained lefty at Washington Post gripes about Capital Beltway 495 Express Lanes offending his "principles" CRITICISM (http://www.tollroadsnews.com/node/6301)

Quote
Washington Post metro affairs columnist Robert McCartney writes that the new 495 Express Lanes on the Capital Beltway "offer shorter travel times to people with money. So they’re Lexus lanes.” And he says he's "not crazy about… extra convenience for the affluent" because "It offends my egalitarian sentiments."

Quote
Poor McCartney is going to spend his life being offended, if we take him at his word.

Quote
First class sections on airlines. Million dollar plus homes. Hotels with rooms over $400/night. Plastic surgeons and shrinks. Fancy cheeses in the supermarket. House cleaning services. Fine wines at $30/bottle. Special seating at the ball game. Cruises in the Caribbean.

Quote
And of course those Lexus luxury cars.

Quote
The list is endless of goods and services that provide extra convenience for the affluent, and supposedly provide offense to the likes of McCartney.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 03, 2012, 11:20:28 AM
BTW, forgot to mention: We were coming back from the 9:30 Club late last night (after midnight) and used the southbound general lanes of I-395 because the HOV was running inbound. As we went around Exit 1C to the Outer Loop I noticed that one last sign has been uncovered on the Beltway. It's located just after the left exit from the Outer Loop to the inbound HOV and it's for the single-lane connection cpzilliacus and I were discussing earlier, the one where my wife starts yelling at me in the final video I posted from the lanes' first day of operation. What's odd about the sign is its design: It has the white "RESTRICTED LANES" banner at the top and then refers to I-95 North/I-495 East towards Baltimore, with a left-exit arrow.

I find the sign peculiar because there are no restricted lanes there and the single lane doesn't connect to anything that is ever subject to an HOV restriction—all it does is branch left and then reconnect to the general-purpose Beltway on the left side of the northbound I-95 flyover. A more correct design MIGHT have mimicked the "I-495 NORTH/Tysons Corner" sign on the Inner Loop after you take the HOV exit—a single lane splits back off to take you back to the Beltway. HOWEVER, I also understand why that would be problematic on the Outer Loop—there, the left lane to which the sign refers is adjacent to the three thru lanes and having a sign implying that you had to exit left to go towards Baltimore, when in fact all you have to do is stay straight ahead, would have been a recipe for trouble. (Indeed it makes me think of the bad old days when VDOT persisted in referring to the thru lanes of I-495 there as an "Exit" and a lot of people quite rightly objected.)

If I can get a picture this afternoon I will.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 03, 2012, 04:07:49 PM
....

Does anyone know if one can exit the outer loop express at Braddock and go straight at the light to head back onto the mainline beltway?  I am not inclined to use the beltway express to the south end because I would have to get over 3 lanes in a very short distance to make the ramp to mainline 95 south which is suicidal at 5:15 in the afternoon...

....

I finally have an answer to this question. Took the Braddock exit from the Express Lanes today to see what was allowed. The ramp ends at a traffic light on Braddock and there are two lanes marked left-only and right-only. So legally you have to turn. As a practical matter, there is no opposing movement that would prevent you from going straight if you wanted, although there is the usual collection of debris and rocks and gunk in the middle of the intersection and you'd run over that if you tried to go straight.

Incidentally, I was rather annoyed when I tried to turn left from Lee Highway (US-29) onto the ramp to the southbound Express Lanes because the traffic lights at that intersection were all on flash (flashing yellow for thru traffic on 29, flashing red for traffic exiting the Beltway, flashing red arrow for me turning left from westbound 29 to the ramp). Of course traffic going the other way was heavy and it took forever to make the turn. Anyone know if this is a normal thing during off-peak hours? I suppose if the Express Lanes traffic is as light as the media keep saying, it makes sense to favor US-29 traffic, but it seems like they could then just put the light on a trip during off-peak times (recognizing that at peak times keeping the lights on 29 synchronized is more important).


BTW, forgot to mention: We were coming back from the 9:30 Club late last night (after midnight) and used the southbound general lanes of I-395 because the HOV was running inbound. As we went around Exit 1C to the Outer Loop I noticed that one last sign has been uncovered on the Beltway. It's located just after the left exit from the Outer Loop to the inbound HOV and it's for the single-lane connection cpzilliacus and I were discussing earlier, the one where my wife starts yelling at me in the final video I posted from the lanes' first day of operation. What's odd about the sign is its design: It has the white "RESTRICTED LANES" banner at the top and then refers to I-95 North/I-495 East towards Baltimore, with a left-exit arrow.

....

If I can get a picture this afternoon I will.

Here's a picture of the sign referenced above. As I said before, it's a rather odd sign for several reasons I mentioned already, but an additional one is that there is no previous sign corresponding to this one:

(http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Road%20sign%20pictures/MiscellanousDecember2012017.jpg)


....

On the return trip I wanted to go to Springfield so I took the HOV ramp to southbound I-95. Interesting drive in this direction (I had previously used it from northbound I-95 to the Inner Loop). The exit from the Outer Loop feels like it's plunging down into a cave or a canyon as it leaves the Beltway to the left. The ramp has a bit of a roller-coaster feel to it, IMO, and this just accentuates it. ....

Here's the first portion of that ramp (click to play):

(http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Road%20sign%20pictures/th_MiscellanousDecember2012024_zps309c7e2e.jpg) (http://s31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Road%20sign%20pictures/?action=view&current=MiscellanousDecember2012024_zps309c7e2e.mp4)

Incidentally, the ramp that descends to my left is the I-395 southbound HOV ramp to the Inner Loop. It must not get much traffic yet because when I drove on it earlier today there were around a hundred birds all sitting in the roadway that took to the air in a panic as I drove through. Weird experience!

Speaking of which....I noticed that the advance signs over the southbound HOV prior to the Turkeycock ramps have been revised. See picture below from AARoads.com. The "I-95 NORTH 495" line has been greened-out on those signs, which makes sense because now there's no need to exit there to get to the Beltway. In a few years, of course, the incentive for exiting might return when HO/T begins on Shirley Highway south of Turkeycock.

(https://www.aaroads.com/mid-atlantic/virginia395/i-395_sb_exit_003b_04.jpg)
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: NE2 on December 03, 2012, 06:09:07 PM
I finally have an answer to this question. Took the Braddock exit from the Express Lanes today to see what was allowed. The ramp ends at a traffic light on Braddock and there are two lanes marked left-only and right-only. So legally you have to turn.
Is this actually true, in the absence of a 'no straight' sign? I've seen many surface intersections where new construction changed a T into a cross, but the arrows were not updated.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: Alps on December 03, 2012, 06:18:02 PM
I finally have an answer to this question. Took the Braddock exit from the Express Lanes today to see what was allowed. The ramp ends at a traffic light on Braddock and there are two lanes marked left-only and right-only. So legally you have to turn.
Is this actually true, in the absence of a 'no straight' sign? I've seen many surface intersections where new construction changed a T into a cross, but the arrows were not updated.
Pavement markings are considered regulatory. If it's MUTCD compliant, I'd abide by it.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 04, 2012, 01:36:25 PM
I finally have an answer to this question. Took the Braddock exit from the Express Lanes today to see what was allowed. The ramp ends at a traffic light on Braddock and there are two lanes marked left-only and right-only. So legally you have to turn.
Is this actually true, in the absence of a 'no straight' sign? I've seen many surface intersections where new construction changed a T into a cross, but the arrows were not updated.
Pavement markings are considered regulatory. If it's MUTCD compliant, I'd abide by it.

Wasn't just pavement markings, either: The traffic lights had the "[left arrow]-only" and "[right arrow]-only" signs next to them, so I'd consider those pretty conclusive. I didn't post a picture of the signs because it didn't come out due to the afternoon lighting.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: Mapmikey on December 04, 2012, 04:08:02 PM
Thanks for posting what the top of that ramp looks like. 

Incidentally, the US 29 stoplights were not flashing when I drove by at 5:40 this morning...

Mapmikey
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: froggie on December 05, 2012, 09:05:38 AM
Tried out the Inner Loop HO/T Lanes mid-day Monday.  Very empty and only $1.65, even though there was a slowdown in the main lanes north of Braddock Rd due to roadwork.  A bit weird having nothing but a double-white line and bollards separating the HO/T lanes and main lanes for the most part...someone asked on Facebook a few weeks ago why they didn't just put in a permanent barrier.  Reason being is that modern standards would require full shoulders on both sides of the barrier, requiring a lot more space...about 20ft (give or take a few) on each side of the Beltway.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 05, 2012, 09:22:04 AM
Tried out the Inner Loop HO/T Lanes mid-day Monday.  Very empty and only $1.65, even though there was a slowdown in the main lanes north of Braddock Rd due to roadwork.  A bit weird having nothing but a double-white line and bollards separating the HO/T lanes and main lanes for the most part...someone asked on Facebook a few weeks ago why they didn't just put in a permanent barrier.  Reason being is that modern standards would require full shoulders on both sides of the barrier, requiring a lot more space...about 20ft (give or take a few) on each side of the Beltway.

I've seen various reports stating that the State Police favored the bollards for the additional reason that in the event of a severe accident that backs up the Beltway, emergency vehicles could use the Express Lanes and then have the bollards removed to let them get to the scene.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on December 05, 2012, 11:51:46 PM
Installing new markings on the backtop of the Inner Loop approaching the entrance to the HOV/Toll lanes.

(http://www.toward.com/cpz/dsc01503.jpg)
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 06, 2012, 09:16:00 AM
^^^^ Interesting to see them using the words. I kind of thought they were going to use the E-ZPass logo like they did on the approaches to the main toll plaza on the Dulles Toll Road. Either way, though, I've noticed way fewer instances of last-minute lane changes in the past week or so.

Dr. Gridlock does an online discussion most Mondays and while I didn't participate this week, I saw the transcript later and I noticed that some people were complaining that the signs for the Express Lanes say "E-ZPass" but do not use the word "Toll" anywhere. The MUTCD renderings for "Priced Managed Lane" signs don't envision the word "Toll" because they want the logo for the ETC system used instead, but of course the person asking the question has probably never heard of the MUTCD. What I find amusing is the idea that (a) those numbers preceded by dollar signs are apparently insufficient to tell this person that there's a toll and (b) anyone living anywhere from Virginia (except maybe the far southwestern extremes) to Massachusetts would not know what "E-ZPass" is. (Yeah, I know New Hampshire and Maine have E-ZPass facilities, but in each case it's one facility in a small part of the state, so people living at the other end of the state might not care enough to learn about it.)
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on December 06, 2012, 11:08:26 AM
^^^^ Interesting to see them using the words. I kind of thought they were going to use the E-ZPass logo like they did on the approaches to the main toll plaza on the Dulles Toll Road. Either way, though, I've noticed way fewer instances of last-minute lane changes in the past week or so.

I took that image while driving with my "real" camera (not the smartphone), after having passed the work party once (and not had my camera at the ready).  Since I had the time, I exited at Va. 620 (Braddock Road), went back to Va. 613 (S. Van Dorn Street), turned around and was able to snap that image. 

But when I tried to change lanes to get out of the approach to the HOV/Toll lanes to exit at Va. 620, there was an idiot in the left "free" lane that tried to prevent me from changing lanes - after I signaled a lane change, he sped-up to get in my blind spot and then honked his horn (maybe it was the ghost of Dr. Nestor (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Nestor) - looked like an old white-haired man behind the wheel).  So I can understand that some people may have a hard time getting out of those lanes, if that is not where they want to be.

Dr. Gridlock does an online discussion most Mondays and while I didn't participate this week, I saw the transcript later and I noticed that some people were complaining that the signs for the Express Lanes say "E-ZPass" but do not use the word "Toll" anywhere. The MUTCD renderings for "Priced Managed Lane" signs don't envision the word "Toll" because they want the logo for the ETC system used instead, but of course the person asking the question has probably never heard of the MUTCD. What I find amusing is the idea that (a) those numbers preceded by dollar signs are apparently insufficient to tell this person that there's a toll and (b) anyone living anywhere from Virginia (except maybe the far southwestern extremes) to Massachusetts would not know what "E-ZPass" is. (Yeah, I know New Hampshire and Maine have E-ZPass facilities, but in each case it's one facility in a small part of the state, so people living at the other end of the state might not care enough to learn about it.)

I can understand that there are drivers from place where E-ZPass is not widely known (areas of Virginia along the I-81 corridor, and parts of Southside (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southside_%28Virginia%29) that are not too close to Richmond, for example), but anyone that has driven on the Dulles Toll Road/Greenway or across the Chesapeake Bay or to or through Baltimore, Philadelphia, most of New Jersey and large areas of metropolitan New York really ought to understand what E-ZPass means. 

Though all of the entrances to Md. 200 have a TOLL banner above the 200 shield, in addition to the E-ZPass logo.

Still, as you say above, the prices should convey a message.

Regarding Maine and New Hampshire, I believe the only toll facility in Maine is the Turnpike - and all of the toll roads in New Hampshire are in the southern part of the state (except for the private toll road that leads to the crest of Mount Washington).

But most of the population is in or near the areas served by the toll roads. 

I have driven I-95 all the way to the Canadian border at Houlton, and north of Bangor, it gets very desolate.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 06, 2012, 11:32:16 AM
....

Though all of the entrances to Md. 200 have a TOLL banner above the 200 shield, in addition to the E-ZPass logo.

....

The Intercounty Connector is arguably different from Virginia's HO/T or "Express Lanes," though, because it's entirely a toll road and so it's subject to different MUTCD provisions.

As I typed this post I opened up another browser tab to look at Part 2G of the MUTCD where it talks about "Priced Managed Lanes." Indeed my recollection was correct—the sample signs shown there do NOT use the word "Toll" anywhere except in the mock logo for the ETC system (they show a fictitious logo very similar to E-ZPass but called "TollPass"). If the people building the lanes are attempting strict adherence to the MUTCD guidelines, then the word "Toll" wouldn't appear. Virginia's signs aren't quite the same as what the Manual shows because of the use of the VMS system to show three destinations and toll rates, rather than having the destinations appear in a "standard" BGS format with small VMS panels next to them showing the toll. But I suspect to the extent some kind of variance was permitted it had to be as limited a variance as possible.

Florida's signs for "SunPass Only" lanes usually have a "Prepaid Tolls Only" banner. I've always found it to be slightly odd but nonetheless effective.

To some extent I think signs with an ETC logo should convey a message to drivers that if you don't know what "E-ZPass" or "SunPass" means, don't go into that lane. It's sort of like back in the 1980s when the first HAZMAT signs appeared on the Beltway and said "HAZMAT CARRIERS RIGHT 2 LANES ONLY." I was in my teens and I remember asking my father what that meant and he said it referred to hazardous materials; I replied, "Then they should say that so people know what it means." His reply made a lot of sense: "The people at whom that sign is aimed know what it means and it doesn't really matter for everyone else." Other people must have wondered too, though, because the signs were amended to say "HAZMAT TRUCKS."

Of course, "E-ZPass Only" is a little different because it DOES matter for everyone.



(Edited to fix a misspelling)
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: deathtopumpkins on December 06, 2012, 11:49:55 AM
(Yeah, I know New Hampshire and Maine have E-ZPass facilities, but in each case it's one facility in a small part of the state, so people living at the other end of the state might not care enough to learn about it.)

Just pointing out, neither of those are true. New Hampshire has the Spaulding (NH 16), Blue Star (I-95), and Everett (US 3) Turnpikes, which total 617 lane miles and pass through all the state's major cities, including Nashua, Manchester, Concord, and Portsmouth. Maine has the Maine Turnpike, which is 101 miles long and stretches from York almost to Augusta, which is exactly a third of the way across the state, but connects to all the significant cities except Bangor. I've noticed in both of those states the toll roads are pretty well-known and large percentages of the population have a transponder.



Re: the HOT lanes, no one from Virginia or Maryland should have any issue understanding that "E-Z Pass Express" means tolled. Especially with all the years of public outreach, the fact that the area has numerous other toll roads, and the fact that the signs display prices! What do they think those are, the approximate amount of gas you'd consume to get there? Although given the stupid comments I've read from people over the course of the HOT lane construction it really shouldn't surprise me...
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 06, 2012, 12:04:04 PM
(Yeah, I know New Hampshire and Maine have E-ZPass facilities, but in each case it's one facility in a small part of the state, so people living at the other end of the state might not care enough to learn about it.)

Just pointing out, neither of those are true. New Hampshire has the Spaulding (NH 16), Blue Star (I-95), and Everett (US 3) Turnpikes, which total 617 lane miles and pass through all the state's major cities, including Nashua, Manchester, Concord, and Portsmouth. Maine has the Maine Turnpike, which is 101 miles long and stretches from York almost to Augusta, which is exactly a third of the way across the state, but connects to all the significant cities except Bangor. I've noticed in both of those states the toll roads are pretty well-known and large percentages of the population have a transponder.

....

Sure, but I'm talking relative to the size of the whole state. New Hampshire's toll roads are all down in the southeastern part of the state and Maine's is down in the south (although certainly I recognize that most of northern Maine is just a ton of empty forest). You're correct that New Hampshire has three rather than one and that was just sloppy writing on my part, but I don't think it changes my overall point that the toll roads in those two states represent a small portion of the overall highway system. If you live up in Dixville Notch or Fort Kent or Presque Isle, the electronic toll collection issue is largely irrelevant. That's all I was saying—there may be people in the far portions of those states that are unfamiliar with E-ZPass because they have no reason to be familiar with it.

I do think you make a good point about the stupid comments people make. I think I've seldom seen as much misinformation spewed by blog commenters and the like as I have in conjunction with the HO/T project. Then when you offer provable facts to correct them it does no good whatsoever. They simply don't want to hear it. At some point you just have to ignore the stupeys.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: deathtopumpkins on December 06, 2012, 12:07:56 PM
(Yeah, I know New Hampshire and Maine have E-ZPass facilities, but in each case it's one facility in a small part of the state, so people living at the other end of the state might not care enough to learn about it.)

Just pointing out, neither of those are true. New Hampshire has the Spaulding (NH 16), Blue Star (I-95), and Everett (US 3) Turnpikes, which total 617 lane miles and pass through all the state's major cities, including Nashua, Manchester, Concord, and Portsmouth. Maine has the Maine Turnpike, which is 101 miles long and stretches from York almost to Augusta, which is exactly a third of the way across the state, but connects to all the significant cities except Bangor. I've noticed in both of those states the toll roads are pretty well-known and large percentages of the population have a transponder.

....

Sure, but I'm talking relative to the size of the whole state. New Hampshire's toll roads are all down in the southeastern part of the state and Maine's is down in the south (although certainly I recognize that most of northern Maine is just a ton of empty forest). You're correct that New Hampshire has three rather than one and that was just sloppy writing on my part, but I don't think it changes my overall point that the toll roads in those two states represent a small portion of the overall highway system. If you live up in Dixville Notch or Fort Kent or Presque Isle, the electronic toll collection issue is largely irrelevant. That's all I was saying—there may be people in the far portions of those states that are unfamiliar with E-ZPass because they have no reason to be familiar with it.

Oh no it doesn't change your point at all, I just felt like pointing out that the majority of the population of both of those states lives near their toll roads, and the states are so small anyway that no one's more than an hour or two's drive from a toll road, so, as applies to the whole of New England, everything's smaller and people get around a lot more.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: froggie on December 11, 2012, 07:26:22 AM
A DC friend of mine tweeted this last night.  My photos are at home, but I believe he's right...

Saw someone backing up from getting on the 495 Express Lanes this weekend. One thing I noted: It never says TOLL on any of the signs.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 11, 2012, 07:54:31 AM
A DC friend of mine tweeted this last night.  My photos are at home, but I believe he's right...

Saw someone backing up from getting on the 495 Express Lanes this weekend. One thing I noted: It never says TOLL on any of the signs.


That is what we were just discussing in the last several posts. Your friend is correct, none of them say TOLL. As I noted before, if you look at the MUTCD, their sign renderings for "priced managed lanes" do not use that word anywhere either—their theory is apparently that the ETC system's logo (or "pictograph" as they call it) is sufficient to serve this purpose. I tend to think the sign showing dollar amounts should notify drivers that it's tolled, but maybe the idea of hitting people over the head with obvious information really IS that ingrained in the American way.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on December 11, 2012, 11:16:10 AM
A DC friend of mine tweeted this last night.  My photos are at home, but I believe he's right...

Saw someone backing up from getting on the 495 Express Lanes this weekend. One thing I noted: It never says TOLL on any of the signs.


That is what we were just discussing in the last several posts. Your friend is correct, none of them say TOLL. As I noted before, if you look at the MUTCD, their sign renderings for "priced managed lanes" do not use that word anywhere either—their theory is apparently that the ETC system's logo (or "pictograph" as they call it) is sufficient to serve this purpose. I tend to think the sign showing dollar amounts should notify drivers that it's tolled, but maybe the idea of hitting people over the head with obvious information really IS that ingrained in the American way.

At some entrances to toll roads or toll crossings, the word TOLL is not always explicitly there (just a logo or "pictograph" for the toll road), and  it probably should be (not because the MUTCD says so, but because that is what drivers seem to expect).  Virginia up  to now, has usually had a TOLL banner informing drivers that they are entering a tolled road or tolled crossing (I recall that was how the Richmond-Petersburg Turnpike was signed before it was detolled).
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on December 11, 2012, 11:19:20 AM
Drove the I-495 HOV/Toll lanes for the first time today with the E-ZPass Flex transponder in HOV mode.

A red signal light comes on on the gantries as the vehicle passes under them if the transponder is in HOV mode.  It's not really possible to see this light when there is ambient natural light, but in the dark, it can be seen in the rear-view mirrors.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 11, 2012, 11:19:51 AM
A DC friend of mine tweeted this last night.  My photos are at home, but I believe he's right...

Saw someone backing up from getting on the 495 Express Lanes this weekend. One thing I noted: It never says TOLL on any of the signs.


That is what we were just discussing in the last several posts. Your friend is correct, none of them say TOLL. As I noted before, if you look at the MUTCD, their sign renderings for "priced managed lanes" do not use that word anywhere either—their theory is apparently that the ETC system's logo (or "pictograph" as they call it) is sufficient to serve this purpose. I tend to think the sign showing dollar amounts should notify drivers that it's tolled, but maybe the idea of hitting people over the head with obvious information really IS that ingrained in the American way.

At some entrances to toll roads or toll crossings, the word TOLL is not always explicitly there (just a logo or "pictograph" for the toll road), and  it probably should be (not because the MUTCD says so, but because that is what drivers seem to expect).  Virginia up  to now, has usually had a TOLL banner informing drivers that they are entering a tolled road or tolled crossing (I recall that was how the Richmond-Petersburg Turnpike was signed before it was detolled).

I suspect—but cannot confirm for certain—that the key distinction here is that the toll applies to just those particular lanes, not the entire road. I agree with you that this is probably an example where the MUTCD ought to be ignored.



Drove the I-495 HOV/Toll lanes for the first time today with the E-ZPass Flex transponder in HOV mode.

A red signal light comes on on the gantries as the vehicle passes under them if the transponder is in HOV mode.  It's not really possible to see this light when there is ambient natural light, but in the dark, it can be seen in the rear-view mirrors.

Now that is interesting. We're not getting a Flex, so I'll never experience this myself. Interesting that none of the media have ever mentioned this, seeing as how one of the top questions about the lanes is "how do they know you're an HOV?"
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on December 11, 2012, 11:34:21 AM
Drove the I-495 HOV/Toll lanes for the first time today with the E-ZPass Flex transponder in HOV mode.

A red signal light comes on on the gantries as the vehicle passes under them if the transponder is in HOV mode.  It's not really possible to see this light when there is ambient natural light, but in the dark, it can be seen in the rear-view mirrors.

Now that is interesting. We're not getting a Flex, so I'll never experience this myself. Interesting that none of the media have ever mentioned this, seeing as how one of the top questions about the lanes is "how do they know you're an HOV?"

We saw several VSP trooper cars sitting next to the gantries in the small "pull-off" areas presumably watching for HOVs (and HOV violators), but  not on  the side  we were running.

Since I was driving my truck, which has pretty heavy factory tint on the  rear windows, I was curious if they would stop me to check the back seat (we did have the required three persons).
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 11, 2012, 11:54:38 AM
Drove the I-495 HOV/Toll lanes for the first time today with the E-ZPass Flex transponder in HOV mode.

A red signal light comes on on the gantries as the vehicle passes under them if the transponder is in HOV mode.  It's not really possible to see this light when there is ambient natural light, but in the dark, it can be seen in the rear-view mirrors.

Now that is interesting. We're not getting a Flex, so I'll never experience this myself. Interesting that none of the media have ever mentioned this, seeing as how one of the top questions about the lanes is "how do they know you're an HOV?"

We saw several VSP trooper cars sitting next to the gantries in the small "pull-off" areas presumably watching for HOVs (and HOV violators), but  not on  the side  we were running.

Since I was driving my truck, which has pretty heavy factory tint on the  rear windows, I was curious if they would stop me to check the back seat (we did have the required three persons).

The two places where I've seen cops were at the Inner Loop gantry just north of US-29 and south of I-66 and at both gantries between the W&OD and Idylwood overpasses. I assume it was HOV enforcement as well, but every time I've seen them I've slowed from about 65 mph to about 60 mph just in case.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: Mapmikey on December 11, 2012, 12:52:06 PM
A DC friend of mine tweeted this last night.  My photos are at home, but I believe he's right...

Saw someone backing up from getting on the 495 Express Lanes this weekend. One thing I noted: It never says TOLL on any of the signs.



Can't speak for all the interchanges but before each entrance at the ends of the Express Lanes you have to pass the white signs that DO say "toll" and "no toll" for the two kinds of EZ-pass.

All the rest of the signs have the EZ-pass logo.  So my logic is that if you have an EZ-pass you know what it would be for (tolls!) or you don't have one and don't know what they are for - so why would you get in the lanes marked EZ-pass if you don't have one/know what it is?

I also don't see how all those signs with $amounts on them don't register with people that this means a toll is coming...

Incidentally the red lights at the gantries are visible from the main lanes when they flash.

Mapmikey

Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: Stephane Dumas on December 11, 2012, 01:28:07 PM
Here another video of the HOT lanes, this time going southbound from VA-267 to the Springfield interchange.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 11, 2012, 02:27:16 PM
He actually entered one exit north of 267 at VA-193. The thing I noticed was the tractor-trailer that was in the lanes illegally. Wonder if the truck driver got pulled over. I've seen at least one truck stopped by the police.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 13, 2012, 10:03:16 AM
Channel 4's Adam Tuss reports about a woman who used the 495 Express Lanes 16 times without an E-ZPass and received a bill for $225.00 (http://www.nbcwashington.com/traffic/transit/Driver-Slapped-With-225-Bill-After-Using-495-Express-Lanes-183239002.html). (Report includes video.)

Sounds like she got away with it, though, as the report says they "worked away with her to wipe away the high service fees." The $12.50 charge when they send you a bill is per trip, it seems, not per invoice.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 13, 2012, 05:51:29 PM
I had my first rush-hour experience with the new lanes at 4:30 this afternoon. Went from Falls Church (near Shrevewood Elementary) to Kingstowne, a trip that usually took 45 minutes to an hour before. Took me 20 minutes door-to-door tonight for a toll of $1.05 and I was doing 70 mph while the traffic in the general lanes was stopped. I was really quite surprised to see the toll so low, and there were in fact quite a few more vehicles in the Express Lanes than I've seen in the past (but still by no means crowded—had I wanted to go a whole lot faster, I could have quite easily). Maybe people are finally figuring it out.

Frankly I've been really surprised that the toll rates have been as low as they've been.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: hbelkins on December 13, 2012, 09:33:13 PM
I had my first rush-hour experience with the new lanes at 4:30 this afternoon. Went from Falls Church (near Shrevewood Elementary) to Kingstowne, a trip that usually took 45 minutes to an hour before. Took me 20 minutes door-to-door tonight for a toll of $1.05 and I was doing 70 mph while the traffic in the general lanes was stopped.

A worthwhile investment of a buck and change, if you ask me. I'd gladly pay double or even triple that to avoid gridlock and save that much time.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: Stephane Dumas on December 16, 2012, 04:58:22 PM
Google maps had updated the satellite imagery of Capital Beltway and they show the HOT lanes
http://goo.gl/maps/P1WxI
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: jeffandnicole on December 18, 2012, 08:31:15 AM
Channel 4's Adam Tuss reports about a woman who used the 495 Express Lanes 16 times without an E-ZPass and received a bill for $225.00 (http://www.nbcwashington.com/traffic/transit/Driver-Slapped-With-225-Bill-After-Using-495-Express-Lanes-183239002.html). (Report includes video.)

Sounds like she got away with it, though, as the report says they "worked away with her to wipe away the high service fees." The $12.50 charge when they send you a bill is per trip, it seems, not per invoice.
Some roads, like the Florida Turnpike near Miami, are Video Tolling roads.  For every 30 day period or thereabouts, they'll mail you a bill with all your toll charges, and one service fee (if you don't have a transponder).

Other roads, such as most EZ Pass roads including the 495 HOT lanes, are "EZ Pass Only" roads.  Every infraction results in a fine.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 18, 2012, 11:17:50 AM
I finally have an answer to this question. Took the Braddock exit from the Express Lanes today to see what was allowed. The ramp ends at a traffic light on Braddock and there are two lanes marked left-only and right-only. So legally you have to turn.
Is this actually true, in the absence of a 'no straight' sign? I've seen many surface intersections where new construction changed a T into a cross, but the arrows were not updated.
Pavement markings are considered regulatory. If it's MUTCD compliant, I'd abide by it.

Wasn't just pavement markings, either: The traffic lights had the "[left arrow]-only" and "[right arrow]-only" signs next to them, so I'd consider those pretty conclusive. I didn't post a picture of the signs because it didn't come out due to the afternoon lighting.

Peculiar update regarding my exploratory trip on the Braddock ramp mentioned above. I made that trip on December 3 and went from US-29 (Lee Highway) to Braddock in the Express Lanes, exited to observe the traffic light configuration, made a left turn onto Braddock to comply with the left-turn/right-turn only signs, then went to Ravensworth Road and looped around to the right to make a U-turn. Got back on the Beltway and then took the new HOV ramp to I-95.

Odd thing is, my E-ZPass has never been billed for it! The other three trips that day all show up, but not this one. I wonder if it's because the system sees that I didn't go through the gantry at Braddock Road but did go through the HOV ramp gantry and so it doesn't know what happened or how to bill it.

Thought I'd pass this along as an oddity that, in theory, might allow you to cheap out on some of the toll rate, although frankly I think the savings would be so minimal as not to be worth the trouble. (As I type this post you'd save 20¢.)
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: Alps on December 18, 2012, 06:56:23 PM
Some roads, like the Florida Turnpike near Miami, are Video Tolling roads.  For every 30 day period or thereabouts, they'll mail you a bill with all your toll charges, and one service fee (if you don't have a transponder).
I never got mailed a bill. I wonder if they only bill once the debt is over a certain amount.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: jeffandnicole on December 19, 2012, 10:12:38 AM
Some roads, like the Florida Turnpike near Miami, are Video Tolling roads.  For every 30 day period or thereabouts, they'll mail you a bill with all your toll charges, and one service fee (if you don't have a transponder).
I never got mailed a bill. I wonder if they only bill once the debt is over a certain amount.

My debt was $3.00 (3, $1 tolls) plus a $2.50 service charge.  I received my bill at least 45 days after my trip.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: hbelkins on December 19, 2012, 10:17:57 AM
Some roads, like the Florida Turnpike near Miami, are Video Tolling roads.  For every 30 day period or thereabouts, they'll mail you a bill with all your toll charges, and one service fee (if you don't have a transponder).
I never got mailed a bill. I wonder if they only bill once the debt is over a certain amount.

Or maybe they don't bill travelers from distant states?
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mtantillo on December 19, 2012, 11:20:02 AM
Some roads, like the Florida Turnpike near Miami, are Video Tolling roads.  For every 30 day period or thereabouts, they'll mail you a bill with all your toll charges, and one service fee (if you don't have a transponder).
I never got mailed a bill. I wonder if they only bill once the debt is over a certain amount.

That is true for many toll authorities.  A toll violation that comes with a $25 fee allows them to go after anyone and everyone.  But for all electronic tolling with only a minimal toll processing fee charged, the toll authorities don't have the resources to try to collect a $2 toll from someone who may never visit the state again.  But once they realize that a certain out of state car is frequently using their toll roads for "free", they will minimize their losses by looking up the licence plate with the out of state DMV and charging for those tolls. 

I believe NTTA in Texas does not have agreements in place with any other state DOT, and will only look to collect tolls from out of state drivers once the tab is over $100.  Can't remember where I read that though, but it was when I was doing research on the topic back in early 2011. 
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: jeffandnicole on December 19, 2012, 12:44:07 PM
Some roads, like the Florida Turnpike near Miami, are Video Tolling roads.  For every 30 day period or thereabouts, they'll mail you a bill with all your toll charges, and one service fee (if you don't have a transponder).
I never got mailed a bill. I wonder if they only bill once the debt is over a certain amount.

Or maybe they don't bill travelers from distant states?
I believe we are both from NJ, and I got a bill.

Maybe it's because they didn't like me.

OR...maybe, it's because they knew I would pay it...and he would cheap out and ignore it.  Yeah...yeah...that's the reason why...because I'm an honest guy!!! :bigass:
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: Alps on December 19, 2012, 06:46:30 PM
Some roads, like the Florida Turnpike near Miami, are Video Tolling roads.  For every 30 day period or thereabouts, they'll mail you a bill with all your toll charges, and one service fee (if you don't have a transponder).
I never got mailed a bill. I wonder if they only bill once the debt is over a certain amount.

Or maybe they don't bill travelers from distant states?
I believe we are both from NJ, and I got a bill.

Maybe it's because they didn't like me.

OR...maybe, it's because they knew I would pay it...and he would cheap out and ignore it.  Yeah...yeah...that's the reason why...because I'm an honest guy!!! :bigass:
Hey, stop making fun of my Judaism :D
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on December 25, 2012, 10:27:48 AM
D.C. Examiner: Fairfax residents seething over I-95 express lanes ramp (http://washingtonexaminer.com/fairfax-residents-seething-over-i-95-express-lanes-ramp/article/2516681)

Quote
Fairfax County residents are seething over Virginia's proposal to build a ramp in their neighborhood as part of the Interstate 95 express lanes.

Quote
"We're scared; we're scandalized; we're indignant that [the Virginia Department of Transportation] would continue marching forward to stay on their building schedule when in fact there are massive implications for public health here," said Mary Hasty, spokeswoman for the Concerned Residents of Landmark, a group opposing the ramp at the endpoint of the I-95 express lanes near Edsall Road.

Quote
The special lanes,which officials say will give a congestion-free ride to toll payers or carpoolers, were earlier planned to end in Arlington, but that county filed suit to block the lanes in 2009, worried they would cause pollution. The suit forced the lanes to stop short of the traffic-clogged area around the Pentagon and end near Edsall Road instead, angering residents there.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on January 07, 2013, 08:09:08 AM
Dr. Gridlock of the Washington Post on the I-495 HOV/Toll lanes: Drivers offer tips for users, and operators, of Beltway Express Lanes (http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/drivers-offer-tips-for-users-and-operators-of-beltway-express-lanes/2013/01/04/f3dd49c8-55f6-11e2-a613-ec8d394535c6_story.html)

Quote
You asked for input from drivers as to how they decide to use the new high-occupancy toll lanes on the Capital Beltway. I have been using them morning and evening and find that they cut at least a half-hour off my 28-mile commute.

Quote
That’s an hour a day that I can use productively! As noted by Gabriel Goldberg, there isn’t any way to tell in advance whether the toll lanes will make a difference for a given trip. One Friday last month, they were no better than the free lanes. But, on average, the HOT lanes avoid the normal rush-hour backups and are worth it, given the current relatively modest tolls.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on January 07, 2013, 08:40:28 AM
I know the fellow who wrote the lead letter in that column. Very sensible guy and his thoughts there are no exception.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on January 07, 2013, 10:44:17 AM
I know the fellow who wrote the lead letter in that column. Very sensible guy and his thoughts there are no exception.

In the small world department, I am pretty sure I know Gabe Goldberg (have not seen him for many years) from my mainframe computer days.  He works for one of the "old time" high-tech employers at Tysons Corner (or at least he used to).
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on January 08, 2013, 09:59:25 AM
According to the radio, there was a wreck in the Inner Loop general-purpose lanes near 236 this morning. I have no idea how many people opted for the Express Lanes to bypass it, but I see the toll to drive the full distance from Springfield was $3.55 as of 8:00 (to Westpark was $3.10 and to I-66 was $2.40). Looks like they're starting to use the variable-tolling system and I'm interested in seeing how well it works. I was kind of hoping Dr. Gridlock or Adam Tuss might mention it, but so far they haven't.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on January 08, 2013, 12:38:09 PM
According to the radio, there was a wreck in the Inner Loop general-purpose lanes near 236 this morning. I have no idea how many people opted for the Express Lanes to bypass it, but I see the toll to drive the full distance from Springfield was $3.55 as of 8:00 (to Westpark was $3.10 and to I-66 was $2.40). Looks like they're starting to use the variable-tolling system and I'm interested in seeing how well it works. I was kind of hoping Dr. Gridlock or Adam Tuss might mention it, but so far they haven't.

That toll "sounds right" to me. 
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on January 08, 2013, 09:23:56 PM
Washington Post: Fairfax residents balk at I-95 express lanes ramp (http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/fairfax-residents-balk-at-i-95-express-lanes-ramp/2013/01/07/979c0d2c-4a1e-11e2-820e-17eefac2f939_story.html)

Quote
Construction is underway on the Interstate 95 express lanes, with the new high-occupancy toll road expected to open late next year. But residents living at the northernmost point of the planned lanes are unhappy with the congestion and pollution they say the project will bring.

Quote
The express lanes will begin on I-95 in Stafford County and end between Edsall Road and Duke Street on Interstate 395 in Fairfax County, so a ramp must be built to carry vehicles from the new lanes to the regular roadway. That new ramp will be in a neighborhood just west of the Alexandria city line, much to the dismay of residents.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: NJRoadfan on January 08, 2013, 09:38:54 PM
Someone from the DOT should direct those residents to the Arlington County government and tell them "Hey, its THEIR fault! Blame them for blocking the lanes north of there."
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on January 08, 2013, 09:49:47 PM
Someone from the DOT should direct those residents to the Arlington County government and tell them "Hey, its THEIR fault! Blame them for blocking the lanes north of there."

It's been suggested a few times in the comments for this article.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: froggie on January 10, 2013, 11:05:56 AM
Disagree.  The proposed ramp has long been the "missing movement" at Turkeycock.  It's crazy that you can enter the southbound HOV lanes there but can't exit northbound.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on January 10, 2013, 11:25:17 AM
Disagree.  The proposed ramp has long been the "missing movement" at Turkeycock.  It's crazy that you can enter the southbound HOV lanes there but can't exit northbound.

Back when they first built the HOV facility it wasn't really that big of a deal because the reversible carriageway ended just to the south of Springfield. The primary bottleneck in that area was always the southbound general-purpose carriageway due to all the weaving between the Beltway and the Route 644 interchange. The problem was never anywhere nearly as bad in the northbound direction. But once they extended the HOV facility south to Dumfries it became a more serious omission, especially prior to the Springfield Interchange reconstruction.

I agree with you that the ramp should have been constructed regardless of whether the HO/T system had been run all the way up to the Pentagon. I do foresee a couple of problems with it, though, the main one being that it will fly over the northbound general-purpose lanes so traffic enters on the right. The reason that's a problem is that it's a confined area with the rather busy Landmark exit coming up immediately afterwards—essentially, it creates a new weave area where HO/T-to-local traffic pushes left just as local-to-Landmark traffic pushes right. Of course it would also be a problem to have the ramp enter on the left, and I'm not pretending to know what the ideal solution would be.

I certainly understand why the people in Landmark Mews (the very large, very nice, and very expensive townhouses overlooking I-395 next to this project) are upset, although it's funny that it's the people in Overlook (located further away from I-395) who are making the noise. But I can't say I'm entirely sympathetic. One rule of thumb I've always kept in mind is that it's a bad idea to buy property too close to an arterial route or a major highway, simply because of the risk of disruption to your property (whether via eminent domain, increased noise, pollution, whatever) if road expansion or reconfiguration is ever needed. It's simply too much of a roll of the dice, and I think it's extremely unreasonable to argue that you didn't expect them to build a new ramp, or otherwise reconfigure the road, when you bought your house. Everyone knows roads get widened and other improvements get made.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on January 10, 2013, 02:46:47 PM
Disagree.  The proposed ramp has long been the "missing movement" at Turkeycock.  It's crazy that you can enter the southbound HOV lanes there but can't exit northbound.

Back when they first built the HOV facility it wasn't really that big of a deal because the reversible carriageway ended just to the south of Springfield. The primary bottleneck in that area was always the southbound general-purpose carriageway due to all the weaving between the Beltway and the Route 644 interchange. The problem was never anywhere nearly as bad in the northbound direction. But once they extended the HOV facility south to Dumfries it became a more serious omission, especially prior to the Springfield Interchange reconstruction.

This is absolutely correct.  And for many years leading up to the completion of the Springfield Interchange,southbound non-HOV traffic was permitted to enter the express lanes at Turkeycock Run, but they had to exit at Va. 644 (Old Keene Mill Road) westbound - even during the HOV-3 restricted period, 3:30 to 6:00 since about 1990.

I agree with you that the ramp should have been constructed regardless of whether the HO/T system had been run all the way up to the Pentagon. I do foresee a couple of problems with it, though, the main one being that it will fly over the northbound general-purpose lanes so traffic enters on the right. The reason that's a problem is that it's a confined area with the rather busy Landmark exit coming up immediately afterwards—essentially, it creates a new weave area where HO/T-to-local traffic pushes left just as local-to-Landmark traffic pushes right. Of course it would also be a problem to have the ramp enter on the left, and I'm not pretending to know what the ideal solution would be.

Though the northbound conventional (non-HOV) lanes are always badly congested in the mornings between Va. 648 (Edsall Road) and Va. 236 (Duke Street) anyway.  I personally am glad that the ramp will bring the exiting traffic in on the right.

I certainly understand why the people in Landmark Mews (the very large, very nice, and very expensive townhouses overlooking I-395 next to this project) are upset, although it's funny that it's the people in Overlook (located further away from I-395) who are making the noise. But I can't say I'm entirely sympathetic. One rule of thumb I've always kept in mind is that it's a bad idea to buy property too close to an arterial route or a major highway, simply because of the risk of disruption to your property (whether via eminent domain, increased noise, pollution, whatever) if road expansion or reconfiguration is ever needed. It's simply too much of a roll of the dice, and I think it's extremely unreasonable to argue that you didn't expect them to build a new ramp, or otherwise reconfigure the road, when you bought your house. Everyone knows roads get widened and other improvements get made.

Hey, people need to think of what is around them before they purchase real estate.  That includes planned improvements, too.

My community in Montgomery County was next to a very crash-prone at-grade intersection (U.S. 29 and Briggs Chaney Road), and it was common knowledge that the state wanted to replace that intersection with a grade-separated interchange.  So we were not especially shocked when the state wanted to condemn some of our common property for that project, though they low-balled us on the offer.  But I suggested to our Board of Directors (and they agreed) that we hire a competent attorney well-versed in planning and zoning matters, and we did.  That attorney was able to show that the Maryland State Highway Administration really owed us over $450,000 instead of the $150,000 that they offered us - and the SHA ended up paying us that larger sum without complaint.

Some years later, SHA wanted some of our land for the Md. 200 project, and we were glad to take their money, but we pointed out to them that the  land they wanted included an earthen dam for a stormwater management pond, and we expected that they would build us a brand-new dam as a replacement (we used the same attorney as before).   This went on for quite a few months, and we spent many thousands of dollars going back and forth with the state's property acquisition agents and the assistant state attorney general working with them and their engineers.  In the end, the state agreed with us that they did not want to purchase the dam and have to build us a new one (it would have cost millions of dollars), so the state reconfigured what they wanted to do - and ended up giving us a check for all of the money we spent negotiating with them.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on January 11, 2013, 10:24:42 AM
Dr. Gridlock reports the 495 Express Lanes averaged 23,308 vpd in their first six weeks of operation (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/dr-gridlock/wp/2013/01/11/beltway-express-lanes-first-report-on-usage/).

It'd be interesting to see the statistics on where trips started and ended. In particular, given that the lanes opened just over a month before Christmas, I'd be interested in knowing whether a disproportionate number of trips used the Westpark exit (suggesting mall traffic—I know I used the lanes to go to the mall at least twice) and whether the January figures show a different trend.

Heard on the radio this morning that there was another truck accident this morning, though I was half-asleep and didn't catch exactly where. I'd be interested in seeing the numbers, when available, to see whether traffic in the Express Lanes spikes once the traffic reporters mention such incidents.



Edited to add: I see Adam Tuss of Channel 4 has a series of tweets with some numbers. I'll combine them all into a single quotation:

Quote
During the first 6 weeks, toll revenue grew 99.1% from a daily average of $12,212 in the first week of operations to an average of $24,317 in the week prior to the Christmas/New Year holidays. To travel the full length of the Express Lanes, the minimum toll price for the period was $1.65 and the maximum peak price was $3.70. The average toll per trip thus far has been $1.07. On average, 92.6% of trips on the Beltway Express Lanes are tolled trips. $828,000 is total revenue from date Beltway Express Lanes opened to 12/31/12. Don't forget operator of lanes collects tolls for next 75 yrs.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: jeffandnicole on January 11, 2013, 10:33:16 AM

Hey, people need to think of what is around them before they purchase real estate.  That includes planned improvements, too.

Yes...unfortunately, that doesn't happen too often.  And in some cases, there's stuff private developers do, and these people will still blame the highway authority.  Take this example from the December 2012 NJ Turnpike Regular Meeting Minutes ( http://www.state.nj.us/turnpike/documents/Minutes-468-507.pdf ) where a member of the public spoke to the board:

"Since the early 1990's, Mrs. Bellocchio has lived at...Ramblewood Parkway, Mt. Laurel, which is located near Interchange 4 on the Turnpike. Mrs. Bellocchio said that she and her neighbors live very close to the roadway because there is not significant right of way between the homeowner's property lines and the roadway. Thus, she has always been able to hear noise from the roadway. She claimed, however, that recently sound levels have escalated. She noted that as part of the recent construction of a solar field, her town authorized the removal of trees which were located between the roadway and her neighborhood and buffered roadway noise. Mrs. Bellocchio stated that the Authority has been very responsive to her requests to address her concerns and those of her neighbors by planting trees. But she would like more trees planted, a berm built, or sound walls constructed in the area. Homeowners in this area want assurance from the Authority that the decibel levels not be above recommended sound levels."

So not only did she move into a neighborhood nearly 40 years after the highway was built, but the Turnpike Authority (IMO) has been overly accommodating to her for a private developer's actions!




In the end, the state agreed with us that they did not want to purchase the dam and have to build us a new one (it would have cost millions of dollars), so the state reconfigured what they wanted to do - and ended up giving us a check for all of the money we spent negotiating with them.

Good for you guys!  :clap:
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on January 11, 2013, 10:47:58 AM

Hey, people need to think of what is around them before they purchase real estate.  That includes planned improvements, too.

Yes...unfortunately, that doesn't happen too often.  And in some cases, there's stuff private developers do, and these people will still blame the highway authority.  Take this example from the December 2012 NJ Turnpike Regular Meeting Minutes ( http://www.state.nj.us/turnpike/documents/Minutes-468-507.pdf ) where a member of the public spoke to the board:

"Since the early 1990's, Mrs. Bellocchio has lived at...Ramblewood Parkway, Mt. Laurel, which is located near Interchange 4 on the Turnpike. Mrs. Bellocchio said that she and her neighbors live very close to the roadway because there is not significant right of way between the homeowner's property lines and the roadway. Thus, she has always been able to hear noise from the roadway. She claimed, however, that recently sound levels have escalated. She noted that as part of the recent construction of a solar field, her town authorized the removal of trees which were located between the roadway and her neighborhood and buffered roadway noise. Mrs. Bellocchio stated that the Authority has been very responsive to her requests to address her concerns and those of her neighbors by planting trees. But she would like more trees planted, a berm built, or sound walls constructed in the area. Homeowners in this area want assurance from the Authority that the decibel levels not be above recommended sound levels."

So not only did she move into a neighborhood nearly 40 years after the highway was built, but the Turnpike Authority (IMO) has been overly accommodating to her for a private developer's actions!

All (or very nearly all) of the present-day New Jersey Turnpike has been there since 1951 (and the segment of the Pike that she backs-up to is relatively little changed since then, and as a bonus, most of it  has forested buffers along both sides but inside the right-of-way fences - I have not been on the Turnpike for about a year, so I have not seen the area that she says the Turnpike Authority has removed the trees).  If someone purchases a home next to the Pike, they need to expect to hear lots of traffic sound.  My sympathy meter for Mrs. Bellocchio is on zero

I find it curious that she's complaining when she lives south of Exit 6 (Pennsylvania Turnpike connection) - there is normally less traffic between Exit 1 and Exit 6 on the mainline of the Pike.

I get the impression that the Turnpike Authority likes to plant trees when possible (and not just on the Garden State Parkway either), and it should be commended for that.  I think it reasonable to assume that the Turnpike will be planting new trees near her property if and when possible.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on January 11, 2013, 11:15:06 AM
Following on my prior comment, the people managing the 495 Express Lanes posted the full press release (https://www.495expresslanes.com/feature/1064). It mostly echoes what's in my previous post.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: jeffandnicole on January 11, 2013, 02:00:13 PM

Hey, people need to think of what is around them before they purchase real estate.  That includes planned improvements, too.

Yes...unfortunately, that doesn't happen too often.  And in some cases, there's stuff private developers do, and these people will still blame the highway authority.  Take this example from the December 2012 NJ Turnpike Regular Meeting Minutes ( http://www.state.nj.us/turnpike/documents/Minutes-468-507.pdf ) where a member of the public spoke to the board:

"Since the early 1990's, Mrs. Bellocchio has lived at...Ramblewood Parkway, Mt. Laurel, which is located near Interchange 4 on the Turnpike. Mrs. Bellocchio said that she and her neighbors live very close to the roadway because there is not significant right of way between the homeowner's property lines and the roadway. Thus, she has always been able to hear noise from the roadway. She claimed, however, that recently sound levels have escalated. She noted that as part of the recent construction of a solar field, her town authorized the removal of trees which were located between the roadway and her neighborhood and buffered roadway noise. Mrs. Bellocchio stated that the Authority has been very responsive to her requests to address her concerns and those of her neighbors by planting trees. But she would like more trees planted, a berm built, or sound walls constructed in the area. Homeowners in this area want assurance from the Authority that the decibel levels not be above recommended sound levels."

So not only did she move into a neighborhood nearly 40 years after the highway was built, but the Turnpike Authority (IMO) has been overly accommodating to her for a private developer's actions!

All (or very nearly all) of the present-day New Jersey Turnpike has been there since 1951 (and the segment of the Pike that she backs-up to is relatively little changed since then, and as a bonus, most of it  has forested buffers along both sides but inside the right-of-way fences - I have not been on the Turnpike for about a year, so I have not seen the area that she says the Turnpike Authority has removed the trees).  If someone purchases a home next to the Pike, they need to expect to hear lots of traffic sound.  My sympathy meter for Mrs. Bellocchio is on zero

I get the impression that the Turnpike Authority likes to plant trees when possible (and not just on the Garden State Parkway either), and it should be commended for that.  I think it reasonable to assume that the Turnpike will be planting new trees near her property if and when possible.

Actually, per the article, the private developer for the solor farm removed the trees, with the township's approval.  At least based on what was written in the minutes, the turnpike had nothing to do with this.

The Turnpike has removed a number of trees along the Turnpike (& GS Parkway) over the past few years; most of which were close to the turnpike roadway and were likely to be hit if a vehicle went about 20' off the roadway.  In some instances the turnpike has planted new trees further back.  I've seem complaints about that, but as you mentioned, in almost all cases the homeowners purchased the house and/or property well after the turnpike was there.  Driving thru some of these areas, we're not talking forests of trees that were removed; I doubt removing a few trees here and there really increased the noise all that much.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on January 14, 2013, 12:35:28 PM
Video from the 495 Express Lanes at about 8:19 this morning:

(http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Road%20sign%20pictures/th_MiscellaneousJanuary2013085_zpse4eda65e.jpg) (http://s31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Road%20sign%20pictures/?action=view&current=MiscellaneousJanuary2013085_zpse4eda65e.mp4)


Saw three cop cars in there on this trip and three more on my way back a few hours later. I've heard a lot of rumblings that there's a lot of speed enforcement in there. I have to say it's kind of annoying at non-rush periods when you have to keep it to 60 mph because of a cop in the Express Lanes while everyone on the other side of the barrier is going 70+. Yeah, the ride is a lot more relaxed in the Express Lanes, but it just kind of feels irksome on principle.

(By the way, my trip this morning is an example of how those lanes might change driving patterns. I was going to the dentist just east of downtown Fairfax. In the past I've always taken the Fairfax County Parkway to Roberts Parkway/Roberts Road and then taken that up to Main Street, VA-236; the dentist is near the light at Roberts and Main. Today instead I took the Beltway Express Lanes to I-66, then west to Nutley Street and down Pickett Road to Main Street. Fair number of traffic lights going that way, but it was still faster than the old route.)
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on February 01, 2013, 10:29:46 AM
I don't knock WTOP for running this story, but it is remarkable that some people don't understand the idea behind pricing for a congestion-free trip.

Transurban: Express Lanes price depends on traffic (http://www.wtop.com/654/3214863/Express-Lanes-price-depends-on-traffic)

Quote
Less than three months since the Beltway Express Lanes opened in Fairfax County, listeners are telling WTOP that prices seem to be going up, even outside of rush hour.

Quote
One caller tells WTOP he rides the Express Lanes from end to end weekday mornings at 5 a.m., but notes that prices have jumped from $1.80 to $2.10 since November.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: NJRoadfan on February 01, 2013, 04:09:11 PM
I don't knock WTOP for running this story, but it is remarkable that some people don't understand the idea behind pricing for a congestion-free trip.

Transurban: Express Lanes price depends on traffic (http://www.wtop.com/654/3214863/Express-Lanes-price-depends-on-traffic)

I see what they are getting at. One would assume the express lanes would be at the "base" price at all times during the off peak hours. The price seems to be creeping up despite the lanes being empty. When I drove them back in December, the full length was a $1.85 toll, vs. the $1.65 it was when they opened...... but the HOT lanes were completely empty and the mainline beltway was flying at 75mph with zero delays.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on February 01, 2013, 04:14:19 PM
Adam Tuss of Channel 4 is going to do a story on the issue tonight. Usually his reports show up within 24 hours on http://www.nbcwashington.com under the "Video" tab.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: NJRoadfan on February 02, 2013, 02:20:17 AM
Adam Tuss of Channel 4 is going to do a story on the issue tonight. Usually his reports show up within 24 hours on http://www.nbcwashington.com under the "Video" tab.

http://www.nbcwashington.com/video/#!/news/top-stories/Rising-Cost-of-Va--Express-Lanes/189447061

TransUrban weaseled their way around the question. So I have a few questions.

1. Is anyone from VDOT overseeing/auditing this public-private venture? Honestly, their excuse that there are other "less visible" factors was easily BS on the day I took the lanes. The price shouldn't raise until the lanes actually...umm... have traffic in them. The whole purpose of the variable toll is to induce demand destruction and keep them free flowing. Private ventures (in general, not specifically road related) have a history of dishonesty in order to make the quarterly report look good.

2. Is there a maximum toll limit on the lanes? I can see a beltway event causing people to pile on these lanes and forcing the average speed down. It would cause the toll to skyrocket to an unreasonable value in an attempt to keep the lanes free flowing. Is there any sort of circuit breaker to limit the amount?
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: froggie on February 02, 2013, 08:15:03 AM
As I understand it, there is no maximum.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on February 02, 2013, 12:07:32 PM
As I understand it, there is no maximum.

That is correct and the project's website confirms it. 
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: vdeane on February 02, 2013, 05:43:48 PM
As I understand it, there is no maximum.
As I understand it, there is no maximum.

That is correct and the project's website confirms it. 
Maybe not by law/policy, but I would think there is a de facto maximum based on the carrying capacity of the lanes.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on February 02, 2013, 08:40:34 PM
As I understand it, there is no maximum.
As I understand it, there is no maximum.

That is correct and the project's website confirms it. 
Maybe not by law/policy, but I would think there is a de facto maximum based on the carrying capacity of the lanes.

There's a maximum in terms of capacity, but the intent of these lanes is that traffic volumes in them will never reach that maximum.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: Mapmikey on February 04, 2013, 06:34:06 AM
I don't knock WTOP for running this story, but it is remarkable that some people don't understand the idea behind pricing for a congestion-free trip.

Transurban: Express Lanes price depends on traffic (http://www.wtop.com/654/3214863/Express-Lanes-price-depends-on-traffic)

I see what they are getting at. One would assume the express lanes would be at the "base" price at all times during the off peak hours. The price seems to be creeping up despite the lanes being empty. When I drove them back in December, the full length was a $1.85 toll, vs. the $1.65 it was when they opened...... but the HOT lanes were completely empty and the mainline beltway was flying at 75mph with zero delays.

Today at 5:35 a.m. the HOT lanes had fewer than 10 cars observed in the entire 14 miles plus the mainline beltway was wide open.

The full length toll was $2.05.

Mapmikey
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on February 04, 2013, 08:41:06 AM
Today at 5:35 a.m. the HOT lanes had fewer than 10 cars observed in the entire 14 miles plus the mainline beltway was wide open.

The full length toll was $2.05.

That seems high (IMO). 

I drove it at that time of the morning on a weekday not long after opening, and the toll was less than $2 ($1.65, I think).

Wondering if the owners are trying to increase revenue - that is not likely to work, at least not when the four conventional lanes are uncongested.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on February 04, 2013, 08:51:17 AM
I expect that because the lanes have been open for less than three months they are still tweaking the toll rates and trying to see what will be reasonable versus what will be too high.

There are some trips for which the new lanes simply make more sense, such as going to the mall at Tysons or exiting at Lee Highway, and the amount of the toll is less of a consideration. Of course, I also recognize that there are a lot of people out there who do not view it the same way I do.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on February 05, 2013, 11:15:21 PM
TOLLROADSnews: VA 495 Express Lanes traffic "below expectations, adjustments needed" operator tells shareholders (http://www.tollroadsnews.com/node/6388)

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Transurban, principal shareholder and operator of the 495 toll express lanes on the Capital Beltway has told shareholders in Melbourne Australia that initial traffic is below expectations and that adjustment to traffic patterns and motorist preferences will be required. In the 6-week period to the end of 2012 they report revenues of $1.0 million ($800k tolls, $200k other revenues), operating costs of $3.2m, depreciation of $2.1m, and financing costs of $7m for a net loss of $11.3m.

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Transurban and its partner US-based Kiewit spent $1.53 billion on reconstruction to create 2x2 toll express lanes on 12 miles of the Capital Beltway between the Springfield Interchange and Tysons Corner that involved rebuilding interchanges and the free lanes. The toll lanes only opened November 17, so it is early days.

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After six weeks operation they said in a  report here January 11 that they were getting about 24,000 vehicles workdays up 60% from the initial 15,000 and that 93% were tollpayers and 7% carpoolers entitled to free trips. Revenue was running at an annual rate of $7m we estimated. ($s are Australian dollars similar in value to US$s.)

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A traffic and revenue study by Vollmer/Stantec finalized in February 2007 when the companies were committing to finance the project forecast average weekday trips over the first full year of operations at 66,132 and revenue of $46.1m.  After four years operations they forecast 117k/weekday trips and annual revenue of $79m.

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The forecasts couldn't have foreseen the depth of the financial crisis of later 2007 and 2008 or the length of the recession that resulted. And perhaps they have underestimated a dampener on peakhours' traffic from the internet and greater worktime flexibility.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on February 17, 2013, 12:27:57 AM
WTOP Radio: Drivers receive fines for cheating tolls on the Beltway Express Lanes (http://www.wtop.com/654/3226771/Drivers-receive-fines-for-cheating-tolls-on-the-Beltway-Express-Lanes)
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: froggie on February 17, 2013, 07:59:51 AM
It appears that $2.05 is the "new standard".  Hopped on with a friend late last night...though we exited early, the overheads were saying $2.05 for the full trip.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mc78andrew on February 17, 2013, 08:56:55 AM
WTOP Radio: Drivers receive fines for cheating tolls on the Beltway Express Lanes (http://www.wtop.com/654/3226771/Drivers-receive-fines-for-cheating-tolls-on-the-Beltway-Express-Lanes)

At $2.05 you would have to get away with this 25 times to cover the first offense assuming you are traveling the whole distance.  There are about 20-23 working days in a month.  Not sure this is worth the risk IMO. 
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on March 03, 2013, 03:50:25 PM
Washington Post: 495 Express Lanes driver finds Tysons a tricky target (http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/495-express-lanes-driver-finds-tysons-a-tricky-target/2013/03/01/72dfdca0-8134-11e2-8074-b26a871b165a_story.html)

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I am generally a fan of E-ZPass, but ran into a major issue with the new E-ZPass express lanes in Northern Virginia. Aside from the fact that not all the Capital Beltway exits are available to the E-ZPass drivers, coming from the Maryland side, there is no sign indicating the exit to take for Tysons Corner.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on March 08, 2013, 09:48:44 AM
In Georgia, at least one reporter, the "Gridlock Guy" that writes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, reports that the I-85 HOT Express Lanes are working.   Now those lanes are much more "mature" than the priced lanes on I-495, but his perspective is interesting.

See this (https://www.aaroads.com/forum/index.php?topic=8958.0) in the Southeast forum.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mtantillo on March 08, 2013, 09:10:58 PM
In Georgia, at least one reporter, the "Gridlock Guy" that writes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, reports that the I-85 HOT Express Lanes are working.   Now those lanes are much more "mature" than the priced lanes on I-495, but his perspective is interesting.

See this (https://www.aaroads.com/forum/index.php?topic=8958.0) in the Southeast forum.

Ah, but there is a key difference between ATL's and NOVA's lanes.  In ATL, the lanes were underutilized, and the operator dropped the price to a rock bottom 1 cent/mile when the lanes were empty. This attracts users. In NOVA, despite statements that the price fluctuates with demand and will drop when usage is low, there seems to be an artificial "floor" in place that won't let the price drop below $2.05 for the whole length. This seems rather odd to discourage use when demand is low. After all 50 cents is better than zero cents!  But when using only usage numbers to determine success, then of course ATL's will seem more successful.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on March 08, 2013, 10:20:52 PM
In Georgia, at least one reporter, the "Gridlock Guy" that writes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, reports that the I-85 HOT Express Lanes are working.   Now those lanes are much more "mature" than the priced lanes on I-495, but his perspective is interesting.

See this (https://www.aaroads.com/forum/index.php?topic=8958.0) in the Southeast forum.

Ah, but there is a key difference between ATL's and NOVA's lanes.  In ATL, the lanes were underutilized, and the operator dropped the price to a rock bottom 1 cent/mile when the lanes were empty. This attracts users. In NOVA, despite statements that the price fluctuates with demand and will drop when usage is low, there seems to be an artificial "floor" in place that won't let the price drop below $2.05 for the whole length. This seems rather odd to discourage use when demand is low. After all 50 cents is better than zero cents!  But when using only usage numbers to determine success, then of course ATL's will seem more successful.

I saw it less than that one day this past week when I was on my  way to work at about 0400.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on March 19, 2013, 02:53:10 AM
WTOP Radio: Two new express bus routes to Tysons start Monday (http://wtop.com/654/3254282/Two-new-express-bus-routes-to-Tysons-start-Monday)

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The new express routes are Route 493 from Lorton VRE Station and Saratoga Park and Ride to Tysons, and Route 494 from Franconia-Springfield Metro Station and greater Springfield to Tysons.

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Both routes will take advantage of the Beltway Express Lanes, similar to the Burke to Tysons route that began in January 2013.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on April 01, 2013, 08:31:38 AM
WTOP Radio: No tolls on the Beltway Express Lanes this weekend (http://www.wtop.com/654/3269212/Try-Express-Lanes-for-free[/url)

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Drivers will get a chance to use the Beltway Express Lanes for free this April 5 and April 6, a move the lanes' operating company hopes will allow drivers to become more familiar with the new byways.

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"You won't need an E-ZPass for just this weekend, and if you do have an E-ZPass, you won't be charged," says Pierce Coffee, spokesman for Transurban, which operates the lanes.

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"We'll let you get that test drive when you're not running late to work or going to a meeting. Try the 495 Express Lanes, figure out, for example, if the Westpark Drive is best for you or Jones Park Drive in Tysons is helpful."

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Coffee says the free trip on this Saturday and Sunday is unrelated to January numbers, which showed ridership below expectations, losing $11.3 million in the first six weeks of operation.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: jeffandnicole on April 01, 2013, 09:34:31 AM
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Coffee says the free trip on this Saturday and Sunday is unrelated to January numbers, which showed ridership below expectations, losing $11.3 million in the first six weeks of operation.

Right.  Because a free weekend 4 months after the lanes opened is normal. 

Really, they should be doing this on a few weekdays.  Many people that would benefit from the tolled lanes aren't going to make a special trip to the office just to test them out.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on April 01, 2013, 11:14:29 AM
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Coffee says the free trip on this Saturday and Sunday is unrelated to January numbers, which showed ridership below expectations, losing $11.3 million in the first six weeks of operation.

Right.  Because a free weekend 4 months after the lanes opened is normal.

Though traffic does pick up (at least in the D.C. area) when the weather warms up.  And we have just come through a very cold March.

Really, they should be doing this on a few weekdays.  Many people that would benefit from the tolled lanes aren't going to make a special trip to the office just to test them out.

You may be right.  I also think that some drivers who might be tempted to use the lanes don't because they don't have an E-ZPass transponder.  Allowing (or even encouraging) toll-by-plate (without the punitive administrative charge, as MdTA is doing on Md. 200) is something the operators of those lanes should consider.  I am not  sure what the E-ZPass penetration rate is around the D.C. area - it's nowhere close to 100%.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: vdeane on April 01, 2013, 11:20:56 AM
Coming up with a HOV solution other than flex would help too.  Those of us with non-local transponders get charged even if we meet the HOV criteria.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on April 01, 2013, 11:37:45 AM
Coming up with a HOV solution other than flex would help too.  Those of us with non-local transponders get charged even if we meet the HOV criteria.

I have actually thought about that - a lot - because monitoring performance of the HOV lanes is part of my job.  Because VDOT has to pay the owners of the I-495 HOV/Toll lanes if there are more than a certain number of HOV-3 vehicles, the E-ZPass Flex transponder was probably the best way to do it. 

The HOV/Toll lanes along Ca. 91 (Riverside Freeway) in Orange County and along I-15 (Escondido Freeway) in San Diego County have "declaration" lanes for HOVs.  But there are not nearly as many access and egress points along those (the Ca. 91 facility is a "one way in" and "one way out" operation, though extensions have been discussed) as there are along the I-495 HOV/Toll lanes, and in most places, there was no room to add one of those "declaration" lanes.

The E-ZPass Flex approach also makes it relatively easy for the Virginia State Police to enforce the HOV-3 requirement.  All they have to do is look at the light over the lane at a gantry.  It flashes red for a vehicle with a transponder in HOV mode, which makes it easy for the trooper to check that vehicle's occupancy.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: vdeane on April 01, 2013, 05:01:42 PM
Since the trooper can check occupancy, couldn't a camera?
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mtantillo on April 01, 2013, 05:04:12 PM
Coming up with a HOV solution other than flex would help too.  Those of us with non-local transponders get charged even if we meet the HOV criteria.

I have actually thought about that - a lot - because monitoring performance of the HOV lanes is part of my job.  Because VDOT has to pay the owners of the I-495 HOV/Toll lanes if there are more than a certain number of HOV-3 vehicles, the E-ZPass Flex transponder was probably the best way to do it. 

The HOV/Toll lanes along Ca. 91 (Riverside Freeway) in Orange County and along I-15 (Escondido Freeway) in San Diego County have "declaration" lanes for HOVs.  But there are not nearly as many access and egress points along those (the Ca. 91 facility is a "one way in" and "one way out" operation, though extensions have been discussed) as there are along the I-495 HOV/Toll lanes, and in most places, there was no room to add one of those "declaration" lanes.

The E-ZPass Flex approach also makes it relatively easy for the Virginia State Police to enforce the HOV-3 requirement.  All they have to do is look at the light over the lane at a gantry.  It flashes red for a vehicle with a transponder in HOV mode, which makes it easy for the trooper to check that vehicle's occupancy.

According to the theory of "commuter discounts/plans should be available to all with an E-ZPass", the "HOV commuter plan" (which you can sign up for by purchasing a Flex transponder) seems to fall into a slightly separate category of transponder discrimination.  vdeane brings up a good point. 

My guess is that Transurban is not exactly too upset about someone from New York on a family vacation to Virginia having to pay the toll despite having a minivan full of kiddies...more money for them.  It is also easier for them to enforce the HOV rules.  If you have a "put up an E-ZPass if you have 1 or two people, 'bag the tag' if you have 3+" rule, then someone could hide their E-ZPass (human flesh acts as a good enough shield...if you sit on the tag it won't read) when there is no police officer at the gantry, and pop the tag up quickly if there is an officer, in effect, only paying for segments where there is an officer present.  With the Flex rule, once you pass a gantry, the fact that you entered with the tag in HOV mode is "locked in" (along with your toll rate).  So if you pass 4 gantries with no officer, and then you see an officer at the 5th gantry, if you flip the switch to non-HOV mode, my understanding is that the light will still flash and you will still get pulled over, and then be forced to pay for all of the gantries you skipped.  And as cpz mentioned, it is easier for Transurban and VDOT to keep track of carpoolers in case the carpool threshold exceeds that where VDOT would be required to pay Transurban for a toll.

I actually read an article about this recently (can't remember where though).  The article was discussing two types of HOT lanes, and two types of carpools.  I bet cpz has some comments about this topic. 

The first type of HOT lane is an underutilized HOV lane that is converted to allow toll paying SOV traffic.  These lanes typically have very low capital costs since the infrastructure is already there and paid for, only the toll collection infrastructure is needed to convert to HOT.  In these lanes, the priority is generally given to HOV traffic (the original intended users), and "excess space is sold".  This is money that a government or HOT lane owner would otherwise not get for very little extra investment, so these lanes often have high percentages of those who do not pay tolls, not too much in terms of income, but high profitability since they have few expenses to pay.  The toll rates can be dropped to rock bottom rates when the lanes are empty. 

The other kind of HOT lane is similar to the ones on I-495, new lanes constructed to be HOT lanes.  These have much higher costs because it involves new construction.  Therefore, the operators are much more interested in recovering high construction costs.  So, these shouldn't be thought of as "HOV lanes with excess capacity sold", but more "toll lanes that allow HOV's meeting very specific requirements in for free).  In otherwords, they want most vehicles to pay tolls.  They need to make money.  They have an incentive to make it difficult to claim the carpool exemption.  They also typically have higher toll rates, because they need to maximize revenue, even if the traffic carrying utility of these lanes is low.  They would rather make big bucks off a small number of users, hoping to entice more users into the empty lanes, rather than fill the lanes up at a low toll rate and risk not maximizing their revenue. 

Then we get to the two kinds of carpools.  Work-based carpools: co-workers ridesharing from home to the office, where some co-workers would otherwise be driving alone.  These carpools actually remove vehicles from the road.  "Fampools": carpools comprised of family members traveling together that would otherwise travel together anyway, and can include infants and other non-licensed drivers.  These carpools do not remove vehicles from the road, yet are entitled to the same benefits as co-worker based carpools.  When a typical HOV lane is involved, it might not seem fair that fampools have access to the HOV lanes, but since many HOV lanes are underutilized (not necessarily in DC area, but throughout the country), this at least gives the illusion that they are more useful in carrying people/removing cars from the road than they really are.  No harm, no foul, any car in the HOV lane is one less car in the other lanes.  But when HOT lanes get involved...these fampools translate into revenue loss for the operators of the lanes.  All of a sudden, you find a war against casual carpooling and fampools because the operators of these lanes feel that discounts/free passage should be given to only a few, and priority for that should be given to those who actually remove other cars from the road. 

The author of this paper was actually advocating for a system similar to what is used on I-95 in Florida, where only registered carpools can obtain free passage.  Everyone else pays a toll.  In order to register, each member of the carpool must be a licensed driver (in Florida), and provide their license, registration, home and work address (to show that it is reasonable that the lanes would be used by 3+ for the purpose of going to work).  Each driver has the ability to use their car for the carpool, but audits are performed both on the road and electronically to ensure that abuse is not occurring...the enforcement is done by shielding the transponder, using an HOV sticker, and the toll system will capture the license plate number which is on a "white list" so that no violations are issued if no ETC transponder is present.  On the road- does the vehicle that did not pay the toll have a carpool sticker and 3 people inside?  Electronically- did all of the three vehicles in the carpool use the lanes toll free on the same morning multiple times, or something similar that could indicate the lanes are not being used by the registered occupants for a trip to/from work? 

So Florida has made it next to impossible for casual carpools and fampools to gain free access...and I'm sure FDOT is okay with this, because that means more revenue for them. 

Los Angeles and DC have taken an intermediate approach.  They won't require registration with tight requirements, but they won't let everyone use the lanes for free just by virtue of not having an active transponder (or a bagged/shielded transponder)...they will make you do just enough upfront work, and will make it more costly than obtaining a regular transponder (in Virginia, it is an extra 50 cents per month for a Flex, in Maryland the one time fee is $18, instead of $9 for a regular transponder), so as to discourage as many people as possible.  Of course, they won't advertise to anyone outside the DC area about the E-ZPass Flex option, but by golly, they will ensure that you know anyone with an E-ZPass, even one from far away, can enter the lanes if they wish to pay!

So I would expect more of these schemes to make claiming the HOV exemption more difficult in the future as HOT lanes spread, and toll operators seek to minimize "fampools" taking advantage of these discounts. 

Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on April 01, 2013, 06:25:55 PM
Since the trooper can check occupancy, couldn't a camera?

Last discussion I heard of that was at a session of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) a few years ago.   At the time, the formal research was that there is no unclassified technology out there that could reliably measure vehicle occupancy.

Keep in mind that if a driver violates the HOV requirement and gets caught, a summons is issued that can be challenged in court. 

I suppose that HOV violations based on an automated device could be defined as non-moving violations with a modest (or not-so-modest) fine, but no "points" on the drivers license and a lower legal burden of proof.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on April 01, 2013, 07:09:03 PM
According to the theory of "commuter discounts/plans should be available to all with an E-ZPass", the "HOV commuter plan" (which you can sign up for by purchasing a Flex transponder) seems to fall into a slightly separate category of transponder discrimination.  vdeane brings up a good point.

Yes, it is a form of transponder discrimination (though MdTA does issue Flex transponders (I have one), even though Maryland does not currently have any HOV/Toll roads or crossings (and as far as I know, does not plan to have any)). 

My guess is that Transurban is not exactly too upset about someone from New York on a family vacation to Virginia having to pay the toll despite having a minivan full of kiddies...more money for them.  It is also easier for them to enforce the HOV rules.  If you have a "put up an E-ZPass if you have 1 or two people, 'bag the tag' if you have 3+" rule, then someone could hide their E-ZPass (human flesh acts as a good enough shield...if you sit on the tag it won't read) when there is no police officer at the gantry, and pop the tag up quickly if there is an officer, in effect, only paying for segments where there is an officer present.  With the Flex rule, once you pass a gantry, the fact that you entered with the tag in HOV mode is "locked in" (along with your toll rate).  So if you pass 4 gantries with no officer, and then you see an officer at the 5th gantry, if you flip the switch to non-HOV mode, my understanding is that the light will still flash and you will still get pulled over, and then be forced to pay for all of the gantries you skipped.  And as cpz mentioned, it is easier for Transurban and VDOT to keep track of carpoolers in case the carpool threshold exceeds that where VDOT would be required to pay Transurban for a toll.

All correct.  You are especially spot-on about the out-of-town family having to pay the toll (since lanes with  HOV restrictions are presumably there for commuter traffic, not vacation or other "non-work" traffic that "naturally" has a higher average occupancy rate).

I actually read an article about this recently (can't remember where though).  The article was discussing two types of HOT lanes, and two types of carpools.  I bet cpz has some comments about this topic.

Yep.

The first type of HOT lane is an underutilized HOV lane that is converted to allow toll paying SOV traffic.  These lanes typically have very low capital costs since the infrastructure is already there and paid for, only the toll collection infrastructure is needed to convert to HOT.  In these lanes, the priority is generally given to HOV traffic (the original intended users), and "excess space is sold".  This is money that a government or HOT lane owner would otherwise not get for very little extra investment, so these lanes often have high percentages of those who do not pay tolls, not too much in terms of income, but high profitability since they have few expenses to pay.  The toll rates can be dropped to rock bottom rates when the lanes are empty.

That's the model for the existing I-95/I-395 (Shirley Highway) HOV lanes between Va. 234 (Dumfries) and the Turkeycock Run ramps in Fairfax County, Va.  Though they do pretty well when it comes to moving people, they suffer from "empty lane syndrome."

The other kind of HOT lane is similar to the ones on I-495, new lanes constructed to be HOT lanes.  These have much higher costs because it involves new construction.  Therefore, the operators are much more interested in recovering high construction costs.  So, these shouldn't be thought of as "HOV lanes with excess capacity sold", but more "toll lanes that allow HOV's meeting very specific requirements in for free).  In otherwords, they want most vehicles to pay tolls.  They need to make money.  They have an incentive to make it difficult to claim the carpool exemption.  They also typically have higher toll rates, because they need to maximize revenue, even if the traffic carrying utility of these lanes is low.  They would rather make big bucks off a small number of users, hoping to entice more users into the empty lanes, rather than fill the lanes up at a low toll rate and risk not maximizing their revenue.

Also correct.  And remember that as part of the HOV/Toll land construction, there was a lot of money spent on the eight parallel "free" lanes of I-495 in Fairfax County.

Then we get to the two kinds of carpools.  Work-based carpools: co-workers ridesharing from home to the office, where some co-workers would otherwise be driving alone.  These carpools actually remove vehicles from the road.  "Fampools": carpools comprised of family members traveling together that would otherwise travel together anyway, and can include infants and other non-licensed drivers.  These carpools do not remove vehicles from the road, yet are entitled to the same benefits as co-worker based carpools.  When a typical HOV lane is involved, it might not seem fair that fampools have access to the HOV lanes, but since many HOV lanes are underutilized (not necessarily in DC area, but throughout the country), this at least gives the illusion that they are more useful in carrying people/removing cars from the road than they really are.  No harm, no foul, any car in the HOV lane is one less car in the other lanes.  But when HOT lanes get involved...these fampools translate into revenue loss for the operators of the lanes.  All of a sudden, you find a war against casual carpooling and fampools because the operators of these lanes feel that discounts/free passage should be given to only a few, and priority for that should be given to those who actually remove other cars from the road.

Your words above remind me a lot of what Bob Poole (of the Reason Foundation) has said about HOV lanes (and especially those that are underutilized, including "fampools," which have long existed, especially in Northern Virginia - even when the HOV requirement was HOV-4).

The author of this paper was actually advocating for a system similar to what is used on I-95 in Florida, where only registered carpools can obtain free passage.  Everyone else pays a toll.  In order to register, each member of the carpool must be a licensed driver (in Florida), and provide their license, registration, home and work address (to show that it is reasonable that the lanes would be used by 3+ for the purpose of going to work).  Each driver has the ability to use their car for the carpool, but audits are performed both on the road and electronically to ensure that abuse is not occurring...the enforcement is done by shielding the transponder, using an HOV sticker, and the toll system will capture the license plate number which is on a "white list" so that no violations are issued if no ETC transponder is present.  On the road- does the vehicle that did not pay the toll have a carpool sticker and 3 people inside?  Electronically- did all of the three vehicles in the carpool use the lanes toll free on the same morning multiple times, or something similar that could indicate the lanes are not being used by the registered occupants for a trip to/from work?

That approach would be really, really bad  in Northern Virginia (especially in the Shirley Highway corridor), where there is a very active system of informal car-pooling called "slugging" (see this (http://www.slug-lines.com/) Web site for more).  Slugging dates back to the earliest days of HOV-4 operation on Shirley Highway in the 1970's, when the reversible HOV lanes ended just south of Va. 644 (Franconia Road/Old Keene Mill Road).  Drivers in the Springfield area of Fairfax County on Old Keene Mill Road (especially) would stop at the bus stops and pick up enough riders ("slugs") to comply with the HOV requirement (once HOV-4, HOV-3 since the late 1980's).  This infuriated the staff at WMATA (no Fairfax Connector back then), who felt that the drivers ("body snatchers") were "stealing" their paying patrons.  Eventually the system of slugging evolved and expanded, so there are formal "slug lines" at an assortment of places along the I-95/I-395 corridor as far south as (!) Caroline County (according to the Web site hyperlinked above).

So Florida has made it next to impossible for casual carpools and fampools to gain free access...and I'm sure FDOT is okay with this, because that means more revenue for them.

Agreed.   

Los Angeles and DC have taken an intermediate approach.  They won't require registration with tight requirements, but they won't let everyone use the lanes for free just by virtue of not having an active transponder (or a bagged/shielded transponder)...they will make you do just enough upfront work, and will make it more costly than obtaining a regular transponder (in Virginia, it is an extra 50 cents per month for a Flex, in Maryland the one time fee is $18, instead of $9 for a regular transponder), so as to discourage as many people as possible.  Of course, they won't advertise to anyone outside the DC area about the E-ZPass Flex option, but by golly, they will ensure that you know anyone with an E-ZPass, even one from far away, can enter the lanes if they wish to pay!


That is correct.  I did not feel that the one-time $18 charge by MdTA was unreasonable.

I have some familiarity with  the I-10 (San Bernardino Freeway) HOV-3 facility in Los Angeles County, also sometimes called the El Monte Busway (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Monte_Busway).  I once saw some of the person-moving stats from those lanes, and they looked to be as good as the Shirley Highway HOV lanes in terms of time saved and persons transported in two lanes. 

So I would expect more of these schemes to make claiming the HOV exemption more difficult in the future as HOT lanes spread, and toll operators seek to minimize "fampools" taking advantage of these discounts.

Speaking of HOV travel, the one thing that all of the D.C.-area operators of toll roads (MWAA, Transurban, TRIP II and MdTA) do allow for free, with no restriction at all, is transit buses.   All of them allow (transit and commuter) buses to use their toll roads and toll crossings (there's Maryland Transit Administration "Flyer" express bus service crossing the Bay Bridge and on the ICC), though I presume the loss of revenue is not that high, since the number of buses in the fleet is relatively small and it is easy to manage the (presumably non-revenue) transponders issued for bus use. 

I believe that school buses are legally entitled to free passage, even though they obviously are not for transportation of commuters (this may be made easier because the public school buses in all (or most) of Virginia and in the close-in Maryland suburbs of D.C. all have local government registration plates - most other counties in Maryland contract-out school bus service to the private sector, and those buses do not have government registration).

Being the national capital, I have seen yellow school buses around Washington from as far away as Connecticut to the north; South Carolina to the south and distant West Virginia counties (I believe I have seen Ohio County, W.Va. buses from the Northern Panhandle) to the west on multi-day field trips to D.C.  Not sure if those buses are entitled to free passage or not.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: deathtopumpkins on April 01, 2013, 11:04:03 PM
Not a DC road, but I remember on a trip to Richmond in high school the bus driver paid a toll on 195, which surprised me considering I had assumed city school buses with local government plates wouldn't have to pay, like you describe.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on April 02, 2013, 02:45:54 PM
Not a DC road, but I remember on a trip to Richmond in high school the bus driver paid a toll on 195, which surprised me considering I had assumed city school buses with local government plates wouldn't have to pay, like you describe.

I have seen Fairfax County Public Schools buses stop at the  Dulles Toll Road tolls and be asked to sign  something, then sent on their way (why FCPS doesn't have E-ZPass transponders in its bus fleet - at least those that use Va. 267 - is above my pay grade).

Since Md. 200 opened, I have seen a fair number of Montgomery County Public Schools buses on it.  MCPS has obtained orange non-revenue transponders for the buses that drive Md. 200 (apparently not all states issue orange E-ZPass transponders).
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: vdeane on April 02, 2013, 05:05:03 PM
I'm surprised there are buses from that far away.  My school district always contracted to Coach whenever there was a trip more than an hour long each way.  I can't imagine it's comfortable to sit in a yellow limo for eight hours.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: deathtopumpkins on April 02, 2013, 05:49:34 PM
I'm surprised there are buses from that far away.  My school district always contracted to Coach whenever there was a trip more than an hour long each way.  I can't imagine it's comfortable to sit in a yellow limo for eight hours.

It's not even comfortable for eight minutes.

And c.p., that may be it - they may have just signed something. I couldn't really see, I just know we stopped at the booth.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on April 02, 2013, 08:10:47 PM
I'm surprised there are buses from that far away.  My school district always contracted to Coach whenever there was a trip more than an hour long each way.  I can't imagine it's comfortable to sit in a yellow limo for eight hours.

Agreed.  Though I believe some school districts have "nicer" buses (perhaps with transmission gearing appropriate for freeway speeds) for those longer field trips.  Having grown up next to Washington, D.C., all of our field trips (usually to D.C. or to Baltimore), we had no need for anything beyond a "regular" school bus.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on April 02, 2013, 08:15:18 PM
I'm surprised there are buses from that far away.  My school district always contracted to Coach whenever there was a trip more than an hour long each way.  I can't imagine it's comfortable to sit in a yellow limo for eight hours.

It's not even comfortable for eight minutes.

Pump, I agree, though I never had to ride a bus to school (I always lived close enough to walk or I took transit one year).  So school buses for those of us who did not routinely ride a bus was something of an adventure, and fun.  The farthest we ever went was about 70 miles to the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia.

And c.p., that may be it - they may have just signed something. I couldn't really see, I just know we stopped at the booth.

I know in Virginia, the bus drivers had to sign something.  I have seen that at a few different Virginia toll facilities (but especially at Va. 267, the DTR).
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: kphoger on April 02, 2013, 08:25:36 PM
I'm surprised there are buses from that far away.  My school district always contracted to Coach whenever there was a trip more than an hour long each way.  I can't imagine it's comfortable to sit in a yellow limo for eight hours.

Wow, your school must have had more money than mine.  I can specifically remember a trip of more than 120 miles in a yellow school bus.  And let me tell you, after completely stuffing yourself on Mexican food to the absolute max, it is not a good idea to ride in the back seat of a school bus.   X-(
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on April 02, 2013, 08:50:03 PM
I'm surprised there are buses from that far away.  My school district always contracted to Coach whenever there was a trip more than an hour long each way.  I can't imagine it's comfortable to sit in a yellow limo for eight hours.

Agreed.  Though I believe some school districts have "nicer" buses (perhaps with transmission gearing appropriate for freeway speeds) for those longer field trips.  Having grown up next to Washington, D.C., all of our field trips (usually to D.C. or to Baltimore), we had no need for anything beyond a "regular" school bus.

I attended Fairfax public schools (WT Woodson High) and I recall multiple high school field trips to the Richmond area (including Chester) and Winchester, all on school buses. It was not a fun way to travel. I don't remember whether field trips to Norfolk were via school bus or charter bus. I do remember the school bus driver having to stop at the I-95 toll plazas.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: vdeane on April 02, 2013, 11:12:41 PM
I'm surprised there are buses from that far away.  My school district always contracted to Coach whenever there was a trip more than an hour long each way.  I can't imagine it's comfortable to sit in a yellow limo for eight hours.

Wow, your school must have had more money than mine.  I can specifically remember a trip of more than 120 miles in a yellow school bus.  And let me tell you, after completely stuffing yourself on Mexican food to the absolute max, it is not a good idea to ride in the back seat of a school bus.   X-(
Who knows.  My school district didn't actually maintain any buses, they contracted to another company to run them.  That might have changed the economics of the situation.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on April 05, 2013, 12:56:39 PM
Transportation Nation: Why Tolls Will Be Waived On One Virginia Highway This Weekend (http://transportationnation.org/2013/04/05/why-tolls-will-be-waived-on-one-virginia-highway-this-weekend/)

Quote
Nearly five months after opening, the operators of the 495 Express Lanes are struggling to attract motorists to their congestion-free toll road in a region mired in some of the worst traffic congestion in the country.

Quote
Transurban, the construction conglomerate that put up $1.5 billion to build the 14-mile, EZ Pass-only corridor on the Beltway between the I-95 interchange and Dulles Toll Road, will let motorists use the highway free this weekend in a bid to win more converts.

Quote
“It takes a lot of time for drivers in the area to adapt to new driving behaviors. A lot of us are kind of stuck on autopilot on our commutes. That trend might continue for a while, too,” said Transurban spokesman Michael McGurk.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: jeffandnicole on April 05, 2013, 01:55:33 PM
Quote
“It takes a lot of time for drivers in the area to adapt to new driving behaviors. A lot of us are kind of stuck on autopilot on our commutes. That trend might continue for a while, too,” said Transurban spokesman Michael McGurk.

I think they mis-spelled "It takes a lot of time to convince drivers that they should pay over $2.00 to drive 14 miles when they often can drive the same distance in the same amount of time just a few lanes over for free."
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on April 05, 2013, 01:59:59 PM
Quote
“It takes a lot of time for drivers in the area to adapt to new driving behaviors. A lot of us are kind of stuck on autopilot on our commutes. That trend might continue for a while, too,” said Transurban spokesman Michael McGurk.

I think they mis-spelled "It takes a lot of time to convince drivers that they should pay over $2.00 to drive 14 miles when they often can drive the same distance in the same amount of time just a few lanes over for free."

The adjacent "free" or non-managed lanes have a long history of being severely congested.  The tolled lanes have the potential to reduce travel time by as much as 20 to 30 minutes in the morning and in the afternoon.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on April 05, 2013, 03:01:55 PM
As I've mentioned, the trip home from Falls Church at 4:30 PM has taken me 17 minutes via those lanes instead of 45 minutes via the old route. It CAN be well worth it. One issue they have is that they don't have any travel-time signs to give people a sense for when it is, though. (From my point of view, any trip to the mall at Tysons uses the tolled lanes due to easier access, regardless of whether the "free" lanes are moving at the same speed.)
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: jeffandnicole on April 05, 2013, 03:36:25 PM
Quote
“It takes a lot of time for drivers in the area to adapt to new driving behaviors. A lot of us are kind of stuck on autopilot on our commutes. That trend might continue for a while, too,” said Transurban spokesman Michael McGurk.

I think they mis-spelled "It takes a lot of time to convince drivers that they should pay over $2.00 to drive 14 miles when they often can drive the same distance in the same amount of time just a few lanes over for free."

The adjacent "free" or non-managed lanes have a long history of being severely congested.  The tolled lanes have the potential to reduce travel time by as much as 20 to 30 minutes in the morning and in the afternoon.

And what about the other 18 hours a day?

I can understand the significant time savings during the rush hours, which probably experience some good congestion for 3 hours or so in the mornings and afternoons, 5 days a week  But if traffic moves smoothly the other 75% of the time during the weekdays, and probably the majority of the weekend, what's the incentive to pay $2 or so then? 

Yes - I say 'probably', because I don't know the daily periods of true congestion in this area.  But while many people will point out the congested periods, there's generally a much larger portion of the day when congestion doesn't occur.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on April 05, 2013, 04:52:16 PM
And what about the other 18 hours a day?

The Capital Beltway can be congested at any time - especially during daytime hours, Monday through Sunday.  Bad weather (including light rain) can be the cause of long backups.

I can understand the significant time savings during the rush hours, which probably experience some good congestion for 3 hours or so in the mornings and afternoons, 5 days a week  But if traffic moves smoothly the other 75% of the time during the weekdays, and probably the majority of the weekend, what's the incentive to pay $2 or so then?

Yes - I say 'probably', because I don't know the daily periods of true congestion in this area.  But while many people will point out the congested periods, there's generally a much larger portion of the day when congestion doesn't occur.

Before the great recession got going in 2008, I frequently observed congestion on this part of the Capital Beltway from before 6 A.M. to after 10 A.M. in the mornings (especially Inner Loop) and from 2 P.M. to after 8 P.M. (especially Outer Loop).

The recession has reduced traffic (and congestion) on some roads in and around D.C., but when I last looked at it before the HOV/Toll lanes opened (summer of 2012), the congestion was still terrible for long periods (and in part due to construction activity related to those HOV/Toll lanes).

As I suggested way upthread (https://www.aaroads.com/forum/index.php?topic=7481.msg168804#msg168804), one of the biggest problems with the HOV/Toll lanes is that they don't go across the American Legion Bridge into Maryland.  Their northern end is  at one of the most-congested segments of the entire Capital Beltway.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on April 06, 2013, 10:43:33 PM
WTOP Radio: Could HOT lane construction put Va. residents at risk? (http://www.wtop.com/654/3276683/Could-HOT-lane-construction-put-Va-residents-at-risk)

Quote
At a rally held next to the ramp that will mark the end of the Interstate 95 Express Lanes, an Alexandria group called on the Virginia Department of Transportation to delay construction until a public health study is complete.

Quote
In late March, the group turned over a lengthy report from environmental engineer Maureen Barrett at AERO Engineering that found the I-95 terminus ramp just north of Edsall Road would produce toxic amounts of nitrogen dioxide and PM 2.5 that will harm nearby residents.

Quote
"In a haphazard and quick way, when VDOT lost the Arlington location, where the HOT Lanes were supposed to end, it looked around and picked out Turkeycock Run and decided to ended it here," says John B. Britton, attorney for the Concerned Residents of Landmark.

Quote
"We're not opposed to the entire projects or HOT Lanes, we just want VDOT to evaluate changing this community by making this the terminus location. We want an open, public forum to discuss the issues."

Quote
Britton is the same attorney that Arlington County used to sue VDOT in 2009. As a result of the suit, VDOT decided to change the final location of the I-95 Express Lanes in Feb. 2011. He wouldn't comment on whether the Landmark group will also sue.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on April 07, 2013, 08:57:10 PM
Dr. Gridlock of the Washington Post: Toll-free weekend offers drivers a chance to navigate Beltway express lanes (http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/toll-free-weekend-offers-drivers-a-chance-to-navigate-beltway-express-lanes/2013/04/06/90573006-9bbc-11e2-9bda-edd1a7fb557d_story.html)
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: jeffandnicole on April 08, 2013, 09:04:32 AM
Looking at the comments from that article, there seems to be a main theme from the commenters that actually make sense: Signage Issues.  Is coming off an exit with no destination signage still an issue?
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on April 08, 2013, 02:39:28 PM
Looking at the comments from that article, there seems to be a main theme from the commenters that actually make sense: Signage Issues.  Is coming off an exit with no destination signage still an issue?

IMO, the signage is pretty good. 

Now I am biased, because I know every interchange on the Capital Beltway pretty well (and where the crossing roads lead), but it seems to me the signs are O.K.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on April 08, 2013, 02:58:50 PM
I agree. I think the signs on the Virginia portion of the Beltway are substantially improved over what was there prior to the reconstruction (the I-66 and Dulles interchanges in particular).

A lot of the people who comment on Dr. Gridlock's articles are just whiners.

I liked this comment:

Quote
Someone just call out all these people for what they are, stupid and incompetent drivers. You can't figure out the express lanes? If you use the beltway even somewhat regularly, are you telling me you haven't seen how the lanes and exits were being constructed even once during the last 4 years. Besides that, are you blind? It's not like they built a wall between the regular lanes and the express lanes. Am I the one person that can glance to my left, from the regular lanes, to see where the express exit and entrance ramps were placed? Maybe these are the same people who need to have their driver license revoked because they shouldn't be on the roads in the first place.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on April 11, 2013, 01:06:38 PM
Quote
Adam Tuss ‏@AdamTuss 2h

Va Express Lanes leaders say revenue is up. The lanes have made $3.3 million so far this year. Average workday trips are about 25k

I don't know how much they projected they'd make each year.


Edited to add: I just heard a radio report saying so far the maximum toll rate for the entire length has been $6.35. They didn't say when that was. Yesterday morning just after 8:00 it cost me $3.15 from Springfield to I-66 (would have been $4.40 to the other end). I'll write it off as a business expense, but it would have been worth it anyway. The general-purpose lanes were crawling. I did note a lot more motorcycles in the Express Lanes. Makes sense (they ride free), but it was a bit annoying since they were overly aggressive.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on April 11, 2013, 07:34:25 PM
Edited to add: I just heard a radio report saying so far the maximum toll rate for the entire length has been $6.35. They didn't say when that was. Yesterday morning just after 8:00 it cost me $3.15 from Springfield to I-66 (would have been $4.40 to the other end). 

Never personally seen them above $4.

If you  heard that on WTOP Radio, this is likely the text version: Drivers slow to use 495 Express Lanes (http://www.wtop.com/41/3282673/Drivers-slow-to-use-495-Express-Lanes)

I really take issue with the statement below (emphasis added):

Quote
The maximum toll since the lanes opened was $6.35 to travel the entire length of the express lanes from Springfield to the Maryland line. The tolls go up and down depending on congestion.

Where the 495 Express Lanes end is a long way from the  Maryland border, especially when that part of the Beltway is at its congested worst.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on April 12, 2013, 03:43:57 PM
....

I really take issue with the statement below (emphasis added):

Quote
The maximum toll since the lanes opened was $6.35 to travel the entire length of the express lanes from Springfield to the Maryland line. The tolls go up and down depending on congestion.

Where the 495 Express Lanes end is a long way from the  Maryland border, especially when that part of the Beltway is at its congested worst.

Agreed, plus there are two very important exits between there and the Maryland line. I used that route last week, April 2 or 3, going from the courthouse in Fairfax down to the Watergate to pick up Ms1995hoo after work (I-66 to 495 Express Lanes/Beltway beyond the Express Lanes, then GW Parkway), and the stretch from the Express Lanes' end to that overpass just after VA-193 was by far the slowest part of the entire trip, although that's only because I ran the C/D road at Nutley Street after hearing on the radio that there'd been a wreck (which turned out to have all lanes blocked just before the C/D road merged back in).

Really, it seems like facts play no part in a lot of local media reporting.

You know, I look at all the whining and ignorance displayed by a lot of people regarding the Beltway's Express Lanes and I can't help but wonder how much more grousing there will be when the I-95 project opens. Some of that will be well-deserved, IMO, because they're taking existing lanes anyone can use outside rush hour (except trucks near Dumfries due to the weigh station) and making the solo drivers pay a toll. But the "segment-based" tolling is almost certain to confuse the heck out of a lot of people. I've looked at their publicity materials and they really don't explain it very well.

What they ought to do is to include a page on their website explaining how the I-95 lanes will differ from the Beltway lanes and then explaining what they mean by "segments." Something along the lines of, "On the Beltway you cannot exit back into the general-purpose lanes. The I-95 HOV facility was built with a number of ramps allowing such movements, and those will remain in place. Posted toll rates will apply up to the next such ramp back to the general-purpose lanes, and as you approach those ramps you will see the toll from there to the next such ramp. That rate might be higher or lower than the rate you locked in up to that point, and you can then decide whether to remain in the Express Lanes or to exit back to the general-purpose lanes."

That wording is probably still too complex for most people, so the ideal might be to use a map as an example.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on April 13, 2013, 09:00:39 PM
Agreed, plus there are two very important exits between there and the Maryland line. I used that route last week, April 2 or 3, going from the courthouse in Fairfax down to the Watergate to pick up Ms1995hoo after work (I-66 to 495 Express Lanes/Beltway beyond the Express Lanes, then GW Parkway), and the stretch from the Express Lanes' end to that overpass just after VA-193 was by far the slowest part of the entire trip, although that's only because I ran the C/D road at Nutley Street after hearing on the radio that there'd been a wreck (which turned out to have all lanes blocked just before the C/D road merged back in).

Perversely, the reason that the 495 HOV/Toll lanes end where they do (north  of Va. 267 (Dulles Toll Road)) can be squarely blamed on Maryland (and in particular on Montgomery County, Maryland), even though there are those two Virginia interchanges north of the end of those lanes, at Va. 193 (Georgetown Pike, Exit 44), and "secret" Va. 90005 (George Washington Memorial Parkway, Exit 43).  Though Virginia has engaged in similarly bad behavior recently (albeit on a smaller scale), where the relocated lanes of W.Va. 9 had to narrow down to one lane each way before reaching the Loudoun County, Va. border, in part at the insistence of Virginia environmental/Smart Growth groups.

Regarding I-66 (especially  between U.S. 50 at Fair Oaks (Exit 57) and I-495 (Exit 64), it is a very crash-prone segment of freeway.  I have seen more than one wreck there where the Vienna C-D lanes end on the eastbound side east of Va. 243 (Nutley Street, Exit 62), perhaps because the merge is "difficult" for reasons not entirely clear to me.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mtantillo on April 15, 2013, 03:11:57 PM
Agreed, plus there are two very important exits between there and the Maryland line. I used that route last week, April 2 or 3, going from the courthouse in Fairfax down to the Watergate to pick up Ms1995hoo after work (I-66 to 495 Express Lanes/Beltway beyond the Express Lanes, then GW Parkway), and the stretch from the Express Lanes' end to that overpass just after VA-193 was by far the slowest part of the entire trip, although that's only because I ran the C/D road at Nutley Street after hearing on the radio that there'd been a wreck (which turned out to have all lanes blocked just before the C/D road merged back in).

Perversely, the reason that the 495 HOV/Toll lanes end where they do (north  of Va. 267 (Dulles Toll Road)) can be squarely blamed on Maryland (and in particular on Montgomery County, Maryland), even though there are those two Virginia interchanges north of the end of those lanes, at Va. 193 (Georgetown Pike, Exit 44), and "secret" Va. 90005 (George Washington Memorial Parkway, Exit 43).  Though Virginia has engaged in similarly bad behavior recently (albeit on a smaller scale), where the relocated lanes of W.Va. 9 had to narrow down to one lane each way before reaching the Loudoun County, Va. border, in part at the insistence of Virginia environmental/Smart Growth groups.

Regarding I-66 (especially  between U.S. 50 at Fair Oaks (Exit 57) and I-495 (Exit 64), it is a very crash-prone segment of freeway.  I have seen more than one wreck there where the Vienna C-D lanes end on the eastbound side east of Va. 243 (Nutley Street, Exit 62), perhaps because the merge is "difficult" for reasons not entirely clear to me.

Now that people from GW Parkway and VA 193 have access to the Express Lanes, I sure hope they preserve that access if the lanes are ever extended into MD. 

Is Jefferson County, WV even considered part of the Washington DC Metropolitan area?  I always thought the MPOs were tasked with coordinating these things across political boundaries within a metropolitan area, but couldn't really do much outside of a metro area.  In otherwords, although I wish VA would upgrade all of VA 9, it doesn't seem quite as eggregious as the Express Lanes' dead end south of the American Legion Bridge.  The WV 9 upgrade is really nice though, it makes getting to the Casino in Charles Town that much easier ;-)
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on April 15, 2013, 07:49:29 PM
Agreed, plus there are two very important exits between there and the Maryland line. I used that route last week, April 2 or 3, going from the courthouse in Fairfax down to the Watergate to pick up Ms1995hoo after work (I-66 to 495 Express Lanes/Beltway beyond the Express Lanes, then GW Parkway), and the stretch from the Express Lanes' end to that overpass just after VA-193 was by far the slowest part of the entire trip, although that's only because I ran the C/D road at Nutley Street after hearing on the radio that there'd been a wreck (which turned out to have all lanes blocked just before the C/D road merged back in).

Perversely, the reason that the 495 HOV/Toll lanes end where they do (north  of Va. 267 (Dulles Toll Road)) can be squarely blamed on Maryland (and in particular on Montgomery County, Maryland), even though there are those two Virginia interchanges north of the end of those lanes, at Va. 193 (Georgetown Pike, Exit 44), and "secret" Va. 90005 (George Washington Memorial Parkway, Exit 43).  Though Virginia has engaged in similarly bad behavior recently (albeit on a smaller scale), where the relocated lanes of W.Va. 9 had to narrow down to one lane each way before reaching the Loudoun County, Va. border, in part at the insistence of Virginia environmental/Smart Growth groups.

Regarding I-66 (especially  between U.S. 50 at Fair Oaks (Exit 57) and I-495 (Exit 64), it is a very crash-prone segment of freeway.  I have seen more than one wreck there where the Vienna C-D lanes end on the eastbound side east of Va. 243 (Nutley Street, Exit 62), perhaps because the merge is "difficult" for reasons not entirely clear to me.

Now that people from GW Parkway and VA 193 have access to the Express Lanes, I sure hope they preserve that access if the lanes are ever extended into MD.

Especially the GWMP.  From Va. 193, it's a lot of lanes to cross in a fairly short distance to enter the HOV/Toll lanes. 

Is Jefferson County, WV even considered part of the Washington DC Metropolitan area?  I always thought the MPOs were tasked with coordinating these things across political boundaries within a metropolitan area, but couldn't really do much outside of a metro area.  In otherwords, although I wish VA would upgrade all of VA 9, it doesn't seem quite as eggregious as the Express Lanes' dead end south of the American Legion Bridge.  The WV 9 upgrade is really nice though, it makes getting to the Casino in Charles Town that much easier ;-)

The Washington MPO model models Jefferson County, even though the county is not part of the Washington region for MPO purposes.  Jefferson County is part of the Hagerstown, Maryland MPO.

The Washington MPO model extends beyond the MPO's counties in most directions, at least one county out, sometimes 2.  It reduces the impact of external trips on the travel demand forecasting process.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on April 24, 2013, 03:46:49 PM
Drove from Springfield to Mclean today around 11:00 A.M.

Toll was $2.05.

Saw  between 40 and 45 cars using the lanes in the southbound (Outer Loop) direction.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on April 24, 2013, 03:51:32 PM
Last night on the way downtown for the Caps game I heard on the radio that there had been a serious crash in the general-purpose lanes between Route 29 and Gallows Road that had spilled over into the right lane of the Express Lanes. Anyone know any details? In particular, I'm curious to know what, if any effect, it had on the toll rates.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mtantillo on April 24, 2013, 04:12:37 PM
Last night on the way downtown for the Caps game I heard on the radio that there had been a serious crash in the general-purpose lanes between Route 29 and Gallows Road that had spilled over into the right lane of the Express Lanes. Anyone know any details? In particular, I'm curious to know what, if any effect, it had on the toll rates.

Why not look up historical toll rates for the approximate time?
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on April 24, 2013, 04:35:32 PM
Last night on the way downtown for the Caps game I heard on the radio that there had been a serious crash in the general-purpose lanes between Route 29 and Gallows Road that had spilled over into the right lane of the Express Lanes. Anyone know any details? In particular, I'm curious to know what, if any effect, it had on the toll rates.

Why not look up historical toll rates for the approximate time?

D'oh. Good point. Not sure why I didn't think of that.  :ded:
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on April 24, 2013, 06:55:31 PM
Why not look up historical toll rates for the approximate time?

Was not aware of that capability.  Thanks for pointing it out!

495 Express Lanes southbound entering south of Va. 193 yesterday at 1800 showed $0.45 to Jones Branch; $2.70 to I-66; and $7.40 to I-395/I-95.

At 1900, the tolls were $0.35 to Jones Branch; $1.20 to I-66; and $3.95 to I-395/I-95.


However, the user interface is pretty clunky.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on April 27, 2013, 05:45:02 PM
WTOP Radio: Alexandria group wants I-95 ramp delayed (http://www.wtop.com/134/3301921/Alexandria-group-fights-I-95-ramp)

Quote
ALEXANDRIA, Va. - Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton met with a group calling for a delay to a ramp that will end the Interstate 95 HOT Lanes in Alexandria.

Quote
The Concerned Residents of Landmark met with Connaughton, Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille and Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova on Friday about the terminus ramp, which will be located just north of Edsall Road at Turkeycock Run.

Quote
The ramp will end the HOT Lanes, meaning any vehicles with less than three passengers would have to exit during rush hours.

Quote
"VDOT did what they are supposed to do and they ran the project by the Federal Highway Administration," says Connaughton. "The issue really is how to balance out the traffic, if there's a way to do it."

Quote
The group hired Maureen Barrett, an environmental engineer, to study the toxin levels that the ramp would produce. She found that nitrogen dioxide and PM2.5, or fine particulate matter, would be above acceptable levels on the ramp, partially due to the expected traffic. Those toxins could result in respiratory issues and increased hospitalization.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on April 27, 2013, 06:48:00 PM
It's a bit late to be objecting to it when construction is as far along as it is. I understand their displeasure, but the fight should have occurred a lot sooner if they were serious. The City comes across as a bunch of BANANAs (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anybody).
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mtantillo on April 27, 2013, 08:21:27 PM
It's a bit late to be objecting to it when construction is as far along as it is. I understand their displeasure, but the fight should have occurred a lot sooner if they were serious. The City comes across as a bunch of BANANAs (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anybody).

Well, I can sort of see their point.  When they did the original studies, that ramp was not an endpoint ramp, now it is. 

But if FHWA approved....
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: oscar on April 27, 2013, 08:31:36 PM
Concerned Residents of Landmark really should be complaining to Arlington County, whose lawsuit led to the HOT lanes ending in Alexandria.  Or better still, they should have spoken up during the County's lawsuit, to try to head off the problem they are now complaining about. 

Inconveniently, though, IIRC at least one of CRL's lawyers also represented Arlington County in its lawsuit against VDOT, so we should not expect any CRL lawsuit to target Arlington County.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on April 28, 2013, 09:53:23 AM
Concerned Residents of Landmark really should be complaining to Arlington County, whose lawsuit led to the HOT lanes ending in Alexandria.  Or better still, they should have spoken up during the County's lawsuit, to try to head off the problem they are now complaining about.

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes

Inconveniently, though, IIRC at least one of CRL's lawyers also represented Arlington County in its lawsuit against VDOT, so we should not expect any CRL lawsuit to target Arlington County.

That is correct.  Though (IMO) I never thought that Arlington County's arguments would have had much merit in a trial before the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia (anti-highway lawsuits in federal courts in the 4th Circuit states in recent years have not usually had much success).  The only one that met with any sympathy (that I am aware of) was against the Monroeville (N.C.) Bypass, where a 4th Circuit panel ordered a remand for reasons related to air quality.

The people opposed to this project are attempting to raise PM 2.5 as an issue, though I don't see that working, since I-395 is not a favored "through" route for trucking.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on April 28, 2013, 10:13:23 AM
It's a bit late to be objecting to it when construction is as far along as it is. I understand their displeasure, but the fight should have occurred a lot sooner if they were serious. The City comes across as a bunch of BANANAs (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anybody).

Agreed. Though Alexandria did finally drop its lawsuit against the reconstructed Wilson Bridge (leaving the Sierra Club to go it alone - their victory in the U.S. District Court (in D.C.) was reversed by the Circuit Court (http://www.cadc.uscourts.gov/internet/opinions.nsf/C8D20D3B4745700985256F15006C78FB/$file/99-5220a.txt) in December 1999, which allowed construction to get started after about 10 years of planning).

And the reconstruction of U.S. 1 to straighten it out at Monroe Avenue (https://maps.google.com/maps?q=u.s.+1+%26+monroe+avenue,+alexandria,+va&hl=en&ll=38.820752,-77.049587&spn=0.009345,0.01929&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=38.826758,79.013672&t=h&hnear=E+Monroe+Ave+%26+U.S.+1,+Alexandria,+Virginia+22301&z=16) where it crosses the former RF&P Railroad tracks has turned out to be a major improvement.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on May 08, 2013, 02:03:32 PM
TOLLROADSnews: How Fluor-Lane widened the 495 Capital Beltway from 8 to 12 lanes INTERVIEW (http://www.tollroadsnews.com/node/6539)

Quote
Maryland officials said recently that any improvements to the Capital Beltway would be nearly impossible given the traffic volumes (over 220,000 vehicles/day) and the need to maintain traffic through the works.  Well how did Virginia do it? They've just rebuilt ten interchanges, repaved, and widened from 8 to 12 lanes on 14 miles of the busiest portion of the Beltway between the I-95 Springfield Interchange and through Tysons Corner and the Dulles Toll Road.

Quote
The work was done by a Fluor-Lane joint venture under a $1.93b design-build contract with Capital Beltway Express LLC, the Transurban-led concessionaire that put up $1.52b. VDOT put up $0.41b. Fluor has a 10% stake in the express toll lanes concession.

Quote
We recently talked to Bob Portley, the Fluor-Lane joint venture's deputy project director for field operations in charge of the nearly five years of Beltway work.  (With completion of the Beltway work he has returned to Lane Construction where he is District Manager working out of Chantilly Virginia.)
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on May 08, 2013, 03:51:32 PM
I won't include a link to this first item because of reports of malware issues affecting Internet Explorer users who visit their website: WTOP reports Transurban requested that VDOT raise the speed limit in the 495 Express Lanes to 65 mph and VDOT is considering the request. Sounds like a good move to me, although I'd prefer 70 mph (which state law allows). No word on when they might decide. I can't really blame them for starting with a lower limit and then considering an increase instead of starting with a higher one and then lowering it, especially when the barrier on the right side of the lanes (plastic bollards) is quite different (and potentially more distracting at night due to the reflective tape on the bollards) than others we've seen in the DC area over the years.

This second item was quite a surprise to me: A bill was introduced this year to allow an 80-mph speed limit on toll roads in Virginia, including HO/T lanes, and the bill would also have eliminated the "or in excess of 80 mph" part of the reckless driving law. (http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?131+ful+HB1949) Not surprisingly, it was left in committee. I don't see Virginia allowing any 80-mph speed limits any time soon, but I think the "or in excess of 80 mph" provision ought to be scrapped because I think it's asinine to prosecute someone going 81 mph in a 70-mph zone for reckless driving based solely on speed.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on May 08, 2013, 06:32:06 PM
I won't include a link to this first item because of reports of malware issues affecting Internet Explorer users who visit their website: WTOP reports Transurban requested that VDOT raise the speed limit in the 495 Express Lanes to 65 mph and VDOT is considering the request. Sounds like a good move to me, although I'd prefer 70 mph (which state law allows). No word on when they might decide. I can't really blame them for starting with a lower limit and then considering an increase instead of starting with a higher one and then lowering it, especially when the barrier on the right side of the lanes (plastic bollards) is quite different (and potentially more distracting at night due to the reflective tape on the bollards) than others we've seen in the DC area over the years.

65 or 70 would be fine in those lanes.

Though I could see some of the usual-suspect groups raising objections (probably related to air quality).

This second item was quite a surprise to me: A bill was introduced this year to allow an 80-mph speed limit on toll roads in Virginia, including HO/T lanes, and the bill would also have eliminated the "or in excess of 80 mph" part of the reckless driving law. (http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?131+ful+HB1949) Not surprisingly, it was left in committee. I don't see Virginia allowing any 80-mph speed limits any time soon, but I think the "or in excess of 80 mph" provision ought to be scrapped because I think it's asinine to prosecute someone going 81 mph in a 70-mph zone for reckless driving based solely on speed.

I believe I have driven all toll roads and toll crossings in the Commonwealth, except the Gilmerton  Bridge, which is not a freeway-class road anyway.

Not sure that any of them ought to have a posted speed limit that high.  Especially not the Dulles Greenway, which has curves that are too sharp for most people to handle safely on a consistent bases when going that fast.

The road that could be posted with a limit that high is I-295, especially between I-64 (on the east side of Richmond, near Sandston) and I-95 just south of Petersburg in Prince George County.  Added bonus - an 80 MPH posted limit  might put an end to the Hopewell speed trap operation.

EDIT:  Made references to the I-64 and I-95 interchanges with  I-295 specific.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mtantillo on May 11, 2013, 12:22:27 AM
Quote from: cpzilliacus
The road that could be posted with a limit that high is I-295, especially between I-64 and I-95.  Added bonus - an 80 MPH posted limit  might put an end to the Hopewell speed trap operation.

Isn't all of I-295 between I-64 and I-95? ;-)
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on May 11, 2013, 12:35:10 AM
Quote from: cpzilliacus
The road that could be posted with a limit that high is I-295, especially between I-64 and I-95.  Added bonus - an 80 MPH posted limit  might put an end to the Hopewell speed trap operation.

Isn't all of I-295 between I-64 and I-95? ;-)

Yes, of course it is. I should have been more specific. 

And I will be in just a moment thanks to the "modify" feature.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: maplestar on May 12, 2013, 04:01:23 PM
I believe I have driven all toll roads and toll crossings in the Commonwealth, except the Gilmerton  Bridge, which is not a freeway-class road anyway.

Not sure that any of them ought to have a posted speed limit that high.  Especially not the Dulles Greenway, which has curves that are too sharp for most people to handle safely on a consistent bases when going that fast.

Perhaps you mean the Jordan Bridge instead of the Gilmerton? The Gilmerton is a non-tolled bridge on US 13, while the South Norfolk Jordan Bridge is a toll bridge on VA 337 that crosses the Elizabeth River further north.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on May 13, 2013, 06:20:03 PM
I believe I have driven all toll roads and toll crossings in the Commonwealth, except the Gilmerton  Bridge, which is not a freeway-class road anyway.

Not sure that any of them ought to have a posted speed limit that high.  Especially not the Dulles Greenway, which has curves that are too sharp for most people to handle safely on a consistent bases when going that fast.

Perhaps you mean the Jordan Bridge instead of the Gilmerton? The Gilmerton is a non-tolled bridge on US 13, while the South Norfolk Jordan Bridge is a toll bridge on VA 337 that crosses the Elizabeth River further north.

Yes, I did.  Been a lot  of years since I visited Hampton Roads.

The South Norfolk Jordan is the one I was  thinking about.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on May 15, 2013, 11:12:14 AM
[This has specific references to the HOV/Toll lanes in Northern Virginia]

TOLLROADSnews: Toll express lanes can get investment grade ratings but it will be tough - Moody's  (http://www.tollroadsnews.com/node/6545)

Quote
Negative on 495ELs

The Moody's report stresses the VA495ELs as "well below" the first year's target:

"We believe that the underperformance of the HOT lanes reflects soft economic conditions in the service area, which results in motorists being unwilling to pay a toll for time savings. The original traffic study was done before 2008, and projections may not be achievable given that they did not consider the impact of the economic recession.

Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on May 15, 2013, 11:55:50 AM
I agree with the statement by Fluor/Transurban in that article that the "pipe" design was undesirable on the Beltway because the majority of the traffic on that side of the Beltway is not thru traffic from Springfield all the way to the Legion Bridge (or vice versa).
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on June 07, 2013, 05:24:01 PM
The Washington Post reports that VDOT approved the 65-mph speed limit in the Beltway Express Lanes and that signs should be changed on or about June 24.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/dr-gridlock/wp/2013/06/07/speed-limit-going-up-on-495-express-lanes/
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on June 08, 2013, 01:17:52 PM
WTOP reports on the speed limit increase and notes that the 85th percentile speed is 70 mph: http://wtop.com/654/3351447/Faster-ride-on-Beltway-Express-Lanes
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: Mapmikey on June 24, 2013, 06:48:28 AM
The 65 mph shields have been uncovered on the 495 Express Lanes...

Not bad for a road with no shoulders (left or right) for 95% of it and how many freeways have you seen where on ramps from both sides converge at the same spot along with a left exit ramp very nearby (SB approaching VA 7) have a speed limit of 65?

http://goo.gl/maps/YoZvJ (http://goo.gl/maps/YoZvJ)

Mapmikey
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on June 24, 2013, 01:31:00 PM
The 65 mph shields have been uncovered on the 495 Express Lanes...

Not bad for a road with no shoulders (left or right) for 95% of it and how many freeways have you seen where on ramps from both sides converge at the same spot along with a left exit ramp very nearby (SB approaching VA 7) have a speed limit of 65?

http://goo.gl/maps/YoZvJ (http://goo.gl/maps/YoZvJ)

I saw the new 65 signs as well.

Had to drive from Springfield to Va. 123 in the 8 A.M. hour today, and for the first time, I feel the I-495 HOV/Toll lanes actually looked busy!  Toll to go all the way from the southern entrance between Springfield and the north end beyond Va. 267 was $6.70 (that's the highest I have seen it so far).
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on June 24, 2013, 02:46:48 PM
WTOP Radio: Speed limit increased on Virginia's Express Lanes (http://www.wtop.com/?nid=41&sid=3368343)
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on June 25, 2013, 01:29:50 AM
TOLLROADSnews: Capital Beltway toll lanes carrying more traffic faster (http://www.tollroadsnews.com/node/6598)
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on July 10, 2013, 11:25:10 AM
TOLLROADSnews: 495 Capital beltway toll lanes see leap in traffic & $s in June quarter from weak first months (http://www.tollroadsnews.com/node/6630)

Quote
2013-07-09: The high profile toll lanes project on the DC Capital Beltway saw a major leap in traffic and revenue in the June quarter according to data released to the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) by Transurban, the concessionaire. Toll revenue increased 82% on the March quarter with an increase of 38% in average weekday traffic and a 32% higher in the average toll.

Quote
Revenue in the latest quarter was running at an annual rate of $29m vs $16m in the first quarter.

Quote
Workday traffic was running 35,000 trips per day Q1 vs 26,300 Q2. Average daily traffic (including weekends) in the June quarter was 28,900 vs 21,000 in the March quarter.

Quote
The average toll - which is set dynamically based on density in the lanes and tolls needed to maximize revenues while providing a guaranteed minimum 45mph trip - went from $2.10 to $2.78, by our estimates.

Quote
The release to the ASX says that the last workday of the June quarter saw record traffic - 42,998 trips and $78k revenue. That traffic number suggests continuing strong growth through the quarter, although the annualized revenue number is down slightly on the quarterly average.

Quote
92% of traffic is tollpaying, Transurban says.

Dr. Gridlock of the Washington Post: More drivers use Beltway express lanes, report says (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/dr-gridlock/wp/2013/07/10/more-drivers-use-beltway-express-lanes-report-says/)

Quote
As a long-time Beltway driver, I had a pretty good idea what lay ahead, so I chose the express lanes. But I’ve heard from many drivers who aren’t prepared to make that choice. Those who do choose the express lanes sometimes write in to say they “guessed wrong” because they didn’t notice much traffic in the regular lanes. (It’s one of those few consumer choices where you can see exactly what you would have gotten had you selected the competitor.)

Quote
On Tuesday afternoon, the wisdom of my choice wasn’t confirmed till I was in the last mile and a half of the 14-mile trip. The regular lanes in Tysons were stop-and-go. I cruised by them at 65 mph, the new speed limit for the express lanes.

Quote
Then I got to one of the other bothersome things about the express lanes: They end. North of the Dulles Toll Road, I had to merge back into the Beltway’s heavily congested regular lanes.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on July 10, 2013, 04:36:34 PM
I'm curious what the signage experts on this forum think about the situation shown in the video below (click to play). The question is—should the truck driver receive a ticket? A fellow who posts in Dr. Gridlock's blog at the Washington Post contends that signs restricting lane usage based on number of axles are unenforceable as a matter of law. I rather suspect his argument would get nowhere in Fairfax Circuit Court, but I'm wondering what anyone else has to say.

(I'm a novice at video editing, so apologies in advance for the slight choppiness at times. I think the software altered the fps rate from what my dashcam uses.)

(http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Dashcam%20videos/th_TruckExpressLanes_zpsfa8b5d6d.jpg) (http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Dashcam%20videos/TruckExpressLanes_zpsfa8b5d6d.mp4)
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on July 10, 2013, 05:39:40 PM
I'm curious what the signage experts on this forum think about the situation shown in the video below (click to play). The question is—should the truck driver receive a ticket? A fellow who posts in Dr. Gridlock's blog at the Washington Post contends that signs restricting lane usage based on number of axles are unenforceable as a matter of law. I rather suspect his argument would get nowhere in Fairfax Circuit Court, but I'm wondering what anyone else has to say.

I have seen tractor trailers stopped by the VSP - more than once - on the I-495 HOV/toll lanes.

The signs are plenty  clear enough. 

IMO, guilty of violating § 46.2-830 (http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+46.2-830) of the Code of Virginia. 

Relevant part of § 46.2-830:

Quote
All drivers of vehicles shall obey lawfully erected traffic control devices.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on July 10, 2013, 05:52:27 PM
I've seen them stopped as well, and from that driver's behavior I think he realized he was in the wrong place. My question is more in a general sense—is a restriction based on number of axles valid and enforceable? I don't know why it wouldn't be, especially when toll rates are often set on that basis, but the other guy was pretty adamant when he posted about it in the past (username "Russtinator," FWIW; he hasn't commented recently, but in general he was one of the more reasonable and knowledgeable people who commented there).
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: Alps on July 10, 2013, 06:43:44 PM
I've seen them stopped as well, and from that driver's behavior I think he realized he was in the wrong place. My question is more in a general sense—is a restriction based on number of axles valid and enforceable? I don't know why it wouldn't be, especially when toll rates are often set on that basis, but the other guy was pretty adamant when he posted about it in the past (username "Russtinator," FWIW; he hasn't commented recently, but in general he was one of the more reasonable and knowledgeable people who commented there).
It's entirely enforceable. Obviously, it's a state or even municipal-level code, but if you can restrict roads by vehicle weight and height, why not other characteristics like number of axles?
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on July 10, 2013, 07:41:10 PM
I've seen them stopped as well, and from that driver's behavior I think he realized he was in the wrong place. My question is more in a general sense—is a restriction based on number of axles valid and enforceable?

Yes, Steve is absolutely correct.  States can (and do) enforce the number of axles allowed (or not allowed, as the case might be).

I don't know why it wouldn't be, especially when toll rates are often set on that basis, but the other guy was pretty adamant when he posted about it in the past (username "Russtinator," FWIW; he hasn't commented recently, but in general he was one of the more reasonable and knowledgeable people who commented there).

Governments that run the transportation infrastructure must be able to restrict the number of axles in order to protect that infrastructure.  D.C.-area case in point - MacArthur Boulevard in Montgomery County, Md. between Great Falls and the D.C. line at Dalecarlia Reservoir.  It is posted to only allow motor vehicles with four wheels (or less) to use the road. 

Why is this?  Because the Washington Aqueduct (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington_Aqueduct), built in the mid-1800's by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (and still owned and operated by the Army) to supply drinking water to the District of Columbia, runs underneath. In addition to the aqueduct under MacArthur Boulevard, the low limit is in place to protect the massive (and magnificent) Union Arch Bridge (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Union_Arch_Bridge) which carries the aqueduct (and MacArthur Boulevard) over Cabin John Creek (and since the 1960's, the Cabin John Parkway, "secret" Md. 495X).

Water that flows through the Aqueduct is delivered to customers in D.C. and Northern Virginia (but not Maryland, even though very nearly all of the Aqueduct is in Maryland).  The only "customer" of the Aqueduct in Maryland is the Carderock Division of the Naval Surface Warfare Center (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carderock_Division_of_the_Naval_Surface_Warfare_Center), which uses raw water to fill the several large model basins (details here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Taylor_Model_Basin)) on its reservation.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mtantillo on July 11, 2013, 09:09:28 PM
I've seen them stopped as well, and from that driver's behavior I think he realized he was in the wrong place. My question is more in a general sense—is a restriction based on number of axles valid and enforceable? I don't know why it wouldn't be, especially when toll rates are often set on that basis, but the other guy was pretty adamant when he posted about it in the past (username "Russtinator," FWIW; he hasn't commented recently, but in general he was one of the more reasonable and knowledgeable people who commented there).
It's entirely enforceable. Obviously, it's a state or even municipal-level code, but if you can restrict roads by vehicle weight and height, why not other characteristics like number of axles?

In Virginia, there has to be a law backing up a regulatory sign (that whole "lawfully posted" thing).  So no, you cannot just go posting regulatory signs that conflict with state laws.  Somewhere there's a law to back that up. 

I think axles are a better way to restrict traffic than by vehicle weight, just in that there is no way a driver should not know how many axles on his vehicle, whereas he might not know how much his loaded vehicle weighs at any given time.  Georgia and South Carolina sign the "left lane restrictions" based on the number of wheels..."no trucks over 6 wheels in left lane".  Guess each "dualy" axle counts as 4 wheels. 
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: froggie on July 12, 2013, 07:09:00 AM
Quote
In Virginia, there has to be a law backing up a regulatory sign (that whole "lawfully posted" thing).  So no, you cannot just go posting regulatory signs that conflict with state laws.  Somewhere there's a law to back that up.

Given that the I-64 Reversible HOV lanes in Norfolk have been signed "No Trucks" for years, I presume there's some sort of law on the books that would allow VDOT to restrict truck traffic.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on July 12, 2013, 03:31:34 PM
Quote
In Virginia, there has to be a law backing up a regulatory sign (that whole "lawfully posted" thing).  So no, you cannot just go posting regulatory signs that conflict with state laws.  Somewhere there's a law to back that up.

Given that the I-64 Reversible HOV lanes in Norfolk have been signed "No Trucks" for years, I presume there's some sort of law on the books that would allow VDOT to restrict truck traffic.

And strangely, the HOV lanes on I-95/I-395 have not restricted trucks since HOV-4 traffic was first allowed in the 1970's - though trucks must comply with the HOV restriction during the time that those are in effect.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on July 12, 2013, 03:38:18 PM
I've seen them stopped as well, and from that driver's behavior I think he realized he was in the wrong place. My question is more in a general sense—is a restriction based on number of axles valid and enforceable? I don't know why it wouldn't be, especially when toll rates are often set on that basis, but the other guy was pretty adamant when he posted about it in the past (username "Russtinator," FWIW; he hasn't commented recently, but in general he was one of the more reasonable and knowledgeable people who commented there).
It's entirely enforceable. Obviously, it's a state or even municipal-level code, but if you can restrict roads by vehicle weight and height, why not other characteristics like number of axles?

In Virginia, there has to be a law backing up a regulatory sign (that whole "lawfully posted" thing).  So no, you cannot just go posting regulatory signs that conflict with state laws.  Somewhere there's a law to back that up.

That makes sense.  I don't think a judge would be too enthused about convicting someone for a traffic violation for disregarding a sign that was effectively illegal.

I think axles are a better way to restrict traffic than by vehicle weight, just in that there is no way a driver should not know how many axles on his vehicle, whereas he might not know how much his loaded vehicle weighs at any given time.  Georgia and South Carolina sign the "left lane restrictions" based on the number of wheels..."no trucks over 6 wheels in left lane".  Guess each "dualy" axle counts as 4 wheels.

Agreed that axles are a better way to restrict trucks.  Clear and not usually ambiguous (though it could be in the case of trucks (usually dump trucks and trash trucks) with "drop" axles).

I have seen the truck restrictions on I-26 in Charleston and also on I-95 in Florence.

I have driven in Georgia, but I don't recall that sort of signage there.

A dually is going to be 6 wheels, but such trucks don't usually have any problem keeping up with fast-moving traffic.   But if they are pulling  a big trailer, then they don't always run quite as fast.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on July 12, 2013, 03:56:15 PM
Quote
In Virginia, there has to be a law backing up a regulatory sign (that whole "lawfully posted" thing).  So no, you cannot just go posting regulatory signs that conflict with state laws.  Somewhere there's a law to back that up.

Given that the I-64 Reversible HOV lanes in Norfolk have been signed "No Trucks" for years, I presume there's some sort of law on the books that would allow VDOT to restrict truck traffic.

And strangely, the HOV lanes on I-95/I-395 have not restricted trucks since HOV-4 traffic was first allowed in the 1970's - though trucks must comply with the HOV restriction during the time that those are in effect.

Except, of course, at their current southern end, where trucks are not permitted because they have to pass through the weigh station accessible solely from the general-purpose lanes.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on July 13, 2013, 10:21:20 AM
Quote
In Virginia, there has to be a law backing up a regulatory sign (that whole "lawfully posted" thing).  So no, you cannot just go posting regulatory signs that conflict with state laws.  Somewhere there's a law to back that up.

Given that the I-64 Reversible HOV lanes in Norfolk have been signed "No Trucks" for years, I presume there's some sort of law on the books that would allow VDOT to restrict truck traffic.

And strangely, the HOV lanes on I-95/I-395 have not restricted trucks since HOV-4 traffic was first allowed in the 1970's - though trucks must comply with the HOV restriction during the time that those are in effect.

Except, of course, at their current southern end, where trucks are not permitted because they have to pass through the weigh station accessible solely from the general-purpose lanes.

Yeah, though (at least for now) it is essentially impossible for the Virginia State Police to catch up to and stop scale evaders on the southbound side of I-95, since it is darned near impossible for a police car to reach that side from the scalehouse on the northbound side.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on July 14, 2013, 01:01:49 PM
[Mostly about the I-95 HOV/Toll lanes project]

Dr. Gridlock in the Washington Post: Don’t spend your summer in I-95 traffic (http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/dont-spend-your-summer-in-i-95-traffic/2013/07/13/3df6712c-e988-11e2-8f22-de4bd2a2bd39_story.html)

Quote
A stretch of heavily traveled highway in Northern Virginia has become one of the longest work zones in the nation this summer.

Quote
About 1,500 workers are turning a 29-mile section of Interstate 95 into the state’s latest high-occupancy toll lane project. The long-term impact on commuting in the D.C. region is likely to be enormous, but the short-term effects of summer travel also will be significant.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: NJRoadfan on July 14, 2013, 01:25:41 PM
If the NJ Turnpike can keep traffic moving without a problem in a major construction zone, I'd think Flour can.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on July 14, 2013, 02:20:34 PM
If the NJ Turnpike can keep traffic moving without a problem in a major construction zone, I'd think Flour can.

Conditions are different on I-95 in Northern Virginia.

The HOV/Toll lanes have been there for many years, and they have almost always provided additional (non-restricted) lane capacity in the peak-flow direction on weekends and holidays.  Usually southbound on Saturdays and northbound on Sundays. With this  project going on, those lanes are frequently closed all weekend, effectively removing a fair amount of "extra" capacity that motorists have gotten used to having, regardless of how many people in the car (since HOV restrictions in this corridor never apply on weekends and holidays - and even on weekdays, they expire at 6 P.M.).

Only the segment between Va. 610 (Garrisonville Road, Exit 143) and Va. 234 (Dumfries Road, Exit 152) is remotely like the New Jersey Turnpike widening project between 6 and 8A.  Unlike the Turnpike's project, where much of the work is taking place adjacent to but mostly beyond the existing 6 lanes of Turnpike, nearly all of the Fluor/Transurban work is in the (former) median of I-95 (which was designed with a generously wide median from the start).
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on August 23, 2013, 02:28:45 PM
WAMU Radio: Alexandria And Fairfax County Residents Give Up Fight Against I-95 Ramp (http://wamu.org/news/13/08/21/alexandria_and_fairfax_county_residents_give_up_fight_against_i_95_ramp)
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mc78andrew on September 30, 2013, 09:38:11 PM
So what's the verdict on the HOT lanes in northern VA?  Not from the tollers perspective...I'm more interested in the quality of life enhancements.

Sounds like it has helped if you are willing to pay a toll, but is off peak traffic any better with the complete rebuild of the general purpose lanes? 
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mtantillo on October 01, 2013, 10:48:40 AM
I say yes, it is a little better in the general purpose lanes. 
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on October 01, 2013, 10:55:17 AM
I've noticed the past few times I've headed towards Falls Church or Fair Oaks that the toll rates seem to have risen a bit again, with the run from Springfield to I-66 now apparently having a base rate of $1.50. Last week I paid $1.15 each way from Springfield to Route 29 (this per checking my online statement, since that particular trip's rate is never posted on the signs). It used to be 90¢ for that trip. I wonder if the higher rates are a function of increased use or whether something else is in play. It does seem to me that more people are using the Express Lanes but that traffic in them is still what I'd consider quite light.

I haven't had to drive on that part of the Beltway in rush hour in a while and so have no opinion about general-purpose lane traffic. (My trips in the general-purpose lanes lately have only been from Springfield to Route 236 anyway, which is a pretty short distance.)
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: Mapmikey on October 01, 2013, 11:30:46 AM
Pretty sure the rates have gone up again...the price at 5:30 a.m. never drops below $2.35 for the full trip anymore.

As for whether the HOT lanes have improved the mainline's quality of life, the answer is yes.  However, some of this is attributable to no longer having lanes closed throughout the workday that cause clogs that wouldn't clear by rush hour.

In the afternoon (4:45) the Outer Loop is generally moving well from VA 193 to I-66 followed by a slow stretch to Gallows Rd then open again to I-95/395.

The inner loop in the afternoon is still pretty terrible from VA 123 to the American Legion Bridge on a daily basis, which is to be expected until lanes are added to the I-270 split someday.

I travel too early in the morning to comment on how morning rush is doing...

Mapmikey
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on October 01, 2013, 01:43:37 PM
One other thought....while I normally use the Express Lanes to go to Tysons, my observation as I go through the area from I-66 to Route 7 (which I haven't done at rush hour in several months) is that the general-purpose lanes look a lot saner through there than they used to because of the reconstructed I-66 interchange. Probably the single biggest improvement on the Beltway as a result of this entire project was the redesign of the ramps from I-66 to the Beltway so that traffic now merges on the right instead of on the left. This is true for both sides of the Beltway, but it's more noticeable on the Inner Loop because so many people go from I-66 to Route 7. They no longer have to cut all the way across the Beltway in order to exit.

The removal of the left-lane exit from the Inner Loop to westbound I-66 is also a huge improvement because it eliminates the problem of drivers coming from US-50 who persisted in forcing their way across all four lanes to the left-side ramp instead of using the right-side exit as they were supposed to do. There are still some people who rely blindly on their sat-navs who get confused by the left-side exit being closed (they're easy to spot as they slow abruptly in the leftmost general-purpose lane looking for a nonexistent exit), but that's an issue of driver error and not a problem with the road's design.

The road is certainly in much better condition than it used to be. The general-purpose lanes now have reflectors augmenting the lane striping, which is a big improvement at night.

I definitely find myself sniggering at the idiots who wanted to declare the entire project a failure due to the crashes on the first three days the lanes were open last November. So many idiots seem to think a single day's experience is conclusive proof that something is a failure (though had the lanes been a smashing success on those days they'd have instead looked for ways to denigrate them). I haven't heard any reports of accidents at the lanes' beginning point in a good long time now.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mtantillo on October 01, 2013, 08:32:39 PM
The base toll rate must now have some kind of time of day function in it now.  Late at night (11PM) you can still pay $2.05 for the whole length.
But during normal hours, I have seen $2.50 as the price "floor".
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on October 01, 2013, 11:51:53 PM
The base toll rate must now have some kind of time of day function in it now.  Late at night (11PM) you can still pay $2.05 for the whole length.
But during normal hours, I have seen $2.50 as the price "floor".

Last spring, I saw the full trip rate (in the overnight hours) as low as $1.05 or maybe $1.35. 

At the WDCITE meeting, one of the Transurban managers said the prime goal in setting the toll (aside from collecting revenue) is to meet their contractual obligation that the speeds in those lanes never fall below 45 MPH (so far, they have not come close to that).
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: froggie on October 02, 2013, 02:00:06 AM
Hoo:  the addition of auxiliary lanes between 66 and Route 7 hasn't hurt either...
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on October 02, 2013, 07:44:49 AM
Hoo:  the addition of auxiliary lanes between 66 and Route 7 hasn't hurt either...

Very true. I didn't mention that only because it's harder to observe that new lane's effect from the Express Lanes than it is to see the reduced amount of lane-weaving.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: Mapmikey on October 02, 2013, 07:49:42 AM
Hoo:  the addition of auxiliary lanes between 66 and Route 7 hasn't hurt either...

This is only true on the inner loop.  For some reason they did not do this on the outer loop.

When I-66 WB backs up to the point that it backs up onto the outer loop, the lack of an auxiliary lane causes the beltway experience to be worse as there are plenty of people getting on the inner loop from VA 7 EB.

I also agree the inner loop reconfiguration at I-66 is a tremendous success.  Even at 5:45 in the morning there was a tremendous amount of zig-zagging across all lanes between US 50 and VA 7 under the old configuration.

Mapmikey
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mtantillo on October 02, 2013, 10:35:23 AM
Hoo:  the addition of auxiliary lanes between 66 and Route 7 hasn't hurt either...

This is only true on the inner loop.  For some reason they did not do this on the outer loop.

When I-66 WB backs up to the point that it backs up onto the outer loop, the lack of an auxiliary lane causes the beltway experience to be worse as there are plenty of people getting on the inner loop from VA 7 EB.

I also agree the inner loop reconfiguration at I-66 is a tremendous success.  Even at 5:45 in the morning there was a tremendous amount of zig-zagging across all lanes between US 50 and VA 7 under the old configuration.

Mapmikey

The last thing you would ever want to do is push more traffic onto I-66 via an extra Beltway lane.  66 is bad enough.  The ramp is long enough where 66 backups onto 495 are less common than they used to be. 
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on October 02, 2013, 12:46:30 PM
The last thing you would ever want to do is push more traffic onto I-66 via an extra Beltway lane.  66 is bad enough.  The ramp is long enough where 66 backups onto 495 are less common than they used to be. 

IMO, the first thing I would like to do with I-66 between U.S. 50 and Fair Oaks and I-495 is widen it, or to impose pricing on all lanes and then widen it with the resulting revenue.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on October 02, 2013, 12:54:48 PM
The last thing you would ever want to do is push more traffic onto I-66 via an extra Beltway lane.  66 is bad enough.  The ramp is long enough where 66 backups onto 495 are less common than they used to be. 

IMO, the first thing I would like to do with I-66 between U.S. 50 and Fair Oaks and I-495 is widen it, or to impose pricing on all lanes and then widen it with the resulting revenue.

I'd like to see some kind of two-lane express roadway in each direction with no exits between the Beltway and at least Fair Oaks. Not necessarily an HOV or HO/T roadway, either, just some sort of express roadway that would segregate the local and longer-distance traffic (similar, I suppose, to the Wilson Bridge or I-270 but without any opportunity for traffic to exit to or from the express roadway). If the system were to extend further west I would allow for a crossover system, perhaps similar to Toronto's Basketweave, to allow for access to and from the Fairfax County Parkway.

Of course, I recognize the massive impracticality of that due to the space limitations and the even more astronomical cost of double-decking the highway.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on October 10, 2013, 10:36:56 PM
The last thing you would ever want to do is push more traffic onto I-66 via an extra Beltway lane.  66 is bad enough.  The ramp is long enough where 66 backups onto 495 are less common than they used to be. 

IMO, the first thing I would like to do with I-66 between U.S. 50 and Fair Oaks and I-495 is widen it, or to impose pricing on all lanes and then widen it with the resulting revenue.

I'd like to see some kind of two-lane express roadway in each direction with no exits between the Beltway and at least Fair Oaks. Not necessarily an HOV or HO/T roadway, either, just some sort of express roadway that would segregate the local and longer-distance traffic (similar, I suppose, to the Wilson Bridge or I-270 but without any opportunity for traffic to exit to or from the express roadway). If the system were to extend further west I would allow for a crossover system, perhaps similar to Toronto's Basketweave, to allow for access to and from the Fairfax County Parkway.

That would be an excellent idea.  I think the traffic is there to support such an improvement, even if it were tolled.

Of course, I recognize the massive impracticality of that due to the space limitations and the even more astronomical cost of double-decking the highway.

Yeah, the right-of-way constraints on  I-66 in Fairfax County between U.S. 50 at Fair Oaks and I-495 are pretty bad.  And a median viaduct similar to the one on I-110 (Harbor Freeway) in Los Angeles County is big money, made even more complex by the presence of the Orange Line in the median.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on October 10, 2013, 10:38:31 PM
TOLLROADSnews: Capital beltway toll express lanes traffic and revenue grows in 3rd quarter of operation but growth slower (http://www.tollroadsnews.com/node/6774)

Quote
2013-10-09: Transurban's US showpiece 495 Express Lanes showed continued growth in traffic and revenue in their third quarter of operation, but a quiet summer (July and most of August) slowed growth of patronage compared to the June quarter's big surge on the slow first full quarter of operation.

Quote
Average workday traffic rose in the September to 37.6k from 35.0K in the June quarter and 26.3k in the March quarter. On  this trajectory traffic in the last quarter could be around 41k which would make a whole year's 35k. The Stantec investment-grade traffic and revenue forecast dated February 2007 projected the first full year would produce 66k average workday trips (p5 Table 1), so it would turn out about half that - a shortfall of 47% on the guess of 41k for the final quarter of this year.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: froggie on October 11, 2013, 02:29:23 AM
As I recall, the MIS that was done about 10 years ago suggested a 2-lane, barrier-separated, reversible HOV facility on 66 between the Beltway and at least Fair Oaks (I believe it went further west).

It should also be noted that, per the origin-destination study that was part of the Tier 1 Draft EIS earlier this year, over half the traffic that's on I-66 at the Beltway either got on from or is exiting to Nutley, 123, or 50/Fair Oaks, with half of that (so a quarter overall) to/from Nutley St alone.  Which such a reversible roadway with no ramps between Fair Oaks and the Beltway would help those coming from further west, it's of limited benefit to half of the I-66 traffic at the Beltway.

Farther west, there are also large volumes of traffic that enter EB/exit WB at 28 and exit EB/enter WB at Fairfax County Pkwy.

I believe we've also discussed this ad nauseum in another thread.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on October 13, 2013, 04:21:10 PM
As I recall, the MIS that was done about 10 years ago suggested a 2-lane, barrier-separated, reversible HOV facility on 66 between the Beltway and at least Fair Oaks (I believe it went further west).

I believe that work was done with the discredited "Dulles" travel demand forecasting model - the only project it was ever used on except for Dulles Rail.

Still, that would be a huge improvement over what is there now - but would require some pretty expensive ramps to connect to the the HOV/Toll lanes at I-495. 

It should also be noted that, per the origin-destination study that was part of the Tier 1 Draft EIS earlier this year, over half the traffic that's on I-66 at the Beltway either got on from or is exiting to Nutley, 123, or 50/Fair Oaks, with half of that (so a quarter overall) to/from Nutley St alone.  Which such a reversible roadway with no ramps between Fair Oaks and the Beltway would help those coming from further west, it's of limited benefit to half of the I-66 traffic at the Beltway.

Removing traffic from the overcrowded conventional lanes would still help everyone using that corridor.

Farther west, there are also large volumes of traffic that enter EB/exit WB at 28 and exit EB/enter WB at Fairfax County Pkwy.

And that is likely where there will be more growth in the future.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on October 13, 2013, 04:23:17 PM
TOLLROADSnews: 495 Express Lanes went to financing in 2010 with boom-time forecasts from mid-decade - huge $-shortfall now (http://www.tollroadsnews.com/node/6775)

Quote
The 495 Express Lanes went to the capital markets at the end of 2010 using the same traffic and revenue forecasting done four and five years earlier in the boom times of 2005 and 2006. Seeking $589m of 2047 senior lien 35-year bonds in mid-December 2010 we now know they based their financial plan on the same Stantec traffic and revenue forecasts published February 2007 and conducted in the pre-recession years 2005 and 2006.

Quote
The end-2010 Offering Statement for the bonds simply takes the Stantec forecasts and inflates the revenue numbers from 2004-$s to nominal or current year $s. This made their forecast for toll revenue for 2013 $54.7m.

Quote
We reported from the Stantec Investment Grade Traffic and Revenue forecast in 2007 toll revenue in the first year of operation as $46.1m. Those were 2004-$s.

Quote
The outlines of the financial plan for the 495 Express Lanes at financial close are shown in a one page Debt Service Coverage Table (S-17) 2013 to 2047.

Quote
We've summarized some of the main numbers given through 2020 in the table nearby.

Quote
Tolls for 2013 were put at $54.7m, other revenues such as penalty payments $5.5m for total revenue of $60.2m. Against that are operating expenses put at $31.3m for an operating surplus of $28.8m. Debt service is $23m so there's a small cash flow of $5.9m projected to lenders.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on October 16, 2013, 04:48:11 PM
Washington Post's Dr. Gridlock: I-95 HOT lanes will be a new experience with tolling for some (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/dr-gridlock/wp/2013/10/16/i-95-hot-lanes-will-be-a-new-experience-with-tolling-for-some/)

Quote
The 95 Express Lanes project, a 29-mile road work zone in Northern Virginia, is half done and on schedule to be finished by late 2014, Virginia officials say. The high-occupancy toll lanes in the middle of Interstate 95 should open to traffic in early 2015.

Quote
I’ve made a distinction in previous postings between tolling new lanes, like the HOT lanes the Capital Beltway, and tolling existing lanes — the sort of thing that Robert Poole of the Reason Foundation has proposed to finance the rebuilding and upgrading of our entire Interstate system. Drivers hate to pay tolls, but they’re more accepting of tolls if it’s for something new, an element that Poole takes into account in his proposal.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on October 30, 2013, 03:36:29 PM
WTOP Radio: High tolls hit some express lane motorists by surprise (http://www.wtop.com/120/3494329/Toll-shock-on-Beltway-Express-Lanes)

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. - It's been a question since the 495 Express Lanes were first proposed on the Beltway in Virginia: How much will people be willing to pay to save time?

Quote
Wednesday morning put that question to the test.


Quote
The rain made the morning commute along the Capital Beltway slow and dreary. For many drivers, the faster ride on the Express Lanes may have looked enticing -- until they saw the toll rate.

Quote
Alexandria resident Brian Downey tweeted his surprise at the $9.50 toll.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on October 30, 2013, 03:50:12 PM
It says he saw the $9.50 toll and decided not to use the lanes. That seems to indicate the system is working exactly the way it's supposed to work.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on October 30, 2013, 04:10:42 PM
It says he saw the $9.50 toll and decided not to use the lanes. That seems to indicate the system is working exactly the way it's supposed to work.

Agreed.  The whole point of these lanes is to keep them running at 45 MPH or better, no matter what happens in the adjacent non-managed lanes.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: NJRoadfan on October 30, 2013, 04:49:25 PM
The question is, were there any cars in the lanes or was it a ghost town?
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on October 30, 2013, 05:24:09 PM
The question is, were there any cars in the lanes or was it a ghost town?

Beats me. I didn't have to go that way this morning. But remember the cited figure was the toll to drive the entire distance. If you exit at an earlier point, the toll will be lower, possibly by a significant amount. I believe I heard on the radio in my semi-groggy state after waking up this morning that there was a serious accident in the Beltway's general-purpose lanes near the Dulles exit, which is a mile or so south of the Express Lanes' northern end. That means the main incentive to use the lanes would be for people at the northern end heading to Maryland or the GW Parkway—they'd want to bypass the accident. So if you were driving from, say, Springfield to Merrifield (US-29), the toll might conceivably be a lot lower than the $9.50 if there's less likelihood of the lanes being congested in that area (although, from what I found on their website just now, that was not the case at 8:00 this morning).

The thing that is difficult for people in the DC area to understand about those lanes is that the system is supposed to ensure they're NOT congested (as cpzilliacus notes). I think it's quite understandable why people see the lanes flowing freely and assume that means "nobody's using them" or that "not enough" people are using them. We're conditioned to see free-flowing roads in a busy metropolitan area as being under-utilized, especially when the adjacent "free" Beltway lanes are often at a near standstill. But the variable-rate toll system is supposed to keep the Express Lanes moving. By raising the toll, they price out people who aren't willing to pay, and in turn other people who are willing to pay (or who meet the HOV requirements) get a faster ride.

Don't know whether I've posted it previously, but here was my video from a Monday morning in July. Traffic out in the "free" lanes was a lot lighter then compared to what's typical in October.

(http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Dashcam%20videos/th_2013-07-15AMHOTlanes_zpsff58f6d1.jpg) (http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Dashcam%20videos/2013-07-15AMHOTlanes_zpsff58f6d1.mp4)
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on October 30, 2013, 09:25:19 PM
The question is, were there any cars in the lanes or was it a ghost town?

I would assume, given that the system is heavily instrumented and monitored, that if the toll was that high, there was plenty of traffic in them.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: Mapmikey on October 31, 2013, 07:41:28 AM
My own casual observation has been that when the toll in the afternoons SB is between $4.50-5.50, it is still pretty wide open in the HOT lanes and 65 mph is achievable.

I have not witnessed a toll over $7 so I have no observations about the volume of the HOT lanes at that point.

It appears to me the toll rises at the least little addition to traffic on the HOT lanes.  My own conspiracy theory is that if the toll is low, drivers think the regular lanes must be free-flowing (or nearly so) and won't use the lanes, so the tolls rise quickly giving people the thought that the regular lanes must have problems so they feel the need to use the toll lanes which are now at higher rates.

But I have definitely seen the toll in the $5 range when the regular lanes were still pretty good throughout.

Another thing to try to watch for this holiday season...suppose lots of people use the toll lanes to get to the Tyson's exits making the HOT lanes crowded just around Tysons.  Will that drive the full-length toll up anyway?

Mapmikey
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: jeffandnicole on October 31, 2013, 08:24:04 AM
The thing that is difficult for people in the DC area to understand about those lanes is that the system is supposed to ensure they're NOT congested (as cpzilliacus notes). I think it's quite understandable why people see the lanes flowing freely and assume that means "nobody's using them" or that "not enough" people are using them.

EZ Pass went thru the same growing pains (and some people still think that way as well).  Motorists would be sitting in the cash lanes, look at the 'empty' EZ Pass lanes, and wonder why no one uses them.  Some of these people think that the EZ Pass lane lines should be just as long as those paying cash.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on November 01, 2013, 02:58:56 PM
Dr. Gridlock of the Washington Post: Some drivers still uncomfortable with year-old HOT lanes (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/dr-gridlock/wp/2013/11/01/some-drivers-still-uncomfortable-with-year-old-hot-lanes/)

Quote
While the Virginia government is responsible for the type of tolling system used on the express lanes, the Virginia Department of Transportation doesn’t set the tolls. The tolls are set by Transurban, the private company that operates the lanes under a long-term lease with Virginia. The toll system was set up to do two basic things: allow the private consortium of the Transurban and Fluor companies to get a return on their investment in building and operating the lanes, and regulate the flow of traffic onto the lanes to avoid congestion, making the trip in the tolled lanes more reliable than the trip in the regular lanes.

Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on November 01, 2013, 03:03:13 PM
I have not witnessed a toll over $7 so I have no observations about the volume of the HOT lanes at that point.

I have seen them over $7 once - on a September afternoon near Tysons Corner to head south. The weather was bad, and the "free" lanes were at a near-standstill. 

I would gladly have paid $7 or $9 to avoid that mess (though I was not going that way at the time).
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on November 09, 2013, 05:01:29 PM
Washington Post's Dr. Gridlock: Year-old Beltway express lanes sell time to D.C. area customers beset by congestion (http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/year-old-beltway-express-lanes-sell-time-to-dc-area-customers-beset-by-congestion/2013/11/09/11f11760-47cc-11e3-bf0c-cebf37c6f484_story.html)

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Adam Epling, who lives near Manassas and commutes to Tysons Corner, is the type of customer that operators of the Capital Beltway express lanes envisioned in their business plan for a highway.

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They’re selling time, and he’s buying.

Quote
Before the express lanes opened, Epling said, his travel time could be as much as 90 minutes each way on the 46-mile round trip. Most days, taking Interstate 66 to the Beltway was out of the question because of congestion.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on November 15, 2013, 11:05:10 AM
WTOP Radio: One year later: 495 Express Lane debate is between saving time and money (http://www.wtop.com/654/3505669/Express-users-Va-drivers-women)

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This weekend marks one year since the 495 Express Lanes opened, but drivers still struggle with whether a consistently fast commute -- even during rush hour -- is worth the price.

Quote
Throughout the last year, tolls have ranged from $0.25 to $9.75. Back on Oct. 30, tolls on the 495 Express Lanes climbed to $9.50. Tolls like those have some drivers questioning how high is too high? Is there a price where saving time on a commute is no longer worth it?

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"Even at $4 or $5 one way is pricey. $9.50 is way too much. In a tight economy people are strapped. It's just not a necessity. I would rather wait a few minutes," says Pete Harris of Reston, Va. who referred to them as "Lexus Lanes."

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The term is popular among opponents of toll lanes to point out that the prices allow the wealthy to have a faster commute, leaving normal everyday workers behind in traffic.

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But even Tracey Stapleton of Falls Church, Va., who says she loves the express lanes and uses them frequently, admits her cap is well below $9.50 or $9.75.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: Mapmikey on November 15, 2013, 02:05:37 PM
Both Wed and Thur this week the first VMS showing toll rates on the outer loop near VA 193 were stuck on the cheapest off-peak rates while the next two showed the normal rush hour rates...

Incidentally, when the 95 HOT lanes are opened in a year or so, I assume the price for me to use both the 495 HOT lanes and the 95 HOT lanes will run $10-15 total.  And if it saves me 1/2 hour every afternoon I will probably do it.  Although really the beltway hasn't been that bad since the 495 Hot lanes were opened on most days so maybe I'll only need to use the 95 Hot lanes...

Mapmikey 
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: ARMOURERERIC on November 15, 2013, 03:16:31 PM
Of I was still living in DC and making the kind of $$ I made in the late 1980's, I would be willing to pay, in $$'s adjusted from 1989, about $7 per hour saved in driving time.  I would suspect that even at that rate, I would see a noticeable reduction in fuel consumption.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 26, 2013, 11:29:25 AM
Sometimes driving in the Beltway HO/T lanes feels like being on your own private roadway. Video from a trip to Fair Oaks this past Monday morning:

Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on December 26, 2013, 02:26:19 PM
Sometimes driving in the Beltway HO/T lanes feels like being on your own private roadway. Video from a trip to Fair Oaks this past Monday morning:

Hoo, this highlights the reason for the HOV/Toll lanes perfectly

Especially when the weather is rainy enough to slow conventional traffic, the $2.40 is well worth the price.

Seemed to me that the conventional (non-managed) lanes picked up in speed after Va. 650 (Gallows Road), but I could not tell if there was an incident there from your video.  Did you notice anything there?

Thank you for sharing.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 26, 2013, 04:30:13 PM
I didn't notice anything in particular. The radio (which is what the Chipmunks-type noise was) said something about an incident out there, but I didn't see anything. On a rainy day you never know.

I was in DC earlier today and on my way home I noted that there are signs in place (partially covered) for the new 95 Express Lanes in the area just north of the Duke Street interchange. Interestingly, one of the new signs is a Clearview copy of the old sign for the Turkeycock ramp, complete with the I-95/I-495 shields, with the only differences (other than Clearview) being (a) the "EXPRESS LANES ONLY" auxiliary plaque is no longer being used and (b) there is now a poorly-covered black-on-yellow "LAST EXIT BEFORE TOLL" banner at the bottom. I found point (b) interesting because technically it's not entirely accurate given the "HOV-or-toll" nature of what they're building there. I'm not sure there's a clearer way to phrase it, though.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on December 26, 2013, 08:38:05 PM
I didn't notice anything in particular. The radio (which is what the Chipmunks-type noise was) said something about an incident out there, but I didn't see anything. On a rainy day you never know.

I was in DC earlier today and on my way home I noted that there are signs in place (partially covered) for the new 95 Express Lanes in the area just north of the Duke Street interchange. Interestingly, one of the new signs is a Clearview copy of the old sign for the Turkeycock ramp, complete with the I-95/I-495 shields, with the only differences (other than Clearview) being (a) the "EXPRESS LANES ONLY" auxiliary plaque is no longer being used and (b) there is now a poorly-covered black-on-yellow "LAST EXIT BEFORE TOLL" banner at the bottom. I found point (b) interesting because technically it's not entirely accurate given the "HOV-or-toll" nature of what they're building there. I'm not sure there's a clearer way to phrase it, though.

This interface between the HOV lanes (only) [between Turkeycock Run in the south and the Pentagon/S. Eads Street interchange in the north] and the HOV/Toll lanes [between Garrisonville, Stafford County in the south and Turkeycock Run in the north is going to be a clunky affair, at least for starters]. 

It is (in my personal opinion) unfortunate that VDOT and the Governor and General Assembly did not push back much harder against the objections raised against the project, which were, in my opinion, frivolous. Naming individual VDOT and USDOT employees as defendants in that lawsuit was entirely unjustified.  The last time there was a highway dispute between the Commonwealth and Arlington County (over I-66 between the Capital Beltway and Rosslyn), the Commonwealth got most of what it wanted, though I-66 was scaled-back from the 8-lane freeway that the Virginia Department of Highways (VDH, predecessor agency to VDOT) had long planned for. An acceptable compromise might have been that the private concession owner would not be permitted to widen the reversible roadway from 2 lanes to 3 lanes between Turkeycock Run and the Pentagon.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mtantillo on December 29, 2013, 03:06:36 AM
Technically, everyone on the lanes is tolled, since everyone is supposed to have a toll transponder and the toll gantries look for toll devices on every vehicle.  Just that if you are HOV and you have an E-ZPass Flex, your toll amount is always $0.00. It shows up on your E-ZPass statement as such.

From a signing perspective, the main point they are driving home is that it is the last exit before the tolling system/tolling rules/E-ZPass requirement. If you do not have an E-ZPass or do not wish to drive under the gantry, this is your last chance to exit. And, "oh by the way", if you are HOV and have a Flex, you'll pay a toll of zero. But you still have to pay the zero toll by having a Flex device or else you are a violator.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 29, 2013, 01:59:40 PM
You know, that explanation makes a lot of sense from a logical standpoint for those of us who take the time to think about these things. Having seen the level of ignorance displayed by the general public about the operations of the I-495 HO/T lanes, though, I wonder how many average motorists would follow that.

They have posted the same white signs explaining the rules that we see on the Beltway, of course. Hopefully people would realize it would work the same way! But I have no doubt that plenty of people will be confused. The president of our HOA was shocked to learn that soon she'll have to pay a toll to use a portion of the reversible carriageway on her commute home when this was discussed at a recent meeting, and I generally find her to be a fairly well-informed person.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on December 29, 2013, 02:09:43 PM
Technically, everyone on the lanes is tolled, since everyone is supposed to have a toll transponder and the toll gantries look for toll devices on every vehicle.  Just that if you are HOV and you have an E-ZPass Flex, your toll amount is always $0.00. It shows up on your E-ZPass statement as such.

Yes, that seems to be how Transurban does it for the I-495 HOV/Toll lanes (based on a few trips I have taken in HOV-3 mode on the 495 HOV/toll lanes).

From a signing perspective, the main point they are driving home is that it is the last exit before the tolling system/tolling rules/E-ZPass requirement. If you do not have an E-ZPass or do not wish to drive under the gantry, this is your last chance to exit. And, "oh by the way", if you are HOV and have a Flex, you'll pay a toll of zero. But you still have to pay the zero toll by having a Flex device or else you are a violator.

All correct.  I understand that some drivers have a hard time grasping that they need to have the Flex transponder to get the HOV-3 toll rate of zero.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 30, 2013, 10:04:17 AM
....

From a signing perspective, the main point they are driving home is that it is the last exit before the tolling system/tolling rules/E-ZPass requirement. If you do not have an E-ZPass or do not wish to drive under the gantry, this is your last chance to exit. And, "oh by the way", if you are HOV and have a Flex, you'll pay a toll of zero. But you still have to pay the zero toll by having a Flex device or else you are a violator.

All correct.  I understand that some drivers have a hard time grasping that they need to have the Flex transponder to get the HOV-3 toll rate of zero.


I find it amusing how many of the people in the slugging community have screamed bloody murder at the idea that they should have to get an E-ZPass Flex, as they say they were told HOVs would always ride free and so they say (a) there should be no need for a transponder and (b) the E-ZPass Flex isn't free. As to the first issue, it was always made clear a switchable transponder was needed; as to the second, if you get an E-ZPass Flex and use it solely for HOV-mode travel on the HO/T lanes, the fee is waived (and, frankly, I think if someone doesn't already have an E-ZPass and uses the I-95 HOV to commute, it's not at all implausible to think he'd use the transponder solely on that facility when the HO/T system opens). Either way, though, I roll my eyes because I'd love to see those slug drivers get busted for not using an E-ZPass and then try to contest the ticket in court on the basis that "I don't think I should have to get an E-ZPass."
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on December 30, 2013, 12:45:52 PM
I find it amusing how many of the people in the slugging community have screamed bloody murder at the idea that they should have to get an E-ZPass Flex, as they say they were told HOVs would always ride free and so they say (a) there should be no need for a transponder and (b) the E-ZPass Flex isn't free. As to the first issue, it was always made clear a switchable transponder was needed; as to the second, if you get an E-ZPass Flex and use it solely for HOV-mode travel on the HO/T lanes, the fee is waived (and, frankly, I think if someone doesn't already have an E-ZPass and uses the I-95 HOV to commute, it's not at all implausible to think he'd use the transponder solely on that facility when the HO/T system opens). Either way, though, I roll my eyes because I'd love to see those slug drivers get busted for not using an E-ZPass and then try to contest the ticket in court on the basis that "I don't think I should have to get an E-ZPass."

From a public policy perspective, slugging is great.  One of the great failings of transportation planning in our region (in retrospect) was to not several other corridors for slugging.

It makes efficient and effective use of scarce peak-period highway capacity, costs the slugs and body snatchers little, and saves everyone a lot of time - without expensive things like transit union labor and transit buses.

But having said that, I think these folks protest rather too loudly.

The cost of an E-ZPass Flex unit is pretty minimal, and the population served by the I-95/I-395 HOV lanes is not an impoverished one.  If they did not like the conversion of the lanes from "regular" HOV lanes to HOV/Toll lanes, then they should have complained to their elected representatives in Richmond (especially) and in Washington, and they might have considered who they should (and should not) vote for on Election Day.

I don't think anyone would get very far with the "I don't need a transponder" defense. 
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: vdeane on December 30, 2013, 04:10:26 PM
What about out of town drivers who otherwise fulfill the HOV requirement?  Why should they be barred from the lanes or forced to pay a toll?  It's not fair to impose extra requirements on non-locals.  HOV, in the past, has always been about number of occupants alone.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on December 30, 2013, 05:19:03 PM
What about out of town drivers who otherwise fulfill the HOV requirement?  Why should they be barred from the lanes or forced to pay a toll?  It's not fair to impose extra requirements on non-locals.  HOV, in the past, has always been about number of occupants alone.

That's a fair question.

I suppose the promoters of this project would respond by saying that anyone can get an E-ZPass Flex transponder, not just residents of Virginia.  Though the only other toll agency that currently issues them (as far as I am aware) is the Maryland Transportation Authority (MdTA).
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 30, 2013, 05:26:02 PM
What about out of town drivers who otherwise fulfill the HOV requirement?  Why should they be barred from the lanes or forced to pay a toll?  It's not fair to impose extra requirements on non-locals.  HOV, in the past, has always been about number of occupants alone.

I think Virginia's system is actually a pretty reasonable and flexible one compared to some other HO/T systems. Miami's I-95 HO/T lanes, for example, give the HOV exemption only to "registered carpools." I learned from "mtantillo" of this forum that they will not allow you to register if you have an out-of-state plate, even with a valid SunPass and even if you live in the Miami area for a good chunk of the year (such as the people Floridians call "snowbirds," i.e., northerners who come south for the winter).

Virginia's "extra requirement" (to use your phrase) doesn't apply solely to non-local drivers, BTW. It applies to everyone, local drivers included. It's not simply a case of "local drivers will get the HOV transponder," either. The E-ZPass Flex has a higher monthly fee (at least from Virginia—I don't know if Maryland's policy is the same) than the standard E-ZPass at $1.00 for the Flex versus 50¢ for the standard device, although as I noted previously there is a way to get your Flex device with no monthly fee if you use it solely for carpooling (again, that's Virginia's policy and I don't believe Maryland offers the same). But then you have those of us who currently have fee-free E-ZPasses because we had them before VDOT instituted the monthly fee—they grandfathered us in until our transponders need to be replaced or until we replace a transponder with a Flex (also, any additional transponders we request are subject to whichever fee applies to the particular device we request). Thus, to use my wife and me as an example, we have two E-ZPasses with no monthly fee. If we replace one with an E-ZPass Flex, it would cost us $1.00 a month because we're never going to use it solely for carpooling. If we get a third E-ZPass for our third car, it would cost us 50¢ a month (we will never get a third E-ZPass for that car, no reason to do so). When either of our current transponders reaches the end of its battery life, the replacement device will cost 50¢ a month unless by then there's a sticker-type device available.

So we don't have an E-ZPass Flex. Not worth it to us because we've never used the HO/T lanes with three or more people, and if we did do so it would be so rare an occasion that we wouldn't get bent out of shape about the toll. But if I were a driver who picked up slugs, I would absolutely get an E-ZPass Flex when the I-95 HO/T lane system will open. It wouldn't be fee-free for me because I'd use it on other roads. I don't think it's worth swapping transponders just to save $1 a month, as the toll savings on the HO/T lanes would far outweigh the fee. But since I don't pick up slugs and since we don't have kids who ride with us in the HOV and HO/T lanes, it's not worth it.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: vdeane on December 31, 2013, 03:28:32 PM
I can't see it ever being economical for someone from a different state to get a MD/VA tag just for flex, especially someone who has a fee-free (by statute) E-ZPass.  That Miami system is just asking to be challenged in court.  IMO, it should be illegal (and probably is - I'm pretty sure the Constitution doesn't allow states to treat residents and non-residents differently).
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: Mapmikey on December 31, 2013, 04:42:29 PM
States do this all the time...college tuition being a glaring and expensive example.  Some states (maybe all?) do this with fishing licenses too.



Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on December 31, 2013, 04:52:36 PM
That Miami system is just asking to be challenged in court.  IMO, it should be illegal (and probably is - I'm pretty sure the Constitution doesn't allow states to treat residents and non-residents differently).

Virginia has been getting away with that for many years. 

So-called clean fuel tags (various kinds of which have allowed the owner an exemption to Virginia's many HOV lanes) have never been available to owners of Toyota Priuses, Honda Insights or other hybrid vehicles. 

I assert that there are more than a few things Constitutionally wrong with that, but as far as I know, it has never been challenged in court.  I don't think it would survive a court challenge, even though Virginia has a legal presumption that everything passed by its General Assembly is Constitutional.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: vdeane on January 01, 2014, 03:54:45 PM
States do this all the time...college tuition being a glaring and expensive example.  Some states (maybe all?) do this with fishing licenses too.
With college tuition, at least in that case in-state people are subsidizing it with tax money (that's why the difference exists).  Fishing licences are just money grabs anyways, so it's probably similar.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: Mapmikey on January 01, 2014, 07:15:48 PM

Virginia has been getting away with that for many years. 

So-called clean fuel tags (various kinds of which have allowed the owner an exemption to Virginia's many HOV lanes) have never been available to owners of Toyota Priuses, Honda Insights or other hybrid vehicles. 


Not sure where you got that information.  Those models are all over the qualified vehicle list going back to 2003.
https://www.dmv.virginia.gov/vehicles/cleanspecialfuel.html#qualify

Mapmikey
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: oscar on January 01, 2014, 07:27:17 PM

Virginia has been getting away with that for many years. 

So-called clean fuel tags (various kinds of which have allowed the owner an exemption to Virginia's many HOV lanes) have never been available to owners of Toyota Priuses, Honda Insights or other hybrid vehicles. 


Not sure where you got that information.  Those models are all over the qualified vehicle list going back to 2003.
https://www.dmv.virginia.gov/vehicles/cleanspecialfuel.html#qualify

At one point, Priuses were eligible for clean fuel plates entitled to the HOV examption, and there are still some out there.  But that went away before I got mine.  A co-worker got an exemption-eligible plate for her Prius (which helped, since she lived near the I-95 HOV lanes).  By the time I got my Prius in 2008, exemption-eligible plates were not being issued, and if I got a clean-fuel plate it would have been a non-exempt variety, so I didn't bother.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on January 01, 2014, 08:05:48 PM

Virginia has been getting away with that for many years. 

So-called clean fuel tags (various kinds of which have allowed the owner an exemption to Virginia's many HOV lanes) have never been available to owners of Toyota Priuses, Honda Insights or other hybrid vehicles. 

Not sure where you got that information.  Those models are all over the qualified vehicle list going back to 2003.
https://www.dmv.virginia.gov/vehicles/cleanspecialfuel.html#qualify

I am familiar with the list. 

But that list does nothing for you if you do not reside in the Commonwealth of Virginia

That is my point.

Perhaps the only good thing about Transurban taking over the HOV lanes along I-95 and the southern end of I-395 is the end of free rides for the many Virginia-registered hybrid vehicles out there.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on January 01, 2014, 08:24:31 PM
At one point, Priuses were eligible for clean fuel plates entitled to the HOV examption, and there are still some out there.  But that went away before I got mine.  A co-worker got an exemption-eligible plate for her Prius (which helped, since she lived near the I-95 HOV lanes).  By the time I got my Prius in 2008, exemption-eligible plates were not being issued, and if I got a clean-fuel plate it would have been a non-exempt variety, so I didn't bother.

The original series of Virginia CF tags allowed access to all HOV-restricted lanes in Virginia. 

Then a new series was released, which removed the HOV exemption for I-95 and I-395, effectively capping the number of HOV-exempt vehicles eligible for that corridor.

After that came another series, which removed the HOV exemption for I-66, leaving unrestricted access only to the HOV lanes along Va. 267 (Dulles Toll Road) only.   

Adam might know what the story is regarding HOV exemptions on I-64, I-264 and I-564 in Hampton Roads.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on January 01, 2014, 09:08:17 PM
.... 

Adam might know what the story is regarding HOV exemptions on I-64, I-264 and I-564 in Hampton Roads.

I've also wondered about the HOV-2 lanes on Route 1 and Washington Street through Old Town Alexandria. I assume the clean fuel plates provide an exemption but have never heard confirmation yea or nay, and frankly I've never been all that motivated to investigate because it doesn't affect us due to none of our cars being eligible either way (heck, our RX-7 is about as fuel-inefficient as most mass-market cars get). On the other hand, I could also see a ticket being given because those streets were never mentioned on VDOT's website where it lists HOV information.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: TheOneKEA on January 02, 2014, 03:54:53 PM
Is there any information on why the I-495 HOT lanes were not extended as far north as VA 193? I am aware of the NIMBYism and BANANAism that would prevent the logical extension of the HOT lanes across the Legion Bridge, but it seems strange that the HOT lanes don't at least have passive provision to allow them to be extended easily.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: Alps on January 02, 2014, 11:03:13 PM
States do this all the time...college tuition being a glaring and expensive example.  Some states (maybe all?) do this with fishing licenses too.
With college tuition, at least in that case in-state people are subsidizing it with tax money (that's why the difference exists).  Fishing licences are just money grabs anyways, so it's probably similar.
Also, interstate commerce is a golden calf among reasons to disallow differences between states.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on January 02, 2014, 11:37:28 PM
Is there any information on why the I-495 HOT lanes were not extended as far north as VA 193? I am aware of the NIMBYism and BANANAism that would prevent the logical extension of the HOT lanes across the Legion Bridge, but it seems strange that the HOT lanes don't at least have passive provision to allow them to be extended easily.

This (http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/council/) would be the place to ask.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on January 02, 2014, 11:39:36 PM
Also, interstate commerce is a golden calf among reasons to disallow differences between states.

More than just Interstate commerce in the context of the so-called "hybrid" exemption from HOV rules in Virginia.  With the possible exception of the arterial HOV lanes on U.S. 1 in the City of Alexandria, all of the Virginia HOV lanes represent substantial investment by federal taxpayers.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: froggie on January 03, 2014, 09:00:00 AM
Virginia's HOV exemptions and whatnot (including the "clean fuel plates") are on this VDOT page (http://www.virginiadot.org/travel/hov-rulesfaq.asp).  In short (regarding CP's comment), hybrids with "clean fuel plates" are allowed on the Hampton Roads HOV lanes regardless of when their plates were issued.

Quote
With the possible exception of the arterial HOV lanes on U.S. 1 in the City of Alexandria, all of the Virginia HOV lanes represent substantial investment by federal taxpayers.

According to FHWA, the I-264 HOV lanes in Virginia Beach were opened in 1992, which would peg them as pre-264 (I-264 was added there in 1999) and pre-toll-removal (tolls were removed in 1995).  So in short, the I-264 HOV lanes east of I-64 were paid from tolls and not from Federal taxpayers.  The same is likely the case with the Dulles Toll Road HOV lanes.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on January 03, 2014, 11:43:56 AM
Virginia's HOV exemptions and whatnot (including the "clean fuel plates") are on this VDOT page (http://www.virginiadot.org/travel/hov-rulesfaq.asp).  In short (regarding CP's comment), hybrids with "clean fuel plates" are allowed on the Hampton Roads HOV lanes regardless of when their plates were issued.

Thank you.

Quote
With the possible exception of the arterial HOV lanes on U.S. 1 in the City of Alexandria, all of the Virginia HOV lanes represent substantial investment by federal taxpayers.

According to FHWA, the I-264 HOV lanes in Virginia Beach were opened in 1992, which would peg them as pre-264 (I-264 was added there in 1999) and pre-toll-removal (tolls were removed in 1995).  So in short, the I-264 HOV lanes east of I-64 were paid from tolls and not from Federal taxpayers.

That sounds right.  I remember when the HOV lanes were opened on (what was then) Va. 44.   

The same is likely the case with the Dulles Toll Road HOV lanes.

The pavement in the lanes themselves (and shoulders, guardrails and signs), yes.  The land under the Dulles Toll Road, absolutely not - it was purchased by the Federal Aviation Administration when Dulles Airport was built in the late 1950's and early 1960's.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: froggie on January 03, 2014, 11:58:16 AM
Said land would have already been amortized out by the time DTR was constructed, let alone when HOV lanes were added to the DTR.  Since the land had already long been purchased and done by the time the DTR HOV lanes came about, it's a hard sell to claim that Federal funding was used in their construction.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on January 03, 2014, 04:37:11 PM
Said land would have already been amortized out by the time DTR was constructed, let alone when HOV lanes were added to the DTR.  Since the land had already long been purchased and done by the time the DTR HOV lanes came about, it's a hard sell to claim that Federal funding was used in their construction.

I respectfully disagree.

You don't generally amortize or depreciate the land, only the improvements you build on it. 

And the federal government's long-standing policy on assets where federal dollars fund even a relatively small part of the value of the asset means that federal rules and regulations apply to that asset with no time limitation.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: Mapmikey on January 03, 2014, 06:05:14 PM
Regardless of one's opinion of whether the federal gov't contributed substantially to the cost of the toll road, they DO have (or least did in 1988) authority to overrule VDOT on decisions involving HOV.

See pdf pages 53-55 (pages 31-33 of the document) at http://www.ctb.virginia.gov/meetings/minutes_pdf/CTB-12-1988-01.pdf

VDOT tried to establish peak period HOV-3 on the median lane, which was agreed to by the MWAA (in fact the agreement for allowing the toll road on their ROW requires VDOT provide HOV relief when congestion warranted it).  This was then overturned by the Congressional Oversight Committee for the Operation of Airports.  The CTB then deferred implementation of the HOV until safety of the road and enforcement technology was improved, among other things.

Mapmikey
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on January 06, 2014, 03:27:03 PM
Spotted something interesting on I-95's HOV facility this afternoon. See below: Variable speed limit signs and what appear to be lane-control signals. There was another just past the exit for the Franconia–Springfield Parkway. I exited there and so I don't know if there are any of these further south. I have not previously heard anything about variable speed limits being implemented on there either during construction or as part of the final HO/T lane configuration, but I think it makes sense to set up something like this together with lane-control signals because of the lanes' configuration of cramming three lanes into the existing footprint. That "shoulder" on the right in this image is in essentially its final configuration. Once the work is done and the HO/T lanes open, there is likely to be a need to close off a lane when there's an incident due to the lack of a full-width shoulder.

Hopefully sometime soon I can get a better picture when the sun is in a different place in the sky. Now that I know these are there, maybe next time I drive out to Fairfax I will use the northbound HOV in mid-morning so the sun is behind me.

(http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Road%20sign%20pictures/VariablespeedlimitI-95_zps5ca8f7db.png)




Edited to add: I sent a tweet to the project management and received this reply confirming there will be variable speed limits:

Quote
Speed limits on 95 Express Lanes will be adjusted to help traffic move safely in the event of an incident/bad weather
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: Mapmikey on January 06, 2014, 08:37:10 PM
They are placing these assemblies at very regular intervals south of where you took the photo...

Mapmikey
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on January 06, 2014, 08:39:41 PM
They are placing these assemblies at very regular intervals south of where you took the photo...

Mapmikey

Thanks for the info. I haven't gone anywhere south of there in about a month and hadn't seen any. There aren't any of them north of there—at least, not as of this past Friday there weren't.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on January 08, 2014, 10:40:48 AM
....

Northbound, in the morning, I think the lanes will work okay up to but not including the end of the HOT lanes at Edsal Road.  You're going to have more lanes feeding a chokepoint.  The mainline lanes of I-395 will be very congested approaching this merge point.  HOT lane users will get to the front of the line, but will still ultimately have to merge.   We can only hope that enough of the tollpayers are going to Tysons and not up I-395, that is what will keep the merge from becomming awful.  Perhaps the lane operators could make the toll for the segment between the Beltway and Edsal Road very high, thereby encouraging Tysons commuters but discouraging DC commuters from using the lanes, or at the least, getting DC commuters out of the lanes a little earlier than at the very very end.  Also, the operators should play up the fact that anyone with HOV-2 has another option...rather than merge onto I-395, they could continue paying tolls and use the I-495 lanes, and then take I-66 inbound to Arlington and DC (would really only work well for the west side of DC and Arlington, would be too out of the way for Capitol Hill).

....

Mike made the comment above way back in the very first post in this thread. I thought I'd mention that we tried this last night. Yesterday morning I offered to drive my wife to work, but she declined. She works at the Watergate complex near the Kennedy Center and takes the Metrorail to Foggy Bottom and then walks. Well, she got to work and e-mailed me and said it was a mistake to decline my offer because she was freezing by the time she arrived. So I picked her up last night. I had observed that I-395 outbound was at a standstill the entire way from the Pentagon to the Beltway, and there is a direct ramp from the Kennedy Center to the Roosevelt Bridge, so I had the idea of taking I-66 as an HOV-2 vehicle, then taking the Beltway HO/T lanes. All I have to say is, wow. We pulled away from her office at 5:32 and were pulling into our driveway in Kingstowne at 5:58—23 miles in 26 minutes at the peak of rush hour. Beltway toll was $2.25 and probably should have been higher—there was a huge crash out in the local lanes between Gallows and 236, debris all over the two or three right lanes.

This option really hasn't been publicized at all and I can see why someone would think it sounds crazy—we live south of the Beltway off Van Dorn Street and instead we drove 11 miles WEST before turning south.

The opposite route is not quite as fast due to I-66. I drove her to work this morning and I logically decided to try the same route, Beltway HO/T to I-66. The Beltway part was great even with a $5.15 toll (and HO/T lane traffic was busier than I'd ever seen it). I-66, not so much—it slowed to a crawl at the West Falls Church Metro and stayed that way until after Sycamore Street. Then we hit the tail end of the Roosevelt Bridge backup, so I took Exit 73 and went over Key Bridge, which was slow but not awful (and I have to say all the ice in the Potomac was neat to see, been quite a few years since I've seen it like that). Still much faster than the direct route, and faster than the Metro for that matter: We pulled out of our driveway at 8:12 and pulled up to her office at 8:51. So it's definitely quicker. It just doesn't work quite as well as the evening rush hour. I assume the main problem is the Dulles traffic refusing to merge properly and instead racing all the way down the "Exit Only" lane at the US-29 exit in Falls Church, then cutting across the gore area so people slam on the brakes.

The express lane operators really should consider publicizing this option for HOV-2 traffic paying the toll on I-95 when that system opens. Depending on where in DC you're ultimately headed, and on your tolerance for tolls, it's astonishing how much faster this is than fighting the general-purpose lanes on I-395 or sitting through all the red lights on parallel routes.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mtantillo on January 08, 2014, 08:18:08 PM
I would love to see Arlington residents along the I-66 corridor throw a fit about publicizing this! But really, Transurban gets more toll revenue from those going up to I-66 from Springfield than they would going up to Duke St from Springfield, so it is to their benefit to publicize it.

I-66 may be better outbound in PM rush because of that spot improvement from Fairfax drive to Sycamore Street. Made far more of an improvement than I ever expected.

Glad my idea worked :)
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on January 08, 2014, 09:56:19 PM
What I will find interesting is trying your idea on the southbound trip to Charlottesville some Friday night once the I-95 HO/T opens. We dropped our football season tickets a few years ago but we usually go to one or two games a year. If we leave on a Friday night I usually just put up with the slog out I-66 to Route 29 after picking up my wife at her office. I-66 moves right along until just before the Beltway and then you crawl, but it's still faster on a Friday night than I-95 is. I'm now intrigued by the idea of taking I-66 to the Beltway, the Beltway HO/T to Springfield, then the long loop ramp into the I-95 HO/T all the way down to Aquia. That would leave 13 or 17 miles in the main lanes (we normally exit at Route 3 and head west to Route 20, but this past October I found another way that involves exiting at Massaponax and using the new Lake Anna Parkway....avoids all those damn lights on Route 3). Right now this is not an option because of the traffic—we'd hit I-95 right around the end of HOV hours, but that's right as everyone floods into the HOV, and it backs up at Dumfries anyway. I-66 is slow, but it's a shorter distance.

The toll might well be extremely steep for a trip like that, to the point where I'd consider checking my E-ZPass balance before going and perhaps making a one-time payment to top up my account. But, as you suggested in a prior post in this thread, if you're only making that sort of trip (a 27-mile southbound trip during rush hour) once or twice a year, it's a lot easier to suck up the high toll to save time than it would be if you did it every day (I'd definitely pick up slugs if I had to make that drive, even after the tolling starts).
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: froggie on January 08, 2014, 09:56:26 PM
Quote
I assume the main problem is the Dulles traffic refusing to merge properly

Moreso the sheer volume of traffic in what is effectively a 4-to-2 merge.  Even if they "merge properly", you'll still have issues.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mrsman on January 09, 2014, 01:13:16 AM
I didn't notice anything in particular. The radio (which is what the Chipmunks-type noise was) said something about an incident out there, but I didn't see anything. On a rainy day you never know.

I was in DC earlier today and on my way home I noted that there are signs in place (partially covered) for the new 95 Express Lanes in the area just north of the Duke Street interchange. Interestingly, one of the new signs is a Clearview copy of the old sign for the Turkeycock ramp, complete with the I-95/I-495 shields, with the only differences (other than Clearview) being (a) the "EXPRESS LANES ONLY" auxiliary plaque is no longer being used and (b) there is now a poorly-covered black-on-yellow "LAST EXIT BEFORE TOLL" banner at the bottom. I found point (b) interesting because technically it's not entirely accurate given the "HOV-or-toll" nature of what they're building there. I'm not sure there's a clearer way to phrase it, though.

This interface between the HOV lanes (only) [between Turkeycock Run in the south and the Pentagon/S. Eads Street interchange in the north] and the HOV/Toll lanes [between Garrisonville, Stafford County in the south and Turkeycock Run in the north is going to be a clunky affair, at least for starters]. 

It is (in my personal opinion) unfortunate that VDOT and the Governor and General Assembly did not push back much harder against the objections raised against the project, which were, in my opinion, frivolous. Naming individual VDOT and USDOT employees as defendants in that lawsuit was entirely unjustified.  The last time there was a highway dispute between the Commonwealth and Arlington County (over I-66 between the Capital Beltway and Rosslyn), the Commonwealth got most of what it wanted, though I-66 was scaled-back from the 8-lane freeway that the Virginia Department of Highways (VDH, predecessor agency to VDOT) had long planned for. An acceptable compromise might have been that the private concession owner would not be permitted to widen the reversible roadway from 2 lanes to 3 lanes between Turkeycock Run and the Pentagon.

To what extent would the project need the local government approval if they merely changed the occupancy requirements of the lanes between the Pentagon and Turkeycock, if they do no physical construction?

As I understand it, Arlington was able to sue because the road widening would ruin air quality.  But could the legislature (or VDOT) simply remove the HOV restriction on this section of the roadway to allow the riders who are currently on the express lanes to continue to their destination without needing to merge?

[IIRC the section between Pentagon and DC along the bridge was once bus only, but is now open to all traffic at all times, so this has been done before.]
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: froggie on January 09, 2014, 06:56:51 AM
They could adjust the HOV restriction (hours/occupancy), but they cannot eliminate it entirely.  But eliminating it entirely would create an even worse bottleneck at the end than tolling it.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: Mapmikey on January 09, 2014, 07:04:35 AM
It appears that when HOV-4 was dropped to HOV-3 the only concern VDOT had over its ability to do this was a federal law that would withhold money from Virginia if they modified anything related to the HOV dynamic on the Shirley Hwy.  That law was repealed in Sept 1988 and in Oct 1988 VDOT changed HOV-4 to HOV-3.  There is no mention in the Oct 1988 CTB Minutes (see pages 53-54 of the pdf at http://www.virginiadot.org/meetings/minutes_pdf/CTB-10-1988-01.pdf) of consulting with any local authority.

Which doesn't prevent someone from suing over it, but VDOT does have the authority to modify HOV rules...

Mapmikey
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on January 09, 2014, 04:03:48 PM
To what extent would the project need the local government approval if they merely changed the occupancy requirements of the lanes between the Pentagon and Turkeycock, if they do no physical construction?

It could have an impact on air quality, and Arlington County is represented on the groups that do regional-scale air quality and long-range transportation planning, as it should be.

As I understand it, Arlington was able to sue because the road widening would ruin air quality.  But could the legislature (or VDOT) simply remove the HOV restriction on this section of the roadway to allow the riders who are currently on the express lanes to continue to their destination without needing to merge?

Arlington sued, and asserted (among other things) that there would be air quality problems from an extension, but I do not think that was ever adjudicated before a judge.  They also asserted environmental justice issues, which were also never adjudicated.

[IIRC the section between Pentagon and DC along the bridge was once bus only, but is now open to all traffic at all times, so this has been done before.]

The "original" HOV/restricted lane roadway between the Va. 644 at Springfield and the D.C. side of the 14th Street Bridge was once buses-only.  It was then opened to van-poolers, then to HOV-4 car-pools and finally to HOV-3 car-poolers. After 1989, the HOV restrictions between the Pentagon and the D.C. end of the restricted lanes were removed, and have never been imposed since then.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on January 14, 2014, 10:40:52 PM
Washington Post: Express Lanes driving, tolls, continued to rise in late 2013 (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/dr-gridlock/wp/2014/01/14/express-lanes-driving-tolls-continued-to-rise-in-late-2013/)

Quote
Average workday use of the Capital Beltway’s 495 Express Lanes rose slightly in the last three months of 2013, according to the operating company’s latest quarterly report.

Quote
The biggest day was Dec. 19, the Thursday before Christmas, when 46,975 trips were taken along the 14 miles of high-occupancy toll lanes between Springfield and the area just north of Tysons Corner. This may have been a combination of holiday shopping, some long-distance travel and regular commuting. The toll revenue for the day also was a record, at $123,604.

Quote
For the final quarter, average workday trips totaled 37,969, compared with 37,574 in the July-September quarter. Transurban’s financial report noted that commuter traffic was down because of the 16-day federal government shutdown in October.

Quote
Still, the daily revenue grew from a daily average of $51,736 in the July-September quarter to an average of $64,277 for the October-December period.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: froggie on January 15, 2014, 03:29:24 PM
And a follow-up from WTOP (http://www.wtop.com/41/3542678/495-Express-Lanes-One-year-review-shows-customer-use-fell-short-of-projections) which notes the first year numbers are notably lower than the initial projections of 66,000 vpd.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on January 16, 2014, 09:36:52 PM
And a follow-up from WTOP (http://www.wtop.com/41/3542678/495-Express-Lanes-One-year-review-shows-customer-use-fell-short-of-projections) which notes the first year numbers are notably lower than the initial projections of 66,000 vpd.

And yet another follow-up from Bacon's Rebellion (http://www.baconsrebellion.com/2014/01/the-statewide-importance-of-the-495-express-lanes.html).  Jim Bacon speaks to your comment above (emphasis added):

Quote
Here’s Transurban’s problem: When it was lining up financing in 2007 for the $2 billion project, which added four new lanes to a 14-mile stretch of the Capital Beltway, the economy was booming. A 2007 traffic and revenue study by Vollmer/Stantec forecast average weekday trips over the first full year of operations at 66,000 and revenue of $46.1 million, according to Toll Road News (http://tollroadsnews.com/news/va-495-express-lanes-traffic-below-expectations-adjustments-needed-operator-tells-shareholders). After four years of operation, the study forecast, the express lanes would log 117,000 average weekday trips and annual revenue of $79 million. No one anticipated the severe recession or the national erosion in Vehicle Miles Traveled that eased congestion on the nation’s highways. The whole point of paying a toll to use the express lanes is to avoid the unpredictability and time delays caused by congestion. No congestion = no revenue.

Quote
The company pulled out of its investment in the Pocahontas Parkway outside Richmond last year but remains committed to completing the Interstate 95 express lanes project in Northern Virginia.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on February 01, 2014, 05:52:33 PM
The Washington Post's Dr. Gridlock: I-95 express lanes operator plans long campaign to attract customers (http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/i-95-express-lanes-operator-plans-long-campaign-to-attract-customers/2014/02/01/6c450854-89d8-11e3-833c-33098f9e5267_story.html)

Quote
The 95 Express Lanes in Northern Virginia aren’t scheduled to open till the start of 2015, but the company that will operate them is planning to launch an education and marketing campaign early this year.

Quote
The high-occupancy toll lanes already open on the Capital Beltway showed some of the complexities inherent in this style of driving. Commuters who had little experience with any form of toll road had to learn what it was like to use a toll road with no tollbooths, on which the toll could vary by a few dollars, depending on when they chose to use it.

Quote
Though the Beltway express lanes have been open more than a year, drivers still ask me very basic questions about the decisions they need to make and the tolls they have to pay.

Quote
The version of the express lanes coming to Interstate 95 follows the same basic concept, but a driver who has been using the Beltway lanes will notice some important differences.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on March 18, 2014, 12:04:26 PM
Putting a Price on D.C.'s Worst Commute:  See the Atlantic Cities article that I posted to the Virginia forum (https://www.aaroads.com/forum/index.php?topic=294.msg286352#msg286352). 

Lot of discussion about the I-95 HOV/Toll lanes.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on March 18, 2014, 12:43:33 PM
BTW, we were on outbound I-395 this past Saturday morning and I had an interesting thought (sorry, no video screenshot of the sign, we were in my wife's car). On southbound I-395 as you approach the Turkeycock ramps, which is where the HO/T system will have its northern terminus, there are a bunch of new BGSs in place as I noted earlier in this thread.

The BGS for the Turkeycock ramp lists, in this order:

[Secondary 648 shield] Edsall Road
[I-95 shield] [I-495 shield]
[Secondary 644 shield] Franconia

No cardinal direction posted for the Beltway (you may recall the old sign had "I-95 NORTH I-495").

The part that struck me as peculiar is the use of "Franconia." I assume someone just copied that from the old sign. Here's why it's odd. Under the current design, that sign makes sense as worded: If you qualify to be in the HOV lanes, you can stay in the HOV lanes and exit directly onto westbound Route 644 towards Springfield and Burke. If you want to go eastbound, you must use the Turkeycock flyover and then wend your way through the ramps in Springfield. Under the new system, however, you will either have to satisfy HOV or pay a toll if you want to use the direct ramp from the reversible lanes to westbound 644. If you are unable or unwilling to comply, you will have to exit at Turkeycock. (This issue exists because during non-HOV hours, all traffic will be permitted in the reversible lanes north of Turkeycock, just as is the case today, but south of there will be 24/7 HO/T operations.)

Maybe it's a trivial point and I'm overanalyzing the sign.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on April 15, 2014, 01:34:59 PM
WOW! Dr. Gridlock has a new blog entry (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/dr-gridlock/wp/2014/04/15/express-lanes-get-pricier-at-peak-times/) saying the peak toll on the I-495 HO/T lanes hit $11.55 on April 3.

At 9:00 this morning, the Inner Loop toll to go the full length of the lanes was $11.00.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on April 15, 2014, 02:19:07 PM
WOW! Dr. Gridlock has a new blog entry (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/dr-gridlock/wp/2014/04/15/express-lanes-get-pricier-at-peak-times/) saying the peak toll on the I-495 HO/T lanes hit $11.55 on April 3.

At 9:00 this morning, the Inner Loop toll to go the full length of the lanes was $11.00.

You beat me to the punch.  Good news for Transurban.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on April 17, 2014, 01:19:05 PM
Virginia getting rid of E-ZPass monthly fees (https://www.aaroads.com/forum/index.php?topic=294.msg293207#msg293207)
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 74/171FAN on April 18, 2014, 07:53:57 AM
CPZ,
In the future, please only post once in the thread that is most relevant to the topic at hand (including news articles).  I know that the EZPass information does apply here (and in the Hampton Roads tolls thread), but referring to a post in another thread (in this case the Virginia thread-where this information is most relevant IMO) makes it seem that you are duplicating posts, which is against forum guidelines. (Unless the topic itself is a duplicate topic that should not exist in the first place.)

Thanks,
Mark
 
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on May 10, 2014, 03:21:26 AM
Sounds to me like a driver was in the wrong lane, and had a freak-out with fatal consequences. 

Should there be signs that read DO NOT STOP and DO NOT BACK UP

Even though that should be implicit on a freeway-class road?


Woman dies in crash at Beltway express lanes entrance (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/dr-gridlock/wp/2014/05/08/woman-dies-in-crash-at-beltway-express-lanes-entrance/)


Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on May 10, 2014, 08:43:31 AM
My thoughts are already in the comments below that blog entry. I'm surprised none of the hand-wringers attacked me for them, especially for my "Darwin in Action" comment.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: vdeane on May 10, 2014, 05:31:44 PM
Those hand-wringers seem to think that coming to a complete stop in a travel lane is a perfectly normal thing that happens all the time.  "Driver confusion" is not a valid reason to stop.  Mechanical failures/medical emergencies involve parking on the shoulder.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on May 11, 2014, 04:54:17 PM
My thoughts are already in the comments below that blog entry. I'm surprised none of the hand-wringers attacked me for them, especially for my "Darwin in Action" comment.

Perhaps the signs should read DO NOT STOP - DO NOT BACK UP - YOU WILL BE BILLED IN THE MAIL?
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on May 11, 2014, 05:02:03 PM
Those hand-wringers seem to think that coming to a complete stop in a travel lane is a perfectly normal thing that happens all the time.  "Driver confusion" is not a valid reason to stop.  Mechanical failures/medical emergencies involve parking on the shoulder.

I think you are correct.  But the person who was killed had probably been driving for many years, and may never have encountered an all-electronic toll road before (there are only two relatively short toll roads in the entire state of South Carolina). 
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on September 12, 2014, 12:00:35 PM
Spotted this yesterday on northbound I-395. Had not seen it before. The change is the "HOV LANES" banner—it used to say "RESTRICTED LANES" (some of the other signs still do). It makes perfect sense when you consider the change coming this winter. The reversible carriageway north of this point will operate as it does today—HOV during rush hour, open to all traffic at other times except when they close it to reverse the direction. South of this point, the lanes will still be "restricted lanes" but will use a different sort of restriction (HOV-3 or pay toll). So the term "Restricted Lanes" will be too generic.

So a very sensible change. I just found it interesting to see.

(http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Road%20sign%20pictures/HOVlanesinsteadofRestrictedLanes_zpsd6745447.png)


Incidentally, I noted some of the exit signs over the HOV carriageway that previously bore "Restricted Lanes" banners (the signs for the exit to the Beltway that opened in November 2012) have been altered, presumably via greenout, to use the new green "EXPRESS EXIT" banner called for in the I-95 HO/T lane signage specifications. (No pictures of those. It was around 11:30 PM when we went through there last night and any video capture I were to post would be too grainy.) I'm sure when the lanes open there will be some people asking the local media outlets (Dr. Gridlock, Adam Tuss) why the signs on the Beltway use a white "E-ZPass EXPRESS EXIT" banner while the ones on I-95 use a green "EXPRESS EXIT" sign.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on September 14, 2014, 12:22:34 PM
Incidentally, I noted some of the exit signs over the HOV carriageway that previously bore "Restricted Lanes" banners (the signs for the exit to the Beltway that opened in November 2012) have been altered, presumably via greenout, to use the new green "EXPRESS EXIT" banner called for in the I-95 HO/T lane signage specifications. (No pictures of those. It was around 11:30 PM when we went through there last night and any video capture I were to post would be too grainy.) I'm sure when the lanes open there will be some people asking the local media outlets (Dr. Gridlock, Adam Tuss) why the signs on the Beltway use a white "E-ZPass EXPRESS EXIT" banner while the ones on I-95 use a green "EXPRESS EXIT" sign.

I think "RESTRICTED LANES" goes back to the 1980's and maybe the 1970's.  EDIT: In the 1970's, there were signs that read "POOL CARS."

Your point about the signage between the I-495 HOV/Toll lanes and the I-95(and I-395) lanes being inconsistent is a good one. 

Perhaps because the former are always running in the same direction, while the latter are reversible? 

I don't think that is a very good answer, but it's the only one I could think of.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on September 14, 2014, 12:51:00 PM
WTOP Radio: 495 Express Lanes free for one week during off-peak hours (http://www.wtop.com/41/3700913/Free-week-of-rides-in-the-fast-lanes)

Quote
WASHINGTON -- To save a few minutes off on their commute through Virginia, many travelers pay to use the 495 Express Lanes. Now, commuters can get a free week of rides in the fast lanes.

Quote
By registering on the 495 Express Lanes website users can spend the week of Sept. 22 riding toll free in the lanes.

Quote
Thomas Williams of Rockville, Maryland says he is willing to try it for a week during his daily commute along the beltway in Virginia.

Quote
"Anything that is a bargain, I will give it a try."

Quote
During the week of the promotion, the free hours go from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., which means rush hours will still cost.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on September 14, 2014, 01:40:09 PM
....

Your point about the signage between the I-495 HOV/Toll lanes and the I-95(and I-395) lanes being inconsistent is a good one. 

Perhaps because the former are always running in the same direction, while the latter are reversible? 

I don't think that is a very good answer, but it's the only one I could think of.

I assumed the I-495 signs were designed and approved under old standards and that the I-95 signs were designed using a newer MUTCD. Don't know whether that's accurate, but I believe the new MUTCD calls for purple banners on signs leading to the lanes and the old one didn't (among other things).

I think the system used in Toronto, with the signs over the different carriageways being different colors, is a good system. Indeed I-395 used to have that back in the 1970s/early 1980s (using black backgrounds for the reversible lanes).
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mtantillo on September 21, 2014, 09:27:51 PM
....

Your point about the signage between the I-495 HOV/Toll lanes and the I-95(and I-395) lanes being inconsistent is a good one. 

Perhaps because the former are always running in the same direction, while the latter are reversible? 

I don't think that is a very good answer, but it's the only one I could think of.

I assumed the I-495 signs were designed and approved under old standards and that the I-95 signs were designed using a newer MUTCD. Don't know whether that's accurate, but I believe the new MUTCD calls for purple banners on signs leading to the lanes and the old one didn't (among other things).

Ding ding ding, we have a winner. Virginia adopted the 2009 MUTCD on Dec. 7, 2011. The I-95 HOT lane project had not yet started.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on October 09, 2014, 10:54:54 AM
Transurban just tweeted that they expect the I-95 HO/T lanes will open in December. Previously they'd cited early 2015 as the target date. The idea of opening them right before Christmas seems like potentially a decent idea insofar as traffic volumes are almost always considerably lower for the final two weeks of the year. Recall all the wrecks on the Beltway during the first few days of HO/T operations there in November 2012.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on October 09, 2014, 09:38:05 PM
Ding ding ding, we have a winner. Virginia adopted the 2009 MUTCD on Dec. 7, 2011. The I-95 HOT lane project had not yet started.

Almost sounds like the gap in time between the time that the travel demand forecasts and the time that the final agreement between VDOT and Transurban (and presumably FHWA) was signed.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on October 09, 2014, 09:40:37 PM
Transurban just tweeted that they expect the I-95 HO/T lanes will open in December. Previously they'd cited early 2015 as the target date. The idea of opening them right before Christmas seems like potentially a decent idea insofar as traffic volumes are almost always considerably lower for the final two weeks of the year. Recall all the wrecks on the Beltway during the first few days of HO/T operations there in November 2012.

Good time to open.  Hopefully, since most of the entrances and exits have not changed, it should not have some of the safety problems that the I-495 HOV/Toll lanes experienced.  Especially at the entrance on the Inner Loop near the Robinson Terminal buildings.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on October 10, 2014, 09:37:47 AM
Transurban just tweeted that they expect the I-95 HO/T lanes will open in December. Previously they'd cited early 2015 as the target date. The idea of opening them right before Christmas seems like potentially a decent idea insofar as traffic volumes are almost always considerably lower for the final two weeks of the year. Recall all the wrecks on the Beltway during the first few days of HO/T operations there in November 2012.

Good time to open.  Hopefully, since most of the entrances and exits have not changed, it should not have some of the safety problems that the I-495 HOV/Toll lanes experienced.  Especially at the entrance on the Inner Loop near the Robinson Terminal buildings.

Agreed. I think there may be some wrecks due to people who are on autopilot following the routes they've used for years and then at the last second they say, "Oh, crap, I forgot there's a toll here now," and then they swerve wildly without looking. I take that almost as a given (especially, say, someone coming south after 6:00 PM in the reversible carriageway approaching Turkeycock). But I think there will be a lot less of it than there was on the Beltway, both because many of the exits and entrances are the same and because of the very different design.

I do think there will be rampant confusion and there will be howls of outrage a few days later (when invoices go out) from people who will claim they were unaware of the new configuration and didn't know an E-ZPass was required. I won't feel much sympathy for the vast majority of those people because anyone who drives on that road more than once or twice a year should certainly realize something major is underway that merits some level of attention, and the plethora of signs bearing the E-ZPass logo (most of which, but not all, are currently covered—the wind has pulled back some of the covers from the signs on the Inner Loop) ought to be a tip-off as well. Someone who doesn't live around here and has used that road once or twice a year for, say, Thanksgiving or Christmas trips to visit the relatives, I might have a little more sympathy because I recognize there are a lot of signs to be read and understood.

I expect rampant confusion over the "segment-based" tolling system. Unfortunately, it's not easy to explain it in a quick manner that makes it clear how the segments work while being a short enough explanation to fit within the limited attention spans so many people have. I was thinking about offering to write an article for our HOA's newsletter because so many people in our area use the southbound HOV to the Franconia–Springfield Parkway, but the space is too limited.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on October 10, 2014, 11:17:17 PM
I expect rampant confusion over the "segment-based" tolling system. Unfortunately, it's not easy to explain it in a quick manner that makes it clear how the segments work while being a short enough explanation to fit within the limited attention spans so many people have. I was thinking about offering to write an article for our HOA's newsletter because so many people in our area use the southbound HOV to the Franconia–Springfield Parkway, but the space is too limited.

I think that is ultimately going to hurt patronage, especially when both other toll roads in the region tell drivers what the price is to get to the other end of the tolled lanes.

Telling drivers what the price is to an intermediate point in the corridor may cause more than a few drivers to assume it is not worth it.

That and the lack of the toll lanes going all the way to the Potomac River along I-395 (which is, of course, not Transurban's fault).
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on October 27, 2014, 03:31:29 PM
About 20 minutes ago I was coming down the I-395 HOV lanes from DC and noticed something new at Turkeycock: At the point where the left-side exit into the reversible lanes splits off, there's a new little green sign saying "ENTRANCE," with something covered up above it that's probably a purple "E-ZPass Express" banner," and then the interesting part is that underneath the word "Entrance" there is a downward-pointing arrow pointing to the left. I've never been to California, but the way the arrow was pointing reminded me of photos I've seen of California's odd "FREEWAY ENTRANCE" signs.

Off the top of my head, I cannot think of any other time I've seen a ground-mounted sign for a ramp in Virginia using a downward-pointing arrow instead of the usual upward-pointing arrow you see on an exit sign.

No pictures. I was driving the convertible and its cigarette lighter doesn't work, so I was running the dashcam on its own battery and the battery died before I reached that point.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: froggie on October 27, 2014, 04:44:53 PM
Telling drivers an intermediate price point makes sense in some regards.  Based on 2013 volumes, roughly 1/3 of the volume at Newington exits at Springfield...presumably to access the Beltway.  That's a good chunk of HOV lane users exiting at a midpoint.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on October 27, 2014, 05:04:45 PM
Telling drivers an intermediate price point makes sense in some regards.  Based on 2013 volumes, roughly 1/3 of the volume at Newington exits at Springfield...presumably to access the Beltway.  That's a good chunk of HOV lane users exiting at a midpoint.

At the risk of putting words in his mouth (keyboard?), I don't think that's exactly what cpzilliacus meant. We were referring to how the bottom line on the toll rate signs on the I-95/I-395 HO/T lanes will not display the toll to the far end of the lanes the way it does on the Beltway—instead, the bottom line will be an "intermediate point" when you consider it in relation to the entirety of the lanes. In other words, if you view the lanes in "segments" the way Transurban does, with each "segment" ending at a spot where you can exit back into the general-purpose lanes, then you follow how the bottom line on the sign is the far end of your current "segment."

For example, I presume for me coming home from DC the first sign would presumably list the rates to the Beltway, Route 644, and then the end of the "segment" at the flyover back to the general-purpose lanes just south of Route 644. Then as I approach that flyover I'd see a second list of toll rates listing the Franconia–Springfield Parkway (my exit); either Route 1 at Woodbridge, Route 123 at Occoquan, or the Prince William Parkway; and then the end of the "segment" at the flyover near Potomac Mills Mall. Etc.

So the signs will show "intermediate price points" with respect to each "segment," as you suggest, and I agree with you they absolutely should show that, at least on the longer segments. (Maybe showing the toll to the Beltway AND Route 644 might be overkill? What might it differ by, 10¢?) Otherwise it's hard to make an educated decision whether to use the lanes. But the point cpzilliacus is making is that if you're driving a long distance, you may well pass through several "segments" and so you will have more "decision points" on whether you want to pay the toll for the next segment or instead exit back to the "free" lanes. It's unclear whether most drivers will understand that aspect of the signage. I suspect many won't, at least not at first.

The benefit of this system in terms of the lanes' operation is that it allows Transurban to adjust the rates for the different segments independently from each other to manage the amount of traffic. If there's a wreck in the morning near, say, the Lorton Road overpass, they could jack the rate up between the Prince William Parkway and Newington to discourage people from entering or staying on the HO/T lanes through there (there is to be a new slip ramp back OUT of the HO/T lanes as you pass under the Prince William Parkway), then have a lower rate as you reach the entrance located just south of Newington. I'm going to be interested in seeing how it all works in practice, although I don't drive south on I-95 all that often these days. For our trips to Florida I've been using Route 29 just for a change of pace from I-95, but if the lanes open on schedule in early December I may use them on our way south a few days prior to Christmas just to see how it's working.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: NJRoadfan on October 27, 2014, 07:26:12 PM
I wonder what the wording will be like for the line showing the toll at the end of the segment. Given the limited space and the need for quick readability it'll be interesting to see what they come up with.

Something like "X-OVER to Exits 123 and north" might be too long.

Also, hopefully they will identify the segments by.......something, perhaps a letter and/or a color coded signs?
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on October 27, 2014, 08:02:27 PM
That's a great question. I haven't seen that addressed in any of their publicity materials.


Edited to add: They've updated their website. It looks like they'll say, for example, "95-N/644," which I assume would denote the flyover just north of Newington. See tab 3 at the following link: http://95expresslanes.com/signage
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on October 27, 2014, 10:39:59 PM
Telling drivers an intermediate price point makes sense in some regards.  Based on 2013 volumes, roughly 1/3 of the volume at Newington exits at Springfield...presumably to access the Beltway.  That's a good chunk of HOV lane users exiting at a midpoint.

At the risk of putting words in his mouth (keyboard?), I don't think that's exactly what cpzilliacus meant. We were referring to how the bottom line on the toll rate signs on the I-95/I-395 HO/T lanes will not display the toll to the far end of the lanes the way it does on the Beltway—instead, the bottom line will be an "intermediate point" when you consider it in relation to the entirety of the lanes. In other words, if you view the lanes in "segments" the way Transurban does, with each "segment" ending at a spot where you can exit back into the general-purpose lanes, then you follow how the bottom line on the sign is the far end of your current "segment."

Thank you. That was exactly what I meant.

For example, I presume for me coming home from DC the first sign would presumably list the rates to the Beltway, Route 644, and then the end of the "segment" at the flyover back to the general-purpose lanes just south of Route 644. Then as I approach that flyover I'd see a second list of toll rates listing the Franconia–Springfield Parkway (my exit); either Route 1 at Woodbridge, Route 123 at Occoquan, or the Prince William Parkway; and then the end of the "segment" at the flyover near Potomac Mills Mall. Etc.

Yes.  I really dislike that scheme, and I think it may discourage use by paying (non-HOV) customers.

So the signs will show "intermediate price points" with respect to each "segment," as you suggest, and I agree with you they absolutely should show that, at least on the longer segments. (Maybe showing the toll to the Beltway AND Route 644 might be overkill? What might it differ by, 10¢?) Otherwise it's hard to make an educated decision whether to use the lanes. But the point cpzilliacus is making is that if you're driving a long distance, you may well pass through several "segments" and so you will have more "decision points" on whether you want to pay the toll for the next segment or instead exit back to the "free" lanes. It's unclear whether most drivers will understand that aspect of the signage. I suspect many won't, at least not at first.

Agreed.  It bothers me that Transurban did not adopt a pricing and sign scheme similar to what they used on the Capital Beltway -  or, for that matter, the way that MdTA signs at the entrances to Md. 200.

The benefit of this system in terms of the lanes' operation is that it allows Transurban to adjust the rates for the different segments independently from each other to manage the amount of traffic. If there's a wreck in the morning near, say, the Lorton Road overpass, they could jack the rate up between the Prince William Parkway and Newington to discourage people from entering or staying on the HO/T lanes through there (there is to be a new slip ramp back OUT of the HO/T lanes as you pass under the Prince William Parkway), then have a lower rate as you reach the entrance located just south of Newington. I'm going to be interested in seeing how it all works in practice, although I don't drive south on I-95 all that often these days. For our trips to Florida I've been using Route 29 just for a change of pace from I-95, but if the lanes open on schedule in early December I may use them on our way south a few days prior to Christmas just to see how it's working.

I realize that Transurban has a legal right to maximize its toll revenues, and I have no dispute with that.  But this scheme appears (IMO) to one that may discourage patronage.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mrsman on October 28, 2014, 11:41:18 PM
IMO, it seems odd that one could not lock in a toll rate from the moment of entry into the tollway.  Does anybody know of any other tollway with variable pricing that does it this way?
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: Mapmikey on October 29, 2014, 06:48:48 AM
You do lock in the cost of the segment at the time you enter it.

I think congestion pricing on toll roads longer than a few miles has drawbacks as indicated above.  Imagine the Penna Tpk doing congestion pricing.  You wouldn't set a rate for the whole length based on congestion because the congestion will likely be very different by the time you reach the other end.  The 95/395 project is of course much shorter but still long enough that congestion variation is likely, especially given that there are many entrances and exits that will be available once it all opens up.  The point about people leaving the 95 lanes when they reach the beltway is valid...this can create quite a different congestion pattern on either side of the beltway.

I would even argue the 495 express lanes can suffer from this as well.  Around Christmas when everyone is going to Tysons Corner, will the full length toll be high because it is congested around the Tyson's exits at the north end of the express lanes?

Mapmikey
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on October 29, 2014, 09:22:00 PM
IMO, it seems odd that one could not lock in a toll rate from the moment of entry into the tollway.  Does anybody know of any other tollway with variable pricing that does it this way?

Certainly Md. 200 and the I-495 HOV/Toll lanes do not, and both announce to drivers what the toll is to reach the other end of the toll road or toll lanes.

I understand that Transurban is doing it to maximize revenues across the entire facility on I-95/I-395, and they are taking advantage of exit points where drivers that do not wish to pay the higher toll will be able to return to the "free" parallel lanes. 

But I still think it is a very bad idea and will alienate and anger patrons.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on October 29, 2014, 09:23:55 PM
Drove the I-495 HOV/toll lanes southbound yesterday in the P.M. peak commute periods from the entrance south of Va. 193 to I-66.  Cost $3.10. 

The charge all the way to the other end between Va. 620 and I-95 was $7.60.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on October 30, 2014, 01:58:46 PM
The Post's Dr. Gridlock reports the I-95 HO/T signs will start to be uncovered this weekend, the idea being (a) to give people a few weeks to see them before the lanes begin operations and (b) to allow adequate time to uncover the 300+ signs that have been posted as part of the project.

Edited to add: I was just over in Springfield and it appears they've already started uncovering some of them. One of the toll rate signs had the top purple portion uncovered with the VMS portion reading something like "Express Lanes Open This December."
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: GamePancakes on October 30, 2014, 07:58:09 PM
https://www.google.com/maps/@38.7440526,-77.1876591,3a,75y,212.74h,112.48t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sywzCPr6AOeVEym8142oStg!2e0

Could this mean 95-HOT is including variable speed limits? If it is, it would be interesting if they could go up to 70mph at times.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on October 30, 2014, 09:52:15 PM
https://www.google.com/maps/@38.7440526,-77.1876591,3a,75y,212.74h,112.48t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sywzCPr6AOeVEym8142oStg!2e0

Could this mean 95-HOT is including variable speed limits? If it is, it would be interesting if they could go up to 70mph at times.

They will indeed have variable limits, but so far they've said they won't exceed 65.

The speed limit study for the Beltway lanes showed 70 mph would have been appropriate, but VDOT refused to allow it.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on October 31, 2014, 07:02:24 AM
https://www.google.com/maps/@38.7440526,-77.1876591,3a,75y,212.74h,112.48t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sywzCPr6AOeVEym8142oStg!2e0

Could this mean 95-HOT is including variable speed limits? If it is, it would be interesting if they could go up to 70mph at times.

They will indeed have variable limits, but so far they've said they won't exceed 65.

The speed limit study for the Beltway lanes showed 70 mph would have been appropriate, but VDOT refused to allow it.

I do not recall the speed limits in Virginia's part of the Capital Beltway ever being above 60 MPH pre-NMSL.  Maryland did allow 70 MPH on parts of the Beltway in Prince George's County pre-NMSL.

But I suspect that the 85th percentile speeds in the Beltway in Fairfax County are probably better than 65 MPH, as they are on most of it in Montgomery and Prince George's Counties.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: froggie on October 31, 2014, 07:11:10 AM
Quote
But I suspect that the 85th percentile speeds in the Beltway in Fairfax County are probably better than 65 MPH, as they are on most of it in Montgomery and Prince George's Counties.

In my experience, they're about mid-60s on both sides of the Potomac...
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on October 31, 2014, 07:26:39 AM
According to this article (see link below), the 85th percentile speed in the HO/T lanes was 70 mph when they did the traffic study, but it doesn't give a figure for the general-purpose lanes. Of course, it's to be expected the HO/T lanes would have a higher average speed.

http://www.wtop.com/41/3351447/Beltway-Express-Lanes-speed-limit-raised-to-65-mph

When I'm in the general-purpose lanes I try to keep it to 65. I don't pass many people.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on October 31, 2014, 10:54:11 AM
According to this article (see link below), the 85th percentile speed in the HO/T lanes was 70 mph when they did the traffic study, but it doesn't give a figure for the general-purpose lanes. Of course, it's to be expected the HO/T lanes would have a higher average speed.

http://www.wtop.com/41/3351447/Beltway-Express-Lanes-speed-limit-raised-to-65-mph

When I'm in the general-purpose lanes I try to keep it to 65. I don't pass many people.

When I drove from the north end south to I-66 the other day, I kept it between 55 and 60 in the middle of the P.M. peak period (which was scorching fast compared to the "free" lanes, especially between Va. 7 and I-66).
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mtantillo on November 10, 2014, 01:11:52 PM
Telling drivers an intermediate price point makes sense in some regards.  Based on 2013 volumes, roughly 1/3 of the volume at Newington exits at Springfield...presumably to access the Beltway.  That's a good chunk of HOV lane users exiting at a midpoint.

Only a third? On weekends, I'd say it is more like 90%.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: Stephane Dumas on November 19, 2014, 08:28:59 PM
Google Streetview had put some streetview look of I-495 HOT lanes, here one from September 2014. http://goo.gl/maps/geRU4
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on November 21, 2014, 01:17:15 PM
WTOP Radio: Survey: Most commuters not ready for the 95 Express Lanes opening in December (http://www.wtop.com/654/3747286/Commuters-not-ready-for-I-95-changes)

Quote
A new survey from the Virginia Department of Transportation and Transurban finds that many drivers are still not ready for the 95 Express Lanes to open next month.

Quote
The 29 miles of toll lanes will run from Garrisonville Road to north of Edsall Road in Alexandria. The specific opening date is expected to be announced soon.

Quote
According to the survey, only 32 percent of carpoolers who travel along the Interstate 95 portion of the express lanes have an E-ZPass Flex, which they'll need to use the lanes for free.

Quote
Carpoolers and sluggers must purchase an E-ZPass Flex and switch it into HOV mode to receive the free trip. Drivers can purchase an E-ZPass Flex at Wegmans, Giant, AAA Mid-Atlantic or E-ZPass service centers. You can also get one online.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: jeffandnicole on November 21, 2014, 01:48:11 PM
WTOP Radio: Survey: Most commuters not ready for the 95 Express Lanes opening in December (http://www.wtop.com/654/3747286/Commuters-not-ready-for-I-95-changes)

Quote
A new survey from the Virginia Department of Transportation and Transurban finds that many drivers are still not ready for the 95 Express Lanes to open next month.

Quote
The 29 miles of toll lanes will run from Garrisonville Road to north of Edsall Road in Alexandria. The specific opening date is expected to be announced soon.

Quote
According to the survey, only 32 percent of carpoolers who travel along the Interstate 95 portion of the express lanes have an E-ZPass Flex, which they'll need to use the lanes for free.

Quote
Carpoolers and sluggers must purchase an E-ZPass Flex and switch it into HOV mode to receive the free trip. Drivers can purchase an E-ZPass Flex at Wegmans, Giant, AAA Mid-Atlantic or E-ZPass service centers. You can also get one online.


Not terribly unusual. Most people will hold off until the week before or week after.  And they'll complain no one told them about the switch as well.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mtantillo on November 23, 2014, 06:24:39 PM
Looks like today they were out testing the traffic control system. The green arrows and red X signs as well as the speed limit signs were on. Speed limit is 65 btw.

I'm worried about what happens on opening day. But 32% with E-ZPass, that's good, right? Carpool drivers are the only ones who need it, not riders, so really only 33% of carpoolers need one. In fact if riders have one with them, they risk getting double charged.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on November 23, 2014, 07:45:28 PM
Looks like today they were out testing the traffic control system. The green arrows and red X signs as well as the speed limit signs were on. Speed limit is 65 btw.

I'm worried about what happens on opening day. But 32% with E-ZPass, that's good, right? Carpool drivers are the only ones who need it, not riders, so really only 33% of carpoolers need one. In fact if riders have one with them, they risk getting double charged.

I still think there will be a fair number of HOV-3 drivers that will be very angry when the Transurban bills and violation notices start to show up in their mailboxes, probably in January, about the time that the Virginia General Assembly convenes in Richmond.

Though I am sure that many people will complain to their county and federal elected officials, even though they are relatively blameless (to the extent there is blame to be had) in this.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: jeffandnicole on November 23, 2014, 08:15:54 PM
Along several of the NJ Turnpike exits there are signs stating "EZ Pass Cars Only May Use Shoulder 4pm - 7pm". Most of them are due to the beginnings of EZ Pass, when relatively few had EZ Pass and the cash lanes were congested with traffic along the entire exit ramp. As people finally got the tags, the cash lane jams dwindled. This took a few months to finally occur. Except for interchange 3, rarely does EZ Pass traffic have to use the shoulder.

As for the Virginia HOT lanes, expect a relatively similar ramp-up period. It will take some time...and some violation notices...for people to finally get the message.

(Edited to add similar in my final paragraph)
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 23, 2014, 08:41:28 PM
Along several of the NJ Turnpike exits there are signs stating "EZ Pass Cars Only May Use Shoulder 4pm - 7pm". Most of them are due to the beginnings of EZ Pass, when relatively few had EZ Pass and the cash lanes were congested with traffic along the entire exit ramp. As people finally got the tags, the cash lane jams dwindled. This took a few months to finally occur. Except for interchange 3, rarely does EZ Pass traffic have to use the shoulder.

As for the Virginia HOT lanes, expect a relatively ramp-up period. It will take some time...and some violation notices...for people to finally get the message.

The ones on the Beltway have been open since November 2012. Some people still claim they're being screwed. Almost all of them aren't using their E-ZPasses properly.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: Mapmikey on November 24, 2014, 09:32:13 AM
One cannot claim to be a user of the 95 HOV lanes now and not be aware that an EZ pass is required to use the lanes in all situations when it converts to HOT lanes in December.  There are tons of electronic signs, banners, and standalone signs alerting users to this fact.  These have been up several weeks now.  I do agree with those who believe the structure of the tolling on these lanes will come as a surprise.

Oddly, the lane control and electronic speed limit signs mentioned by mtantillo above are only on the section that will be 3 lanes.  South of Dale City there are no lane control signs and the speed limit 65 sign is a standard sign.

They have also installed full-size interstate mile markers every two-tenths (no route shield on them).

I also think there will be a lot of wrecks NB at the beginning of the HOT lanes in Garrisonville.  Not sure why they didn't have a flyover entrance ramp for this...there is a lot of traffic getting onto 95 at Exit 143 SR 610 and the weaving will be steady trying to get left to reach the on ramp.  Even today there are accordion wrecks approaching the current HOV beginning in Triangle quite regularly and the number of people getting on 95 NB at Exit 150 is tiny compared to Exit 143.

I'm also not a fan of the SB ending of the new lanes.  Slow merge-weave right at the exit for SR 610 that will never be free-flowing in afternoon rush.  Why not extend the through traffic to 95 south HOV lane past SR 610?

[/rant]

Mapmikey
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 24, 2014, 10:42:03 AM
I believe—this is an educated guess—the reason for the lane control signals and the variable speed limits being solely on the three-lane portion is that said portion lacks full shoulders, especially on the side adjacent to the southbound carriageway because there's essentially no shoulder at all on that side. On the two-lane portion (south of the Prince William Parkway, for those who haven't used the reversible lanes recently) there is a full shoulder on each side. I believe the intention is to use the lane control signals and variable speed limits to funnel traffic in the three-lane portion to whichever lanes are not blocked when there's an incident like an accident or a breakdown.

The Post's Dr. Gridlock thinks the HO/T conversion will occur the weekend of December 13–14. We'll see. I hope it's open on December 20 so I can use it for the beginning of our Christmas trip south.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on November 24, 2014, 04:04:09 PM
One cannot claim to be a user of the 95 HOV lanes now and not be aware that an EZ pass is required to use the lanes in all situations when it converts to HOT lanes in December.  There are tons of electronic signs, banners, and standalone signs alerting users to this fact.  These have been up several weeks now.  I do agree with those who believe the structure of the tolling on these lanes will come as a surprise.

I respectfully disagree. People driving the corridor have other things on their mind (like getting to and from work), other than the work that's been going on in this corridor, are likely not paying that much attention (I categorically exclude everyone that reads AAROADS from that category).

Oddly, the lane control and electronic speed limit signs mentioned by mtantillo above are only on the section that will be 3 lanes.  South of Dale City there are no lane control signs and the speed limit 65 sign is a standard sign.

I have noticed that too.  Maybe because the shoulders south of Dale City are reasonably wide, while those north of Dale City (as far as the north end of the HOV/Toll facility) at Turkeycock Run  have been narrowed to allow for three travel lanes.

They have also installed full-size interstate mile markers every two-tenths (no route shield on them).

An improvement over what was there before (no mile markers in the HOV lane roadway at all).

I also think there will be a lot of wrecks NB at the beginning of the HOT lanes in Garrisonville.  Not sure why they didn't have a flyover entrance ramp for this...there is a lot of traffic getting onto 95 at Exit 143 SR 610 and the weaving will be steady trying to get left to reach the on ramp.  Even today there are accordion wrecks approaching the current HOV beginning in Triangle quite regularly and the number of people getting on 95 NB at Exit 150 is tiny compared to Exit 143.

Good question. 

Though my bigger concern is at the other end of the HOV/Toll lanes and the beginning of the HOV lanes at Turkeycock Run.  I see a potential for big problems in the A.M. and P.M. commute periods there.

I'm also not a fan of the SB ending of the new lanes.  Slow merge-weave right at the exit for SR 610 that will never be free-flowing in afternoon rush.  Why not extend the through traffic to 95 south HOV lane past SR 610?

[/rant]

Mapmikey

Why not run these lanes all the way south to U.S. 17 (Warrenton Road), or, even better, to Massaponax?
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on November 24, 2014, 04:09:11 PM
I believe—this is an educated guess—the reason for the lane control signals and the variable speed limits being solely on the three-lane portion is that said portion lacks full shoulders, especially on the side adjacent to the southbound carriageway because there's essentially no shoulder at all on that side. On the two-lane portion (south of the Prince William Parkway, for those who haven't used the reversible lanes recently) there is a full shoulder on each side. I believe the intention is to use the lane control signals and variable speed limits to funnel traffic in the three-lane portion to whichever lanes are not blocked when there's an incident like an accident or a breakdown.

Agreed.

The Post's Dr. Gridlock thinks the HO/T conversion will occur the weekend of December 13–14. We'll see. I hope it's open on December 20 so I can use it for the beginning of our Christmas trip south.

I may check them out on my own during the winter holiday break, but otherwise, I am staying away from them until everyone is reasonably used to using those lanes in the reconfigured state.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 24, 2014, 04:16:47 PM
I may check them out on my own during the winter holiday break, but otherwise, I am staying away from them until everyone is reasonably used to using those lanes in the reconfigured state.

On an ordinary weekday I'd probably do the same, but since we're shooting to hit the road at 7:00 on a Saturday morning, I'm not going to worry (I figure we'll use the big loop ramp from the Beltway rather than entering from the Franconia–Springfield Parkway).
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: froggie on November 25, 2014, 03:13:27 PM
Quote
I respectfully disagree. People driving the corridor have other things on their mind (like getting to and from work), other than the work that's been going on in this corridor, are likely not paying that much attention

If they are not paying attention, that's not VDOT's fault, or the contractor's fault.  If they're driving, they should be paying attention to the road and what's on the road.  That's the basics of driving.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on November 25, 2014, 03:43:53 PM
Quote
I respectfully disagree. People driving the corridor have other things on their mind (like getting to and from work), other than the work that's been going on in this corridor, are likely not paying that much attention

If they are not paying attention, that's not VDOT's fault, or the contractor's fault.  If they're driving, they should be paying attention to the road and what's on the road.  That's the basics of driving.

I think froggie is correct. There are some very large ads in place in the reversible carriageway, both full-color banners attached to overpasses and freestanding signs in the nature of (though not quite the same as) billboards, all of which have messages similar to "Everyone needs an E-ZPass" or "Carpoolers need an E-ZPass Flex" or the like. Even if you've been driving that road for many years, I kind of feel that the combination of two years of construction combined with a bunch of new road signs combined with a series of banners about E-ZPass being required should cause even someone totally unaware of the impending HO/T conversion to say, "Hey, what's this about E-ZPass?" and to do a little investigation.

But, of course, we all know it's virtually impossible to educate people who are not willing to educate themselves. I think some people engage in what the legal system calls "willful blindless"—they actively avoid information they know they won't like so they can claim "I didn't know." The legal system is not sympathetic to those people and I don't think any of us would be either. There are others who are, frankly, just stupid. I continue to be surprised at how clueless some people can be, such as the lady who wrote to Dr. Gridlock in 2012, shortly before the Beltway lanes opened, asking why she would need an E-ZPass on I-66. Look, I can understand not knowing the nuances of how the HO/T lanes will work, but being completely ignorant of the project? I don't get that, at least not if you live in Northern Virginia. The Beltway project was probably the central fact (and inconvenience!) of Northern Virginia transportation for the four or five years before it opened. (The Silver Line would have been second in my mind; I put it second because its construction didn't have the same immediate day-to-day effect on thousands of commuters and travellers that the Beltway construction did.)

I get that the I-95 project is a bit of a different animal because it's converting existing lanes that have continued to operate, pretty much as normal during commuting hours, during the reconstruction process. Also, it seems like I-95 and I-395 have been under construction in Northern Virginia pretty much forever (1970s reconstruction; late 1980s/early 1990s southern extension of HOV system; 1999–2007 Springfield Interchange reconstruction; subsequent addition of fourth lane down to Occoquan; current HO/T lane project; current widening from Landmark to Seminary Road; current project to add HOV ramp on south side of Seminary interchange), and I'm sure to some degree people who have commuted through the never-ending construction must reach a point where they roll their eyes and just figure it's yet another project. I get that. But at the same time, even if you get on autopilot I have to think you'd notice the wholesale replacement of pretty much all the signs on the reversible carriageway and the appearance of "E-ZPass Express" signage that cannot, due to its location, be referring to the existing lanes on the Beltway.



BTW, I've probably said this before, but I think the thing about which the carpoolers/slug drivers have a legitimate beef is the requirement that in order to obtain an E-ZPass Flex you have to put up $35 per transponder (that is, to borrow the SunPass terminology, fund the account with $35 of prepaid tolls). The carpoolers were promised a free ride on the HO/T lanes and the repeal of the E-ZPass monthly fee means they won't have to pay a dollar a month, but they still have to give the Commonwealth a $35 interest-free loan in the form of funding the E-ZPass account. I can certainly understand why that will rankle a lot of carpoolers who don't already have E-ZPass transponders. On the other hand, I'm not sure how the Commonwealth could police it. If they waive the requirement that you fund the account, anyone could SAY "I'm only going to use it for carpooling," get a zero-balance transponder, and then run tollbooths (I think this would be a very dumb thing to do, of course). Maybe the solution is to amend the E-ZPass rules so that VDOT must analyze Flex users' accounts every three or six months and, if indeed a given user is using the device solely for carpooling, they could lower that user's balance to a lesser amount by crediting most of the initial payment back to the card used to fund the account?
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on November 25, 2014, 10:17:46 PM
Quote
I respectfully disagree. People driving the corridor have other things on their mind (like getting to and from work), other than the work that's been going on in this corridor, are likely not paying that much attention

If they are not paying attention, that's not VDOT's fault, or the contractor's fault.  If they're driving, they should be paying attention to the road and what's on the road.  That's the basics of driving.

Adam, I do not dispute your opinion, which I very much agree with. 

But it contrasts with the unpleasant reality, which is that many drivers do not think about much what goes on around them (perhaps made worse by many drivers during the peak commute periods who are very focused on getting to and from work, and nothing else).
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 04, 2014, 10:04:19 AM
My wife sent me this link this morning—WTOP has a video tour (going northbound) of the new nine-mile portion of reversible lanes south of the current HOV lanes' terminus. Nothing anyone here wasn't already aware of, and most of us knew what the lanes would look like, but here's the link anyway for anyone who's interested.

I e-mailed my wife back and said what Transurban ought to do is to post a series of videos filmed on the road on their website showing the entry/exit points and showing how the toll rate signs work, especially the signs as you hit a new "segment." Example, "If you're on the Fairfax County Parkway and you want to go south on the Express Lanes, this is the route you follow." "If you're on the Express Lanes, you will see a sign like this one. That means you have to decide whether you want to pay that toll or whether you want to exit back out to the mainline." Etc. While they have some maps on their website, I think we've seen from when the Beltway project opened that there's something valuable to the idea of having video or photos showing what people will actually see when they're on the road, rather than abstract diagrams.

http://www.wtop.com/654/3755883/Preview-of-the-95-Express-Lanes
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: Zeffy on December 04, 2014, 10:16:42 AM
Thanks for that link. The video was a bit too boring for my tastes, but the lanes themselves look great.

Also, is it standard to use those boom (I think those are what those gates are called) gates at the entry ways to the lanes? HOT lanes are a rather foreign concept to me, being from New Jersey and all.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 04, 2014, 10:21:31 AM
Thanks for that link. The video was a bit too boring for my tastes, but the lanes themselves look great.

Also, is it standard to use those boom (I think those are what those gates are called) gates at the entry ways to the lanes? HOT lanes are a rather foreign concept to me, being from New Jersey and all.

It's standard on that road because the lanes are reversible, not because they're HOV or HO/T. Notice, BTW, that both shoulders are delineated with white lines (no yellow). That's because either lane can be to the driver's left or the driver's right depending on which way they're operating.

It's a little more complicated than this, but essentially, during the morning they run towards DC, then around lunchtime they close them for awhile before reopening them with them running away from DC. Repeat late at night. The weekend schedule is different.

For obvious reasons, though, it wouldn't do to have northbound traffic entering the lanes when they're operating southbound. If you had two vehicles going 75 mph approaching head-on, they'd be closing on each other at an effective 150 mph. Hence why they have the gates in place. When they're reversing the direction, let's say at midday, VDOT requires that all the northbound gates be closed before the southbound gates are opened. They literally have a guy in a truck drive the lanes starting at the southern end. I don't know if he actually does something to close the gates, but he is required to confirm that each set of gates has closed. (Mike has pointed out that logic would suggest they could open southbound access points as the truck goes by—that is, the truck driver drives the lanes, confirms the northbound gates are closed and that no traffic remains on the lanes, so he opens the southbound gates as he reaches them. I don't know why they don't do it that way, but I assume it's absolute paranoia about the possibility of head-on wrecks.)
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: Zeffy on December 04, 2014, 12:03:10 PM
Ah, I completely forgot that these are reversible lanes, yet another foreign concept to me. Now that makes much more sense. (-1 for me not reading your original post 1995hoo  :banghead: )
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: jeffandnicole on December 04, 2014, 01:02:01 PM
Thanks for that link. The video was a bit too boring for my tastes, but the lanes themselves look great.

Also, is it standard to use those boom (I think those are what those gates are called) gates at the entry ways to the lanes? HOT lanes are a rather foreign concept to me, being from New Jersey and all.

It's standard on that road because the lanes are reversible, not because they're HOV or HO/T. Notice, BTW, that both shoulders are delineated with white lines (no yellow). That's because either lane can be to the driver's left or the driver's right depending on which way they're operating.

It's a little more complicated than this, but essentially, during the morning they run towards DC, then around lunchtime they close them for awhile before reopening them with them running away from DC. Repeat late at night. The weekend schedule is different.

For obvious reasons, though, it wouldn't do to have northbound traffic entering the lanes when they're operating southbound. If you had two vehicles going 75 mph approaching head-on, they'd be closing on each other at an effective 150 mph. Hence why they have the gates in place. When they're reversing the direction, let's say at midday, VDOT requires that all the northbound gates be closed before the southbound gates are opened. They literally have a guy in a truck drive the lanes starting at the southern end. I don't know if he actually does something to close the gates, but he is required to confirm that each set of gates has closed. (Mike has pointed out that logic would suggest they could open southbound access points as the truck goes by—that is, the truck driver drives the lanes, confirms the northbound gates are closed and that no traffic remains on the lanes, so he opens the southbound gates as he reaches them. I don't know why they don't do it that way, but I assume it's absolute paranoia about the possibility of head-on wrecks.)

I would hope they are automated...and the ones where the automation is broken are the only ones the driver needs to manually close.

I guess they would also need to verify any broken down vehicles are removed from the shoulder, in case someone decides to come back, get the car started, then starts heading in the wrong direction.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 04, 2014, 02:12:37 PM
Yeah, I agree with you on assuming they should be automated, such that the guy is simply verifying that they closed, but I don't know. mtantillo might.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on December 04, 2014, 03:25:24 PM
I don't know if he actually does something to close the gates, but he is required to confirm that each set of gates has closed. (Mike has pointed out that logic would suggest they could open southbound access points as the truck goes by—that is, the truck driver drives the lanes, confirms the northbound gates are closed and that no traffic remains on the lanes, so he opens the southbound gates as he reaches them. I don't know why they don't do it that way, but I assume it's absolute paranoia about the possibility of head-on wrecks.)

Some years ago, I know the gates were closed and opened from a control center in Arlington County, but I believe all of that has now moved to VDOT's (relatively) new facility in Fairfax County. 

Not sure if Transurban or VDOT will be responsible for opening and closing the gates once the change to HOV/Toll lane operation happens.

Crossing my fingers as I say this, but I have not heard of even one head-on wreck happening on the reversible lanes of I-95/I-395 in the many years they have been in operation.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mtantillo on December 04, 2014, 03:43:59 PM
Yeah, I agree with you on assuming they should be automated, such that the guy is simply verifying that they closed, but I don't know. mtantillo might.

They are automated.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: andrewkbrown on December 04, 2014, 06:55:11 PM
I've always wondered how fast the gates go down. Any warning the gates are about to go down? I assume they go down one by one, since I believe there's about a half-dozen gates tapered in length at the entrances to direct a vehicle left to right away from the closed lanes and back to the main lanes.

Anyone know if cars have crashed through a few of the gates as they closed upon them?
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mtantillo on December 04, 2014, 08:19:02 PM
The changable message signs either list a traffic restriction (OPEN TO ALL, HOV-3+ ONLY, etc.) when the lanes are open. They will then change to "GATES CLOSING, MERGE RIGHT", "GATES CLOSING, DO NOT ENTER", etc. then after a couple of minutes the gates will close and the signs will change to say "GATES CLOSED DO NOT ENTER" (usually just replacing the word closing with closed).
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 04, 2014, 08:50:58 PM
I've floored it through there near the Pentagon when the sign said "GATES CLOSING, MERGE RIGHT." The gates were open far enough that I could easily make it through when I downshifted and stomped on the accelerator.

All the gates swing closed in unison near the Pentagon. I can't say I've ever really noticed or paid attention elsewhere.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 05, 2014, 09:19:46 AM
Finally found some info on tolling segments. WTOP has an online FAQ (link below) that includes the following. This may or may not be accurate, of course, but it's the first statement I've found anywhere saying where the segments will break. It only refers to northbound, though.
 
"I'm going to drive the entire 29 miles from Stafford to Alexandria. Can I lock in one toll at Garrisonville Road?
 
"No; you will have to pay two tolls. Transurban will charge one toll from Garrisonville Road to the Fairfax County Parkway, then another to Edsall Road.
 
"Transurban expects most of the traffic on I-95 to be between the Fairfax County Parkway and Edsall Road, and says traffic conditions could change in Fairfax County while a driver travels between Stafford and Prince William County.
 
"Therefore, a commuter can only lock in a rate until Fairfax County Parkway, then must decide whether to pay a second toll to Edsall Road, or avoid the toll and exit into the main lanes."
 
http://wtop.com/654/3751471/Express-Lanes-QA
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on December 05, 2014, 11:51:29 AM
"Therefore, a commuter can only lock in a rate until Fairfax County Parkway, then must decide whether to pay a second toll to Edsall Road, or avoid the toll and exit into the main lanes."

I really dislike this. 

Not because I have any problem with varied tolls (higher during peak demand times), but because there is (IMO) no justification for such an approach (and customers like to know what the full cost will be for a trip as they enter), and it will give such projects a very bad name around  Virginia, the Washington area and the rest of the country.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 05, 2014, 12:57:58 PM
This new map on the Express Lanes site appears to show where the segments will be. The yellow "Decision Point" banner shows where segments end because at those points, you must decide whether to pay the toll for the next segment or exit back to the local lanes.

Link to map: http://www.95expresslanes.com/pdfs/95_Express_Lanes_Access_Map.pdf

Northbound, two segments:

(1) All access points south of Newington up to the existing flyover back to the local lanes located just north of the mainline's Exit 166 (the Fairfax County Parkway at Newington); there is one new slip ramp back to the local lanes in this segment, but it won't be used as a dividing point between segments

(2) From said flyover north to Turkeycock (includes four access points into the lanes, three from other roads and one slip ramp from the mainline)

Southbound, three segments:
(1) Turkeycock to the existing flyover immediately to the south of the Route 644 interchange (the flyover is shown in the wrong place on the linked map; this segment has two access points into the lanes, at Turkeycock and the ramps from the Beltway)

(2) From said flyover south to the existing flyover to the mainline located alongside Potomac Mills Mall (the yellow "Decision Point" note is in the wrong place on the map; this segment has four access points into the lanes—a slip ramp from the mainline roughly next to the Backlick Road exit, a new entrance still under construction from Heller Road at the Fort Belvoir Proving Grounds, a new entrance from Alban Road/Boudinot Drive in Newington, and a new slip ramp in the US-1 Exit 161 complex at the southern end of Shirley Highway)

(3) From Potomac Mills flyover south to the lanes' end near Aquia (only one access point into the lanes, a new slip ramp in the Dale Boulevard/Opitz Boulevard area)
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mtantillo on December 05, 2014, 03:54:23 PM
"Therefore, a commuter can only lock in a rate until Fairfax County Parkway, then must decide whether to pay a second toll to Edsall Road, or avoid the toll and exit into the main lanes."

I really dislike this. 

Not because I have any problem with varied tolls (higher during peak demand times), but because there is (IMO) no justification for such an approach (and customers like to know what the full cost will be for a trip as they enter), and it will give such projects a very bad name around  Virginia, the Washington area and the rest of the country.

I predict that the impending disaster coming with the opening of these lanes could very well spend the end of HOT lanes and privately funded PPTA projects in Virginia in the future.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on December 05, 2014, 04:01:39 PM
"Therefore, a commuter can only lock in a rate until Fairfax County Parkway, then must decide whether to pay a second toll to Edsall Road, or avoid the toll and exit into the main lanes."

I really dislike this. 

Not because I have any problem with varied tolls (higher during peak demand times), but because there is (IMO) no justification for such an approach (and customers like to know what the full cost will be for a trip as they enter), and it will give such projects a very bad name around  Virginia, the Washington area and the rest of the country.

I predict that the impending disaster coming with the opening of these lanes could very well spend the end of HOT lanes and privately funded PPTA projects in Virginia in the future.

Let's just say that I share and agree with your concerns. 

Our late boss at the office, Ron Kirby, Ph.D. was a fan of pricing of scarce road capacity from decades ago, and I now think he was right (I was pretty skeptical before all-electronic toll technologies like E-ZPass were perfected - but after seeing AET (albeit not E-ZPass) work on the then-new Highway 407 in Ontario back in 1997, I was sold).
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on December 05, 2014, 04:03:11 PM
WAMU Radio: New Ride On I-95 In Northern Virginia Will Be Pricey (http://wamu.org/news/14/12/05/new_ride_on_i_95_in_northern_virginia_will_be_pricey)

Quote
Commuting in the I-95 corridor in Northern Virginia is about to change, possibly for the better, but the faster ride will not be cheap unless you are in an HOV-3 carpool.

Quote
The typical toll on the 95 Express Lanes, 30 miles of EZ Pass-only toll lanes between Garrisonville Road in Stafford County and Edsall Road in Fairfax County, is expected to cost between $6 and $8, according to the construction conglomerate hired by Virginia to pave the asphalt and erect the toll gantries, Fluor-Transurban. And that is for using only a portion of the road, as the typical trip length is expected to run about 10 miles. HOV-3 carpoolers ride free 24/7.

Quote
What you will pay will vary depending on where you enter and exit the Express Lanes. The southern stretch where traffic volume is lighter could cost about 20 cents per mile. The northern stretch, heading into the Springfield interchange where traffic volume is heavy on a normal workday, could run about 80 cents per mile.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 10, 2014, 08:59:58 AM
We should learn sometime today when HO/T operations will begin on I-95. There's some sort of ceremony somewhere in Alexandria today to mark the project's completion (although the new Heller Road ramp is not yet complete) and apparently they'll announce it then.

Can't come soon enough. I was listening to WTOP while getting dressed this morning and the traffic report said the reversible carriageway was snarled in Newington because this morning's wind had knocked over a construction barrel, which broke apart into many pieces (I assume it got hit by a truck or bus) and resulted in there being plastic shards all over the highway. Ugh. Presumably the barrel was one of the ones blocking off the new third lane.



Edited to update:

The Express Lanes are to open this coming Sunday but will be free until December 29 to allow for additional testing of the tolling equipment. HOV will be in effect during the current HOV hours.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/dr-gridlock/wp/2014/12/10/95-express-lanes-to-open-temporarily-free-on-sunday/
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: Mapmikey on December 10, 2014, 11:01:46 AM
This is a poorly worded Post headline to announce this.  By suggesting drivers can try the lanes for free, it suggests that I as a non-HOV qualifier can use the lanes, whereas the explanation further down clearly says I cannot during rush hour.

Between now and Dec 29 there is no change in how the lanes operate from today, only that there will be 3 lanes north of Dale City and that they now extend to Garrisonville...

Mapmikey

Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 10, 2014, 01:19:39 PM
This is a poorly worded Post headline to announce this.  By suggesting drivers can try the lanes for free, it suggests that I as a non-HOV qualifier can use the lanes, whereas the explanation further down clearly says I cannot during rush hour.

Between now and Dec 29 there is no change in how the lanes operate from today, only that there will be 3 lanes north of Dale City and that they now extend to Garrisonville...

Mapmikey



I don't like the way they keep saying "Express Lanes opening" because two of the three lanes are already "open" most of the time (main exceptions being when they're reversing the direction or when they're closed for construction) and because the existing reversible lanes have been called the "express lanes" by many people for a good 40 years now. It's not like the Beltway where they constructed four entirely new lanes that are "express" in the New York Subway sense of not giving access to every interchange. Rather, they're beginning a new system of operating the existing express facility and making a tweak to the traffic pattern by adding a third lane. It's one reason why in some of my comments here and elsewhere I've referred to when "HO/T operations begin" or to the "HO/T conversion." (I adopted froggie's preference for that slash a long time ago because I feel it emphasizes "high-occupancy OR toll" and because I prefer to say "H-O-T" as three letters to be analogous to "HOV"—you don't say it like "huv lanes.")

I was just in Arlington on business and I drove back via the I-395 HOV about half an hour ago as I type this. The overhead E-ZPass Express VMS units were switched on and were displaying alternating messages. The first sign, going up the hill past Landmark Mall, switched between "NEW TRAFFIC PATTERN DEC 14" and "TOLLING BEGINS DEC 29." The next sign, just before the Duke Street overpass, switched between "NEW TRAFFIC PATTERN DEC 14" and "EZPASS REQUIRED STARTING DEC 29." The signs out in the general-purpose lanes were operating the same as normal. I exited at the Beltway and noted the Express Lanes VMS there was not turned on. I thought they ought to have ALL of them emphasizing the date on which E-ZPass is required.

Also saw some new yellow diamond-shaped signs saying "VARIABLE SPEED ZONE AHEAD" with the purple "E-ZPass Express" sign on top. When I exited onto the Beltway there was a white rectangular sign saying "END VARIABLE SPEED ZONE."
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: NE2 on December 10, 2014, 01:22:54 PM
(I adopted froggie's preference for that slash a long time ago because I feel it emphasizes "high-occupancy OR toll" and because I prefer to say "H-O-T" as three letters to be analogous to "HOV"—you don't say it like "huv lanes.")
Why would hov and huv sound the same? Is this one of those weird regional vowel shifts?
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 10, 2014, 01:31:04 PM
(I adopted froggie's preference for that slash a long time ago because I feel it emphasizes "high-occupancy OR toll" and because I prefer to say "H-O-T" as three letters to be analogous to "HOV"—you don't say it like "huv lanes.")
Why would hov and huv sound the same? Is this one of those weird regional vowel shifts?

My point was that you don't pronounce "HOV" as a word at all. You pronounce it as three letters, "H-O-V." I pictured that if you pronounced it as a word, it would have a short "u" sound like the letters "hov" in "hovercraft," where the "hov-" part is pronounced like "huv," not like "hove" (long "o" sound) or "hahv" ("ah" denoting a short "o" sound like in the word "froggie").

Regardless of whether the vowel is short or long or whatever, though, you say "HOV" as three letters, so by analogy I've always viewed "HO/T" or "HOT" as three letters, not as the word "hot" (although I know most people view it as a word).
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: NE2 on December 10, 2014, 01:33:33 PM
you don't pronounce "HOV" as a word at all
I do.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 10, 2014, 01:35:36 PM
you don't pronounce "HOV" as a word at all
I do.

If you say so. I've never heard anyone pronounce it as a word.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: Mapmikey on December 10, 2014, 02:47:32 PM
I have heard it as a word though not in a really long time.

I want to call them HOOT lanes for High Occupancy Or Toll.  Probably not because of how much fun I'll have using them...

Mapmikey
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: NJRoadfan on December 10, 2014, 03:50:40 PM
Well at least I'll be able to "clinch" the lanes when I drive down to NC, cause its likely the last time I'll ever be on them.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: froggie on December 10, 2014, 03:58:56 PM
you don't pronounce "HOV" as a word at all
I do.

If you say so. I've never heard anyone pronounce it as a word.

The 64 reversible lanes in Norfolk are routinely called "the huv".  I've occasionally heard the term used for the 95/395 lanes as well, though mostly by military who are from or were stationed in California or Norfolk.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 10, 2014, 04:36:58 PM
Well at least I'll be able to "clinch" the lanes when I drive down to NC, cause its likely the last time I'll ever be on them.

I'm planning to use them next Saturday morning on our Christmas trip to Florida. Getting to use them for free is a pleasant surprise. I wasn't concerned about the toll since it's minimal when viewed in terms of the entire trip, but I never object if something I expected to pay for turns out to be free.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mtantillo on December 10, 2014, 04:48:46 PM
you don't pronounce "HOV" as a word at all
I do.

If you say so. I've never heard anyone pronounce it as a word.

The 64 reversible lanes in Norfolk are routinely called "the huv".  I've occasionally heard the term used for the 95/395 lanes as well, though mostly by military who are from or were stationed in California or Norfolk.


I know someone who used to call them "The Hove". She was from Florida (Fort Lauderdale).
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mtantillo on December 10, 2014, 04:51:57 PM
This is a poorly worded Post headline to announce this.  By suggesting drivers can try the lanes for free, it suggests that I as a non-HOV qualifier can use the lanes, whereas the explanation further down clearly says I cannot during rush hour.

Between now and Dec 29 there is no change in how the lanes operate from today, only that there will be 3 lanes north of Dale City and that they now extend to Garrisonville...

Mapmikey



I don't like the way they keep saying "Express Lanes opening" because two of the three lanes are already "open" most of the time (main exceptions being when they're reversing the direction or when they're closed for construction) and because the existing reversible lanes have been called the "express lanes" by many people for a good 40 years now. It's not like the Beltway where they constructed four entirely new lanes that are "express" in the New York Subway sense of not giving access to every interchange. Rather, they're beginning a new system of operating the existing express facility and making a tweak to the traffic pattern by adding a third lane. It's one reason why in some of my comments here and elsewhere I've referred to when "HO/T operations begin" or to the "HO/T conversion." (I adopted froggie's preference for that slash a long time ago because I feel it emphasizes "high-occupancy OR toll" and because I prefer to say "H-O-T" as three letters to be analogous to "HOV"—you don't say it like "huv lanes.")

I was just in Arlington on business and I drove back via the I-395 HOV about half an hour ago as I type this. The overhead E-ZPass Express VMS units were switched on and were displaying alternating messages. The first sign, going up the hill past Landmark Mall, switched between "NEW TRAFFIC PATTERN DEC 14" and "TOLLING BEGINS DEC 29." The next sign, just before the Duke Street overpass, switched between "NEW TRAFFIC PATTERN DEC 14" and "EZPASS REQUIRED STARTING DEC 29." The signs out in the general-purpose lanes were operating the same as normal. I exited at the Beltway and noted the Express Lanes VMS there was not turned on. I thought they ought to have ALL of them emphasizing the date on which E-ZPass is required.

Also saw some new yellow diamond-shaped signs saying "VARIABLE SPEED ZONE AHEAD" with the purple "E-ZPass Express" sign on top. When I exited onto the Beltway there was a white rectangular sign saying "END VARIABLE SPEED ZONE."

My preferred terminology would be: "Ramps and new lanes opening on Sunday", and "Tolls begin December 29". Effectively, the new ramps will all open as extensions of the old HOV system, but the big switchover will happen on the 29th.

Supposidly, WTOP will be calling them the "E-ZPass Lanes" on traffic reports, to distinguish them from the old H-O-V lanes.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 10, 2014, 05:33:58 PM
....

Supposidly, WTOP will be calling them the "E-ZPass Lanes" on traffic reports, to distinguish them from the old H-O-V lanes.

That's the terminology Bob Marbourg has been using since November 2012 to refer to the Beltway's HO/T lanes. I haven't noticed the other traffic reporters using any terminology at all with regard to those lanes most of the time. As I've done in this thread, I sometimes refer to the "reversible lanes" or the "reversible carriageway" when referring to the system as a whole, but for obvious reasons that won't work well in a traffic report if you need to distinguish between the northern "HOV Lanes" portion and the southern "E-ZPass Express Lanes" portion.

I'm sure part of the reason Marbourg says "E-ZPass lanes" is that he's been around long enough that he refers to the existing reversible carriageway as the "express lanes." (I know one sign on I-395 still does too as of this afternoon, the advance southbound sign for the Seminary Road exit from the reversible lanes. It's attached to one of the on-ramps from King Street and it has an auxiliary sign reading "EXPRESS LANES ONLY" to indicate the sign is directed solely at people in the reversible lanes. Off the top of my head, I can't think of any other signs that still say "express lanes." The ones near Landmark have been replaced with "E-ZPass EXPRESS" signs.)

You know, BTW, one benefit to this project is that the signs over the reversible lanes from Landmark on down to Aquia are much improved over the mish-mash of inconsistent signs that had been posted on that road in the past.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on December 10, 2014, 10:37:30 PM
you don't pronounce "HOV" as a word at all
I do.

If you say so. I've never heard anyone pronounce it as a word.

The 64 reversible lanes in Norfolk are routinely called "the huv".  I've occasionally heard the term used for the 95/395 lanes as well, though mostly by military who are from or were stationed in California or Norfolk.

The Verizon Wireless GPS software (VZNavigator) calls them "huv lanes" - or at least it did the last time I used it (I no longer do).
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on December 10, 2014, 10:44:25 PM
WTOP Radio: 95 Express Lanes opening announced (http://www.wtop.com/654/3751518/95-Express-Lanes-will-open-this-month)

Quote
Before a crowd of several hundred people Wednesday, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced the 95 Express Lanes will open this weekend, with toll collection beginning on Monday, Dec. 29.

Quote
The governor called the project a game changer that will dramatically improve commutes for drivers in Northern Virginia and keep the region viable for economic growth and development.

Quote
McAuliffe also renewed his call for the U.S. Department of Transportation to help fund high-speed rail between D.C., Fredericksburg, Richmond and Hampton Roads. He says such a project would augment the impact of the 95 Express Lanes, giving commuters options to quickly get between the nation's capital and Virginia's capital.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on December 10, 2014, 10:48:16 PM
You know, BTW, one benefit to this project is that the signs over the reversible lanes from Landmark on down to Aquia are much improved over the mish-mash of inconsistent signs that had been posted on that road in the past.

At least part of that mis-mash is due to the varied years at which the reversible lanes were completed.

As far south as (roughly) the present-day Va. 289 (Franconia-Springfield Parkway), they date back to the early 1970's. 

Then they were extended south to (roughly) the Occoquan River in the mid-1990's, and a few years later to their present terminus at Va. 234 near Dumfries.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mtantillo on December 11, 2014, 06:41:10 PM
I remember when they ended near Springfield in 1993, my first time in Virginia. Then to the Occoquan. Then to north of VA 234. Then to the present end in Dumfries around 1997 or so.

I always thought they would keep the momentum going and press southward, since they had even already constructed the bridge at Mine Road, which has just sat disused for well over 15 years now!
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mtantillo on December 11, 2014, 07:34:59 PM
One thing I kind of wonder is why they are keeping the HOV rules in effect through the whole trial period. I can understand during the first week of the trial, since that is essentially a normal workweek. But the second week is essentially only two normal days, then Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and December 26 (which is a Federal holiday, per Obama's Executive Order). So I'm sure commuter traffic would be very light those days, to me it would make some sense to allow non HOV's to commute in the lanes toll-free for a couple of days, to practice for the real deal on the 29th when those people may choose to pay to commute in the new lanes regularly or semi-regularly. To me, it kind of waters down the "free trial" if some of the most important users (the ones who will be paying top dollar to ride in these lanes with fewer than 3 during peak hours) are totally excluded from the entire duration of the trial, even on some of the lightest traffic days of the year.

I also wonder how they will actually enforce HOV rules at the new entrances that don't have any permanent HOV signing (the pre-existing entrances mostly have some signs that will be taken down)? Presumably they would display HOV-3+ on the VMS portion of the Express Lane signs, but does that carry the same legal weight as a permanent white regulatory sign? I could see anyone who uses a new entrance point and gets an HOV ticket getting it thrown out in court, given that there are no permanent signs, and the only signs there are express lane signs, and the Express Lanes don't normally  have the ability to restrict to HOV-3 Only (if the lanes are congested, they raise the price).
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on December 12, 2014, 12:01:37 AM
One thing I kind of wonder is why they are keeping the HOV rules in effect through the whole trial period. I can understand during the first week of the trial, since that is essentially a normal workweek. But the second week is essentially only two normal days, then Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and December 26 (which is a Federal holiday, per Obama's Executive Order). So I'm sure commuter traffic would be very light those days, to me it would make some sense to allow non HOV's to commute in the lanes toll-free for a couple of days, to practice for the real deal on the 29th when those people may choose to pay to commute in the new lanes regularly or semi-regularly. To me, it kind of waters down the "free trial" if some of the most important users (the ones who will be paying top dollar to ride in these lanes with fewer than 3 during peak hours) are totally excluded from the entire duration of the trial, even on some of the lightest traffic days of the year.

I think that is up to Transurban, once they take control of the reversible roadway.

I also wonder how they will actually enforce HOV rules at the new entrances that don't have any permanent HOV signing (the pre-existing entrances mostly have some signs that will be taken down)? Presumably they would display HOV-3+ on the VMS portion of the Express Lane signs, but does that carry the same legal weight as a permanent white regulatory sign? I could see anyone who uses a new entrance point and gets an HOV ticket getting it thrown out in court, given that there are no permanent signs, and the only signs there are express lane signs, and the Express Lanes don't normally  have the ability to restrict to HOV-3 Only (if the lanes are congested, they raise the price).

I assume they will not enforce the HOV restrictions at the egress and access points any longer - all enforcement will be at the gantries, and directed at those that have an E-ZPass Flex transponder in the HOV position without the required three people in the vehicle. 
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 12, 2014, 07:37:00 AM
I think Mike's point was how they'll enforce HOV between now and December 29 at the new access points that don't have the existing HOV signage. I suppose they could put out portable VMS trailers. There aren't that many new access points in the morning, FWIW—I think just the lanes' southern end—but the afternoon has three new ones I can think of off the top of my head (new ramp in Newington from Alban Road/Boudinot Drive, new southbound slip ramp entry in the middle of Exit 161, new southbound slip ramp entry near Dale Boulevard).

Of course, there won't be any HOV restrictions in Virginia on Christmas Day per the usual practice, so that day doesn't matter. I don't know whether they will also waive it on Boxing Day since the feds have the day off. They won't waive it on Christmas Eve. So you have eight business days when it's a potential issue, and three of those (December 22 to 24) will see fairly light traffic.

Edited to add: Regarding access points, I believe the fourth new access point, that being the new afternoon-only ramp from the Fort Belvoir Proving Ground that will run into the Newington flyover, isn't ready to open yet. I need to go to Lorton at some point, so if I take i-95 (questionable on a Friday afternoon) I'll try to keep my eyes peeled.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: jeffandnicole on December 12, 2014, 08:42:04 AM
Wouldn't the purpose of a trial period to be let everyone use it?  If you only restrict it to HOV traffic, then it's not a trial; it's status quo. 

For SOVs, the trial would be to see if they can get to/from where they need to go via those lanes.  They would want to encourage their use so when the trial is over, the SOVs...or in this case, the revenue generating vehicles, will continue to use those lanes.

Sure, you run into the possibility of jamming the lanes with SOVs.  But the nice thing about the timing of this trial period is the fact that work traffic falls during this time of year (while shopping traffic increases), so overall there's fewer commuters on the highway.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 12, 2014, 08:56:26 AM
I don't believe they view this as a "trial period."
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mtantillo on December 12, 2014, 11:18:09 AM
I think Mike's point was how they'll enforce HOV between now and December 29 at the new access points that don't have the existing HOV signage. I suppose they could put out portable VMS trailers. There aren't that many new access points in the morning, FWIW—I think just the lanes' southern end—but the afternoon has three new ones I can think of off the top of my head (new ramp in Newington from Alban Road/Boudinot Drive, new southbound slip ramp entry in the middle of Exit 161, new southbound slip ramp entry near Dale Boulevard).

Of course, there won't be any HOV restrictions in Virginia on Christmas Day per the usual practice, so that day doesn't matter. I don't know whether they will also waive it on Boxing Day since the feds have the day off. They won't waive it on Christmas Eve. So you have eight business days when it's a potential issue, and three of those (December 22 to 24) will see fairly light traffic.

Edited to add: Regarding access points, I believe the fourth new access point, that being the new afternoon-only ramp from the Fort Belvoir Proving Ground that will run into the Newington flyover, isn't ready to open yet. I need to go to Lorton at some point, so if I take i-95 (questionable on a Friday afternoon) I'll try to keep my eyes peeled.

Yes, you understood my point...it was how to enforce HOV during the Dec 14 - 29 period. I'm not sure that a digital message board alone, without a static white regulatory sign, can be legally enforced.

I wonder, will traffic be able to exit Fort Belvoir Proving Ground via that new ramp, and then "turn left" to get onto I-95 north? Essentially using the new access point but never actually entering the Express Lanes.

I also wonder, is there any way for the general public to use this ramp or does it literally begin within the restricted area of the military base?
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 12, 2014, 11:32:48 AM
....

I wonder, will traffic be able to exit Fort Belvoir Proving Ground via that new ramp, and then "turn left" to get onto I-95 north? Essentially using the new access point but never actually entering the Express Lanes.

I also wonder, is there any way for the general public to use this ramp or does it literally begin within the restricted area of the military base?

The answer to the first question is "yes." The ramp is to be open only during the hours when the Express Lanes are pointed southbound. Traffic using the ramp will be allowed to turn left into the northbound general-purpose lanes or right into the southbound Express Lanes. The ramp will not be open when the Express Lanes are pointed northbound for two reasons: (1) risk of people turning right and driving the wrong way on the Interstate; (2) probably more important in my view, traffic will be coming off the Express Lanes via that flyover at high speed and it'd be very unsafe to have slow-moving traffic entering the ramp there. That's also why the new ramp will never act as an exit FROM the Express Lanes TO the Proving Ground—people would have to slow down far too much going up the flyover in order to make the left turn onto the new ramp.

Regarding your other question, the ramp will begin at Heller Road; the exact location can be seen in the Google satellite view linked below (note the stub at the left side). I don't know whether the public can access Heller Road because I've never tried, never had any reason to bother and I didn't want to risk getting in some kind of trouble driving somewhere I wasn't supposed to (especially if I had my dashcam running). I have no idea where the security points are, though the satellite view suggests that road might be accessible. Now you've got me curious. I might have to drive over that way to see what I can see when I head to Lorton in about half an hour or so.

(This map my brother's company has online suggests Heller Road is accessible to the public (http://www.afcea.org/events/fallintel/12/NCEVisitorDirections.pdf), based on where it shows the security gates as being, but who knows. I know it is located within Fort Belvoir property, but that alone isn't determinative.)

https://www.google.com/maps/@38.7503541,-77.1871033,418m/data=!3m1!1e3
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: jeffandnicole on December 12, 2014, 12:08:05 PM
I don't believe they view this as a "trial period."

Whoops...actually reading *all* of the article brought that to light! :-)
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 12, 2014, 12:47:19 PM
Quick update: Heller Road is indeed accessible to the public. So is Barta Road across the Proving Grounds—potentially a shortcut to the far side of the Fullerton Road area. I doubt most of the public will have any clue they can access the new ramp nor even how to do so.

I'll post a few pictures later today.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on December 12, 2014, 01:28:34 PM
Quick update: Heller Road is indeed accessible to the public. So is Barta Road across the Proving Grounds—potentially a shortcut to the far side of the Fullerton Road area. I doubt most of the public will have any clue they can access the new ramp nor even how to do so.

I'll post a few pictures later today.

Definitely part of the Fort Belvoir North Area.

I have been there on official business (and not otherwise driven through there), but as best as I can tell, both Heller Road and Barta Road are indeed open to the public.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 12, 2014, 02:55:58 PM
I'm back. As I said before (posting from my phone), Heller Road and Barta Road are both open to the public. There's almost no reason for a member of the public ever to use Heller except to access the ramp to the I-95 Express Lanes, but it's also easy to access them from the new entry/exit ramp in Newington that connects to the intersection of Alban Road and Boudinot Drive. There's very little reason why someone not coming from the Fort Belvoir facility would want to use the Heller Road access point. Also, aside from that ramp, the only way out of there for a member of the public is via Barta Road—at its southern end closer to Newington, Heller essentially dead-ends into a driveway for the intelligence facility located there. If you take the ramp to Heller from the Fairfax County Parkway or I-95 and you aren't an authorized vehicle, you essentially have to turn right and follow it towards Barta. (There are cameras all over the place and various pop-up barriers....I couldn't help but feel an irrational fear that they'd see me cutting a U-turn near the restricted area and pop up a barrier, but of course they didn't. I WAS tailed by a cop for a short distance on Barta Road, and when I saw him coming I pulled my dashcam off the windshield, but he didn't give me any trouble.)

That HO/T ramp COULD be a useful ramp if you were coming from the east side of US-1 (Terminal Drive area, Cinder Bed Road, etc.) and you want to go south in the HO/T lanes. The alternative is to exit at Boudinot Drive and go straight through two lights. I don't know which would be faster. If you're in the Fullerton Road area, the ramp at Boudinot would be more logical. Same if you're on Backlick Road—depending on where you are, either the Boudinot ramp or the Franconia–Springfield Parkway ramp is probably easier. Other thing is, there are no signs anywhere to indicate to a member of the general public that there's an entrance to I-95 back there. The average local driver will never know the option exists.

It was also interesting to note the sign for the ramp only refers to going south in the Express Lanes. According to the VDOT megaprojects site, you will also be able to use the ramp to go north in the general-purpose lanes.

Turning onto Heller from Barta was slightly disconcerting because they have some very sturdy 8'2" barriers to stop truck traffic. While I knew my car would easily clear that, it was still weird driving under it.

Going west on Barta beyond Heller is strange and uninviting because the road is two lanes each way but they have a security barrier consisting of a Jersey wall zig-zagging between the lanes—I guess you could say you go through some tight esses that appear designed to slow you down enough to allow their guards to pop up a barrier in front of you if they are suspicious of you.


I'm going to edit this to add some video and some other pictures of things I found interesting once I've compiled the video and created the pictures from screen captures.


Edited to add:

—Forgot to include the map link I meant to include. https://www.google.com/maps/@38.7494543,-77.1824766,15z

—First picture is on the southbound Fairfax County Parkway. Sorry about the graininess. It's a sign for the HO/T lanes. I found it interesting because of the yellow banner at the bottom: "USE BOUDINOT DR" with an arrow indicating to exit to the right.

(http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Road%20sign%20pictures/BoudinotDriveHOTsign_zpse88058d2.png)


—Second picture is on the existing ramp from the southbound Parkway to southbound I-95. To the right is the new ramp connecting the HO/T lanes and Alban Road/Boudinot Drive. You may recall there used to be access to southbound I-95's general-purpose lanes at that intersection. What I found interesting was to see a toll gantry placed over an exit/entrance ramp. I believe this is the only place on either set of Northern Virginia HO/T lanes that I've seen a toll gantry over a ramp. There's a gantry out in the lanes themselves next to this ramp. I'm a bit curious as to why they configured it this way instead of just having two gantries out in the lanes themselves, but I suspect it might have something to do with there being a northbound slip ramp located just to the south of the ramp—might that have been too many gantries in too short an area or something?

(http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Road%20sign%20pictures/BoudinotDriveHOTramptollgantry_zpsf85b84fb.png)


Video to come in a second edit.

Video of Heller Road showing where the ramp is and the dead-end and part of Barta Road is embedded below. There's a noticeable splice when the camera reset the clip at precisely the wrong time when I passed the HO/T lane ramp the first time. The intersection I reach after the splice is where the ramp comes off the Fairfax County Parkway and I-95. The ramp to the left at the beginning of the video is I-95's southbound Exit 166, marked for Backlick Road. You may or may not get an extended period of silence at the beginning—Billy Joel's "Pressure" was playing on the radio and it caused a copyright issue on YouTube, so I told their software to remove the song.

Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on December 12, 2014, 04:01:28 PM
Hoo, thanks for sharing these. 

Last time I was down on Barta Road, the work for that long flying ramp from Heller Road to the I-95 managed lanes southbound was just getting started, and the entrance point is exactly where I remember it being. 
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 12, 2014, 04:07:51 PM
I forgot to mention, I did not get a look at the other end of the Heller Road ramp because I didn't take I-95 back north due to very heavy traffic that appeared not to be moving much. I was headed to Old Town, so I took Route 1 up to Mount Vernon Highway and then took that to the GW Parkway. Widening of Route 1 through Fort Belvoir is well underway, BTW, though the construction doesn't extend to the northern end of the base near Mount Vernon Highway where there's a controversy about the future of those stables located just southeast of the road.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: WillWeaverRVA on December 12, 2014, 04:22:42 PM
Widening of Route 1 through Fort Belvoir is well underway

Widening? Are they 6-laning US 1 through that area?
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 12, 2014, 04:48:46 PM
Widening of Route 1 through Fort Belvoir is well underway

Widening? Are they 6-laning US 1 through that area?

Yes, six thru lanes plus turn lanes where needed. They're also replacing the bridge over Accotink Creek. All the BRAC stuff plus the opening of the new hospital on the base put added pressure on them to get the widening underway.

Project website: http://rte1ftbelvoir.com/
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on December 12, 2014, 05:10:32 PM
Widening of Route 1 through Fort Belvoir is well underway

Widening? Are they 6-laning US 1 through that area?

Yes, six thru lanes plus turn lanes where needed. They're also replacing the bridge over Accotink Creek. All the BRAC stuff plus the opening of the new hospital on the base put added pressure on them to get the widening underway.

Have they torn down the railroad bridge over U.S. 1 yet?
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mtantillo on December 12, 2014, 05:20:56 PM
Thanks for the insight, fellow hoo!

There is a "ramp gantry" at the Prince William Parkway exit. Remember that "gantry = enforcement point", so they may have felt it was a good location to run enforcement of the HOV rules.

I wonder if there will be a "ramp gantry" that will charge a small toll for the use of the new ramp from the Proving Grounds to I-95 north during PM rush hour?
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 12, 2014, 05:30:33 PM
Widening of Route 1 through Fort Belvoir is well underway

Widening? Are they 6-laning US 1 through that area?

Yes, six thru lanes plus turn lanes where needed. They're also replacing the bridge over Accotink Creek. All the BRAC stuff plus the opening of the new hospital on the base put added pressure on them to get the widening underway.

Have they torn down the railroad bridge over U.S. 1 yet?

Yes. Video of the entire work zone is below (as I type this, YouTube is still processing it, so it may not play; I also might have to tell it to mute the audio again if it raises a copyright flag).





To get back to the topic of HO/T lanes, Dr. Gridlock just posted a blog entry saying the McAuliffe Administration intends to study HO/T lanes on I-66 inside the Beltway. Arlington County will consider that about as welcome as a loud fart in church. I can't imagine they'd cooperate with this given their intransigence on I-395. Arlington views I-66 not being widened as more of a sacred cow than anything to do with I-395.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/dr-gridlock/wp/2014/12/12/virginia-to-study-hot-lanes-inside-the-beltway/
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on December 12, 2014, 05:31:50 PM
Thanks for the insight, fellow hoo!

There is a "ramp gantry" at the Prince William Parkway exit. Remember that "gantry = enforcement point", so they may have felt it was a good location to run enforcement of the HOV rules.

I wonder if there will be a "ramp gantry" that will charge a small toll for the use of the new ramp from the Proving Grounds to I-95 north during PM rush hour?

That might actually work, but I am not aware that anyone considered it! 

Clearly, there are no turning conflicts at the end of that long flyover where it joins the existing structure., and I think there is enough room for traffic to accelerate to merge in to I-95 northbound.

Only concern might be turning radius, as the turn would seem to be rather sharp.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 12, 2014, 05:34:15 PM
....

There is a "ramp gantry" at the Prince William Parkway exit. Remember that "gantry = enforcement point", so they may have felt it was a good location to run enforcement of the HOV rules.

I wonder if there will be a "ramp gantry" that will charge a small toll for the use of the new ramp from the Proving Grounds to I-95 north during PM rush hour?

Thanks for that info. I have not used that exit in a very long time because every time I've used the Prince William Parkway recently it's been early morning and the HOV lanes were going the other way.

I couldn't see any sign of a "ramp gantry" at the Heller Road ramp when I looked over as I was driving past. Doesn't mean there isn't one, of course.


Edited to add: I found something online that suggests Transurban did not build that ramp, which implies to me it probably won't be tolled for northbound traffic.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on December 12, 2014, 05:58:57 PM
To get back to the topic of HO/T lanes, Dr. Gridlock just posted a blog entry saying the McAuliffe Administration intends to study HO/T lanes on I-66 inside the Beltway. Arlington County will consider that about as welcome as a loud fart in church. I can't imagine they'd cooperate with this given their intransigence on I-395. Arlington views I-66 not being widened as more of a sacred cow than anything to do with I-395.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/dr-gridlock/wp/2014/12/12/virginia-to-study-hot-lanes-inside-the-beltway/

Thanks for sharing.

I will not predict how this might turn out, but it is perhaps (IMO)  the best place (above all) in Northern Virginia to use pricing to manage traffic. 

A few issues (among many) that will spawn controversy:

(1)  This would (presumably) force a return to HOV-3 in order to get a free trip on I-66.  At least HOV-3 would be consistent with managed lanes on I-95 and I-495 in Virginia.

(2)  What about the "Dulles Exemption?" Allows traffic headed eastbound morning from the Dulles Access Road (only) to any point along I-66 between Exits 68 (Westmoreland Street) and the Rosslyn Tunnel (just before (Exit 75 (Va. 110)) to disregard HOV restrictions.  Westbound traffic entering I-66 at any point between Va. 110 and  Washington Boulevard (opposite Exit 75) and headed to the Dulles Access Road (only) also enjoys HOV exemption in the afternoon. 

I suppose if there is agreement to retain that exemption, any vehicle wanting it might be required to have any E-Z Pass transponder, and then have gantries near the far eastern end of the Dulles Access Road to match and zero-out toll transactions on I-66.

(3) What about traffic on the Dulles Connector Road that is not headed to the Dulles Access Road? Should such trips be tolled above and beyond the I-66 tolls?

(4)  Currently the off-peak-flow directions (westbound in A.M., eastbound in P.M.) inside the Beltway have no HOV restriction at all, but are often severely congested.  A lot of the drivers stuck in that congestion are Arlington County residents.

(5)  Presumably a properly priced I-66 will be able to carry more traffic than the (frequently congested) I-66 there today.  That could be the source of much disagreement.

(6)  There might be a legal issue with mandating that every driver have an E-ZPass transponder here, because I-66 has always been part of the Interstate system.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mtantillo on December 12, 2014, 06:22:30 PM
Somewhere...and I cannot for the life of me remember where, but in some Federal legislation, there is a requirement that agencies provide some form of method for those without an ETC transponder to access the "corridor". So HOT lanes don't necessarily count, since the regular lanes are what someone without a transponder could use. The only non-HOT type system I know of where a transponder (or account) is mandatory is in Houston on the Westpark tollway, and Sam Houston Tollway, but Harris County says the frontage roads maintain access for all.

But I could definitely see FHWA balking at the idea of any transponder requirement on I-66 if there are no un-tolled lanes. Transurban has been reluctant to do video tolling, and has a transponder requirement, but it seems like any tolling of I-66 inside the Beltway would not necessarily be Transurban or another PPTA participant, but more VDOT or a similar arrangement to the Elizabeth River Crossings in Norfolk, which do utilize video tolls on a corridor with no "free" lanes. I get the idea it would not be PPTA because a private firm like Transurban wants to keep the excess toll money, whereas Stewie Schwartz's comment in the article referenced all the money going to transit in the corridor (presumably WMATA, Loudoun County, PRTC).

With no transponder requirement, they could have a gantry on the Dulles Access Road to "zero out" toll charges for anyone going to the airport via video or transponder.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: NE2 on December 12, 2014, 06:30:09 PM
The only non-HOT type system I know of where a transponder (or account) is mandatory is in Houston on the Westpark tollway, and Sam Houston Tollway, but Harris County says the frontage roads maintain access for all.
There was the Wabash Memorial Bridge, but it's now toll-free.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mtantillo on December 12, 2014, 06:36:23 PM
The only non-HOT type system I know of where a transponder (or account) is mandatory is in Houston on the Westpark tollway, and Sam Houston Tollway, but Harris County says the frontage roads maintain access for all.
There was the Wabash Memorial Bridge, but it's now toll-free.

And interestingly enough....one of the reasons the Wabash Memorial Bridge had a transponder requirement was because.....  "Wabash Pass" used Harris County's EZ-Tag customer service center to do all of their processing. The Wabash Pass and EZ-Tag service centers were at the same address in Houston. So naturally the customer service people used the same rules.

One of the reasons Harris County refuses to do video tolling is that they do not have the authority under state law to issue lines of credit, and by letting someone use a toll road without immediately paying, and invoicing them later, it is equivalent to issuing a line of credit (or so they say). For some strange reason, every single other toll agency that has done AET has come to a different conclusion, but that is of no interest to them apparently.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mtantillo on December 12, 2014, 07:00:31 PM
Somewhere...and I cannot for the life of me remember where, but in some Federal legislation, there is a requirement that agencies provide some form of method for those without an ETC transponder to access the "corridor". So HOT lanes don't necessarily count, since the regular lanes are what someone without a transponder could use. The only non-HOT type system I know of where a transponder (or account) is mandatory is in Houston on the Westpark tollway, and Sam Houston Tollway, but Harris County says the frontage roads maintain access for all.

Okay, here is the relevant piece of legislation: http://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/23/950.5  (see section B)

I think this applies to pretty much everything except HOT lanes (which are under a separate section of the legislation), including all of the value pricing projects, tolling to fund reconstruction, tolling new added capacity (for all vehicles). This could very well explain why the I-95 Express Lanes in Maryland (tolled for all, authorized under the "added capacity can be tolled if the same number of free lanes is maintained" provisions) allow video tolls, but the I-95 and I-495 Express Lanes in Virginia (tolled for non-HOV's, authorized under HOV/HOT/congestion management provisions) to not allow those without E-ZPass to use.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 12, 2014, 07:01:17 PM
I note they didn't necessarily say they'd explore a full conversion of all lanes. I pictured a single HO/T lane on the left when I read it.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on December 12, 2014, 07:56:46 PM
I note they didn't necessarily say they'd explore a full conversion of all lanes. I pictured a single HO/T lane on the left when I read it.

That would be tough to implement, and make it difficult (impossible?) to pass. What about the exits? 

The late Dr. John Nestor (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Nestor) would have had a lot of fun with that sort of configuration.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on December 12, 2014, 09:18:02 PM
article referenced all the money going to transit in the corridor (presumably WMATA, Loudoun County, PRTC).

This is an instance where I have no problem with some toll revenue going to cross-subsidize transit operations (in the same or near the same corridor).

But pay the bondholders (if there are any), maintain and police the road - first.  No Pennsylvania Act 44-type deal, where the toll road is asked to borrow money to fork over to transit subsidies.

And before a money pipeline is opened to transit, the transit operators should be relying on the private sector to maintain and drive the buses and other transit vehicles.  PRTC, Fairfax Connector, Loudoun Commuter Express and ART do. 
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on December 12, 2014, 09:51:20 PM
One thing I kind of wonder is why they are keeping the HOV rules in effect through the whole trial period. I can understand during the first week of the trial, since that is essentially a normal workweek. But the second week is essentially only two normal days, then Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and December 26 (which is a Federal holiday, per Obama's Executive Order). So I'm sure commuter traffic would be very light those days, to me it would make some sense to allow non HOV's to commute in the lanes toll-free for a couple of days, to practice for the real deal on the 29th when those people may choose to pay to commute in the new lanes regularly or semi-regularly. To me, it kind of waters down the "free trial" if some of the most important users (the ones who will be paying top dollar to ride in these lanes with fewer than 3 during peak hours) are totally excluded from the entire duration of the trial, even on some of the lightest traffic days of the year.

I also wonder how they will actually enforce HOV rules at the new entrances that don't have any permanent HOV signing (the pre-existing entrances mostly have some signs that will be taken down)? Presumably they would display HOV-3+ on the VMS portion of the Express Lane signs, but does that carry the same legal weight as a permanent white regulatory sign? I could see anyone who uses a new entrance point and gets an HOV ticket getting it thrown out in court, given that there are no permanent signs, and the only signs there are express lane signs, and the Express Lanes don't normally  have the ability to restrict to HOV-3 Only (if the lanes are congested, they raise the price).

From the Transurban 95 Express Lanes (http://www.95expresslanes.com/) Web site (emphasis added):

Quote
Roadway improvements have been completed early, so we're opening new ramps and lanes on I-95 on December 14 to allow you to benefit from the additional capacity during the holiday season. Standard HOV rules will continue to be in effect during rush hour until tolling begins on December 29, with the exception of holidays. Outside HOV hours, anyone can try the new Lanes for free.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 12, 2014, 10:33:23 PM

I note they didn't necessarily say they'd explore a full conversion of all lanes. I pictured a single HO/T lane on the left when I read it.

That would be tough to implement, and make it difficult (impossible?) to pass. What about the exits? 

The late Dr. John Nestor (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Nestor) would have had a lot of fun with that sort of configuration.

I meant one additional lane operated as HO/T, not conversion of an existing one.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: vdeane on December 12, 2014, 11:32:19 PM
The only non-HOT type system I know of where a transponder (or account) is mandatory is in Houston on the Westpark tollway, and Sam Houston Tollway, but Harris County says the frontage roads maintain access for all.
There was the Wabash Memorial Bridge, but it's now toll-free.
Good.  IMO the idea of a low-traffic rural bridge in the middle of nowhere requiring a transponder that could only be used on said bridge and was interoperable with nothing, even though Indiana is an E-ZPass member, was one of the stupidest ideas in the history of ideas.  I wonder of the requirement to be interoperable by 2016 was a factor in the decision to remove tolls.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: froggie on December 13, 2014, 07:32:10 AM
Quote
I meant one additional lane operated as HO/T, not conversion of an existing one.

That's definitely not going to happen.  I was under the distinct impression from the recent study that the idea to convert 66 to HO/T would be conversion of all existing lanes but not add any new lanes.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 13, 2014, 10:49:23 AM
There's a minimally more detailed article in today's paper. Of course, the photo is of an interchange outside the Beltway.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/officials-to-consider-road-widening-hot-lanes-through-arlington-portion-of-i-66/2014/12/12/2bf9a97e-824a-11e4-9f38-95a187e4c1f7_story.html
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on December 13, 2014, 06:47:29 PM
Quote
I meant one additional lane operated as HO/T, not conversion of an existing one.
That's definitely not going to happen.  I was under the distinct impression from the recent study that the idea to convert 66 to HO/T would be conversion of all existing lanes but not add any new lanes.

Arlington County's elected officials were confident that they would stop all of I-66  between I-495 and Rosslyn in the planning process or in court.

They didn't.  What the Commonwealth wants, the Commonwealth usually gets.  In this case a scaled-down version of what VDH originally wanted, but still a continuous freeway to close that gap, which Arlington had vowed to stop.

Having said that, there is not really much widening that is warranted (IMO) - 3.8 miles according to Google Maps, and much of it (especially on the westbound side) has already been widened.

I would like to see continuous three lanes all the way from the Dulles Connector Road's half interchange, Exit 67 (westbound only) to the Exit 71 for Va. 120/Va. 237 (North Glebe Road) (eastbound side).  Much of the added lane work is already in place (in particular on the westbound side between Exit 71 to Exit 69 (Sycamore Street).
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on December 14, 2014, 02:32:53 PM
Dr. Gridlock in the Washington Post: 95 Express Lanes set to open Sunday evening (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/dr-gridlock/wp/2014/12/14/95-express-lanes-set-to-open-sunday-evening/)

Quote
Starting Sunday evening, the 95 Express Lanes will open in Northern Virginia, but the project isn’t complete. Here’s what I-95/395 drivers need to know for the next two weeks.

Quote
No tolls at first. All the new lanes and ramps are opening along the system’s 29 miles between Garrisonville Road in Stafford County and the Edsall Road area just inside the Capital Beltway. They will be free for all drivers until Dec. 29. But HOV3 rules will be in effect at peak periods all along the express lanes route, even in the nine-mile section to the south that consists of completely new lanes.

Quote
At off-peak hours and on weekends, the lanes will be open to all drivers during the two-week transition to regular operations.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 15, 2014, 09:58:11 AM
I drove my wife to work this morning because she had several bags of stuff to donate to an office clothing drive. Didn't enter I-395 until the King Street exit on the way in. On the way back out of the city I took it all the way to the Beltway. Express lanes were pointed inbound, of course, and it was still during HOV hours. HOV volume appeared light. Saw one vehicle using the new exit flyover at Turkeycock. I did get a look at the lane control signals and the variable speed limit signs, the latter via my mirrors. The lane control signals appear to be more brightly-lit than the ones over the I-66 shoulder lane. Should be easier to see in sun glare and the like. The variable speed limit signs are the style that used to be in use on the Beltway from Springfield to the Wilson Bridge during the construction a few years ago and currently in use on US-27 west of Pembroke Pines, Florida—the style that looks like a black number on a white background, rather than the illuminated yellow number on a black background like on I-495 in Delaware. The style they're using looks more like a conventional speed limit sign. To my eyes, the Delaware style signs are easier to see because the numbers seem brighter.

WTOP said there were traffic snarls at the lanes' southern end near Aquia but didn't say what the problem was. I didn't hear any mention of accidents, so I assume part of the issue may be with people entering from Route 610 (there is a very busy slug lot at that interchange) and trying to cut directly across to the express lanes. The next entrance is the lanes' old southern terminus near Route 234, nine miles to the north, so there's certainly some incentive to try to cut across. Too bad it couldn't have been constructed as a right-side exit onto a flyover the way the southbound terminus is set up.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: Mapmikey on December 15, 2014, 10:11:06 AM
At 5:05 this morning 95 NB was backed up approaching the Aquia Interchange but this backup did not stay solid to the entrance ramp for the Express Lanes.  This interchange backs up fairly regularly because of the huge number of people using the clover from EB SR 610 to NB 95.

As I have stated before I also wonder why no flyover for the entrance in Aquia.

My expectation for the afternoon is that since eligibility for the lanes hasn't changed yet, the normal Woodbridge backup where the mainline drops from 4 to 3 lanes will be the same.  I expect the backup in Dumfries from the old HOV end will move to Aquia, but I think it will be worse because instead of a simple merge it will be a weave with a substantial number of people on mainline 95 wanting to exit at Aquia.  Maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised.

Personally after 12/29 I will have to figure out if it is better for me to use the toll lane all the way to the end or to get off at the new Triangle flyover instead...

Mapmikey
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 15, 2014, 10:20:53 AM
I think we might see some level of slowdown or lane-changing at the Prince William Parkway in the afternoons because the right lane of three will now become exit-only there. In the past, the reversible carriageway was two lanes and there was a conventional deceleration lane at that exit. I suspect the exit-only aspect will catch some people by surprise. It SHOULDN'T be a big deal, but you know how people around here overreact to such things....
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mtantillo on December 15, 2014, 11:48:29 AM
I think we might see some level of slowdown or lane-changing at the Prince William Parkway in the afternoons because the right lane of three will now become exit-only there. In the past, the reversible carriageway was two lanes and there was a conventional deceleration lane at that exit. I suspect the exit-only aspect will catch some people by surprise. It SHOULDN'T be a big deal, but you know how people around here overreact to such things....

Yesterday when I rode the lanes northbound, anyone entering at Prince William Parkway tried to immediately "merge" over to the right, even though they don't have to anymore.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 15, 2014, 11:56:48 AM
I think we might see some level of slowdown or lane-changing at the Prince William Parkway in the afternoons because the right lane of three will now become exit-only there. In the past, the reversible carriageway was two lanes and there was a conventional deceleration lane at that exit. I suspect the exit-only aspect will catch some people by surprise. It SHOULDN'T be a big deal, but you know how people around here overreact to such things....

Yesterday when I rode the lanes northbound, anyone entering at Prince William Parkway tried to immediately "merge" over to the right, even though they don't have to anymore.

As long as they do so safely, I consider that commendable because it means they're not hogging the left lane.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on December 15, 2014, 01:30:22 PM
I think we might see some level of slowdown or lane-changing at the Prince William Parkway in the afternoons because the right lane of three will now become exit-only there. In the past, the reversible carriageway was two lanes and there was a conventional deceleration lane at that exit. I suspect the exit-only aspect will catch some people by surprise. It SHOULDN'T be a big deal, but you know how people around here overreact to such things....

Yesterday when I rode the lanes northbound, anyone entering at Prince William Parkway tried to immediately "merge" over to the right, even though they don't have to anymore.

As long as they do so safely, I consider that commendable because it means they're not hogging the left lane.

The worst Nestoring I ever observed in the I-95/I-395 restricted lanes was back in the days of the old District of Columbia Lorton Reformatory (which came to an end after the Republican Party took over Congress in the 1994 elections - D.C. felons are now incarcerated in the federal Bureau of Prisons).

The D.C. Department of Corrections had a fleet of old prison buses that would shuttle felons between the prison site in Lorton and (presumably) their day in court in Washington.  Headed south from D.C. in the afternoons, the DCDC buses would invariably drive relatively slowly in the left lane of the restricted roadway (they were, after all, providing a form of mass transportation), causing a long queue of vehicles to form behind the bus or buses.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 15, 2014, 01:47:05 PM
I continue to shake my head at some of the silly questions people ask. Dr. Gridlock had an online Q-and-A session at noon today (http://live.washingtonpost.com/gridlock1215.html) and someone posted the following question. I mean, come on, use your own two eyes! Anyone who's been on I-95 at any point in recent years should have been able to tell it wouldn't be two sets of lanes like on the Beltway.

Quote
I thought I remember at one point reading that the project that opened last night was going to be a permanent set of HOT lanes operating in both directions (similar to beltway HOT lanes)—up until Edsall Road. All that I've read now about Edsall road is that people in the HOT lanes may cause a backup because they have to get off if they're not HOV (because that's the transition). Is my original assumption—that from Stafford to Edsall there would be 24/7 2-way HOT lanes—wrong? Or is there so little worry about it that there's just nothing written (that I've seen at least)?
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mtantillo on December 15, 2014, 01:52:12 PM
I continue to shake my head at some of the silly questions people ask. Dr. Gridlock had an online Q-and-A session at noon today (http://live.washingtonpost.com/gridlock1215.html) and someone posted the following question. I mean, come on, use your own two eyes! Anyone who's been on I-95 at any point in recent years should have been able to tell it wouldn't be two sets of lanes like on the Beltway.

Quote
I thought I remember at one point reading that the project that opened last night was going to be a permanent set of HOT lanes operating in both directions (similar to beltway HOT lanes)—up until Edsall Road. All that I've read now about Edsall road is that people in the HOT lanes may cause a backup because they have to get off if they're not HOV (because that's the transition). Is my original assumption—that from Stafford to Edsall there would be 24/7 2-way HOT lanes—wrong? Or is there so little worry about it that there's just nothing written (that I've seen at least)?

You beat me to it...I was just about to post that gem of a quote.

No matter how much public outreach you do, there is no shortage of clueless people out there...

Between the people that have no clue, the people who don't understand a darn thing about how congestion pricing and basic supply/demand works, and the people who think that 5 lanes of stopped traffic is better than 3 lanes of stopped traffic and 2 lanes managed to operate at speed...
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: jeffandnicole on December 15, 2014, 02:07:49 PM
Or this...


Quote
Q:   I-95 Express Lanes   

Maybe I missed the description (or am just confused) but will the new I-95 express lanes that just opened up be open to both Northbound AND Southbound traffic at the same time? Or will they function like the old HOV lanes and be Northbound in morning rush hour & Southbound in evening rush hour?

A: Robert Thomson 

The 95 Express Lanes are the most complicated highway system in the D.C. region and will take a while to get used to.

They express lanes are reversible and will follow the same schedule as the HOV3 lanes did. So this is different from the Beltway express lanes. That project added four new lanes, so you have two in each direction on the 495 Express Lanes.

Or This Shoutout...

Quote
Q:   Maryland HOT lanes   

I don't drive I-95 north of Baltimore very often but last week I was able to try out their new HOT lanes for free. I entered the lanes at the northern-most point and exited at 895. I was very impressed with the limited on/off ramps (keeps confusion to minimum) and also the signage was very clear. In both regards, the lanes were easier to use than the Beltway's current HOT lanes. Will the per-mile pricing rates be similar all over I-95?

A: Robert Thomson 

Maryland doesn't have any HOT lanes. I mention this just to illustrate how complex these new tolling systems can be, and why it takes us time to learn how to use them.

HOT stands for high-occupancy toll. (Even that term is confusing. I like the way frequent blog commenter 1995hoo writes it: HO/T, for high-occupany/toll. You either ride free as a high-occupancy carpooler, or you pay a toll.)

Maryland has all-electronic tolling on the Intercounty Connector and on the brand new I-95 Express Toll Lanes that the commenter drove last week. But it doesn't offer free rides to carpoolers.

Maryland also doesn't use "dynamic pricing" in setting the toll rates. Maryland has a variable tolling system, where the toll you pay is set to the time of day you drive.

In the Virginia express lanes, there's no upper limit on the toll. It varies with the level of traffic and the distance you drive.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: jeffandnicole on December 15, 2014, 02:09:02 PM
Between the people that have no clue, the people who don't understand a darn thing about how congestion pricing and basic supply/demand works, and the people who think that 5 lanes of stopped traffic is better than 3 lanes of stopped traffic and 2 lanes managed to operate at speed...

When EZ Pass was newer, I remember seeing complaints from people that thought too many lanes were dedicated to EZ Pass, and that the length of the EZ Pass line queue should be the same as the length of the cash paying line queue.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 15, 2014, 02:14:26 PM
Between the people that have no clue, the people who don't understand a darn thing about how congestion pricing and basic supply/demand works, and the people who think that 5 lanes of stopped traffic is better than 3 lanes of stopped traffic and 2 lanes managed to operate at speed...

When EZ Pass was newer, I remember seeing complaints from people that thought too many lanes were dedicated to EZ Pass, and that the length of the EZ Pass line queue should be the same as the length of the cash paying line queue.

As Dr. Gridlock has said—and I think he's right—people are so conditioned to seeing congested roads, they automatically assume that if anything is moving anywhere close to normal speed it must mean it's underutilized.




....

Or This Shoutout...

Quote
Q:   Maryland HOT lanes   

I don't drive I-95 north of Baltimore very often but last week I was able to try out their new HOT lanes for free. I entered the lanes at the northern-most point and exited at 895. I was very impressed with the limited on/off ramps (keeps confusion to minimum) and also the signage was very clear. In both regards, the lanes were easier to use than the Beltway's current HOT lanes. Will the per-mile pricing rates be similar all over I-95?

A: Robert Thomson 

Maryland doesn't have any HOT lanes. I mention this just to illustrate how complex these new tolling systems can be, and why it takes us time to learn how to use them.

HOT stands for high-occupancy toll. (Even that term is confusing. I like the way frequent blog commenter 1995hoo writes it: HO/T, for high-occupany/toll. You either ride free as a high-occupancy carpooler, or you pay a toll.)

....

Heh. I saw that when he posted it. The credit for that abbreviation really belongs to froggie since I picked it up after seeing he'd written it that way and thinking it was a useful way to denote the "OR" aspect of how such lanes operate.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: Mapmikey on December 15, 2014, 08:05:00 PM
Since there were 5 separate problems with I-95 mainline this afternoon (4 definitely were not related to Express Lanes) I cannot give a full appraisal of the conditions.

I can say that there did not appear to be any issues where the 3rd lane drops at VA 294 - looked to be traveling near the speed limit there.

I did notice that the slowdown on the lanes began 3/4 of a mile from the end.  It looks like the flyover curves are sharp enough (30 mph posted) that this may be the cause of Express Lane slowdown and not the weave onto I-95.  There were no issues on mainline 95 at the new south end but one of the wrecks was close enoughto this location that it might have affected 95's true flow down there.

Mapmikey
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mtantillo on December 15, 2014, 11:04:11 PM
I wanted to try the SB configuration tonight, but Transurban is already deviating from their published schedule...lanes closed before 9PM. Tomorrow I guess!
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 16, 2014, 07:23:24 AM
I wanted to try the SB configuration tonight, but Transurban is already deviating from their published schedule...lanes closed before 9PM. Tomorrow I guess!

I'm planning to use them southbound on Saturday. Don't want to drive an extra sixty miles this week just to explore the lanes, especially now that I woke up this morning to the news of the water main break downtown that's messing up the Metro such that I'm going to be driving my wife to work again. We may be using your suggestion of taking the Beltway HO/T lanes to I-66 because I have a hunch 12 Street being closed at E will back up I-395 as well, due both to congestion and to people using other routes to get around. (When there's a problem in that area, a lot of people bail to Memorial Bridge, but in our case, that's the most direct route, hence why I find another way entirely.)


Edited to add: For what it's worth, at 8:10 AM entering the Beltway lanes at their southern end it was $6.45 to I-66, $12.00 to the lanes' northern end. We were at I-66 within five minutes, so well worth the toll....unfortunately, it was one of those mornings where when one thing goes wrong, everything is slow. Still took an hour to get to the Watergate complex even with HOV on I-66. Apparently there was a wreck on the Roosevelt Bridge.  :ded:
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on December 16, 2014, 12:33:51 PM
WAMU Radio: Transurban Takes Step Towards Profitability With 495 Express Lanes (http://wamu.org/news/14/12/15/transurban_takes_step_towards_profitability_with_495_express_lanes)

Quote
After losing $51 million in its first full year of operations in 2013, the 495 Express Lanes — 14 miles of E-ZPass-only toll and HOV-3 lanes along the Beltway in Northern Virginia — are collecting enough toll revenue to cover their operating expenses as 2014 comes to a close, said the chief executive of the highway’s private sector operator, Australia-based Transurban.

Quote
While the express lanes’ customer base is expanding, Transurban may not make a profit on its long-term investment for several more years, said Transurban CEO Scott Charlton, in an interview with WAMU 88.5.

Quote
“We're at a point where we are more than covering our operating costs now and so we are happy with the investment that we restructured,” said Charlton, referring to the $1.1 billion of debt raised to fund the cost of construction of the 495 Express Lanes. “We look at it as a long-term investment. It is not a short-term investment.”

Quote
“We expect to be covering our operating costs and paying our debt, but from an accounting profit, that is going to be years off. But we expect to make distributions to our shareholders around 2020 or late this decade,” he added.

Quote
As the opening of Transurban’s other project in Northern Virginia — 95 Express Lanes between Fairfax and Stafford Counties — ignites a new discussion over how to defeat traffic congestion in the D.C. area, the company portends further revenue growth on the 495 corridor now that both toll roads form a 45-mile network of congestion-free lanes for drive-alone commuters, carpoolers, and buses.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on December 16, 2014, 12:36:43 PM
Edited to add: For what it's worth, at 8:10 AM entering the Beltway lanes at their southern end it was $6.45 to I-66, $12.00 to the lanes' northern end. We were at I-66 within five minutes, so well worth the toll....unfortunately, it was one of those mornings where when one thing goes wrong, everything is slow. Still took an hour to get to the Watergate complex even with HOV on I-66. Apparently there was a wreck on the Roosevelt Bridge.  :ded: 

I have heard of other people using the I-495 HOV/Toll  lanes to get to I-66 eastbound. 

A wreck on the T. Roosevelt is bad for several reasons: there is no viable alternative route from I-66 (the Memorial Bridge, not all that easy to get to from I-66, cannot handle the extra traffic, nor can the Key Bridge nor can the 14th Street Bridge); there is normally no D.C. Roadway Operations Patrol unit near the bridge; and because the bridge is in the District of Columbia, it means that the Metropolitan Police of the District of Columbia will respond to it at their leisure (though VDOT's Safety Service Patrol contractors will often get there first and provide some traffic control).
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on December 16, 2014, 12:42:30 PM
I wanted to try the SB configuration tonight, but Transurban is already deviating from their published schedule...lanes closed before 9PM. Tomorrow I guess!

I get the impression that Transurban still has some stuff on their punch list to deal with, and maybe some stuff that is not quite finished. 

Bob Marbourg was reporting some congestion on southbound I-95 near Va. 610 (Garrisonville Road) in Stafford County at the south end of the Transurban lanes.  Be interesting if all that misery at Va. 234 in the afternoons just migrates south to Va. 610.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 16, 2014, 01:11:39 PM
I believe Transurban also said they would be closing the gates earlier than usual during these first few weeks as they take over the gates' operation from VDOT. I assumed the rationale is simply an overabundance of caution.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on December 16, 2014, 01:55:49 PM
I believe Transurban also said they would be closing the gates earlier than usual during these first few weeks as they take over the gates' operation from VDOT. I assumed the rationale is simply an overabundance of caution.

If I read it correctly, Transurban will deal with checking the gates all the way up to Va. 27 (Washington Boulevard) and the Pentagon.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 19, 2014, 12:25:39 PM
I wanted to try the SB configuration tonight, but Transurban is already deviating from their published schedule...lanes closed before 9PM. Tomorrow I guess!

I just read the lanes will be closed overnight tonight until 8:00 AM for further electronics work. Damn. I hope they finish and open them early because I wanted to use them. Oh well, I guess I can check it out in a few weeks, though I was looking forward to my free ride.

I suppose there isn't really a new scenery anyway, just the novelty of not encountering a construction mess on that segment of I-95.


Edited to add: BTW, I was in the northbound express lanes earlier this morning. Seems to me the signs for the northbound transition from HO/T to HOV are eminently clear. I might have added something to the effect of "NON-HOV MUST EXIT [listing appropriate hours]," whether on a separate sign or below other info. There used to be a notation like that at the southbound flyover ramp marked for the Fairfax County Parkway, the one just south of Route 644; I believe it said "NON-HOV'S MUST EXIT/3:30–6:00 PM WEEKDAYS" or something like that (I don't know why they included that erroneous apostrophe, but whatever).

(http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c378/1995hoo/Road%20sign%20pictures/EndHOVsigns_zpsdb93f24c.png)
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mtantillo on December 19, 2014, 09:08:42 PM
^^ I would venture to guess the electronic signs would have that instruction on it during the necessary hours.
Title: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 19, 2014, 09:53:25 PM
^^ I would venture to guess the electronic signs would have that instruction on it during the necessary hours.

Good point. There is a VMS a short distance to the south that's still covered up, so maybe that will say it. As I said, I think those white signs seen above are very clear anyway, but sometimes you have to hit people over the head.

I pushed back our departure by an hour tomorrow under the guise of wanting more sleep (and I do hate getting up in the dark so it's somewhat legitimate as an excuse). Hopefully Transurban reopens the lanes on time.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mrsman on December 21, 2014, 12:11:30 PM
Quote
I meant one additional lane operated as HO/T, not conversion of an existing one.
That's definitely not going to happen.  I was under the distinct impression from the recent study that the idea to convert 66 to HO/T would be conversion of all existing lanes but not add any new lanes.

Arlington County's elected officials were confident that they would stop all of I-66  between I-495 and Rosslyn in the planning process or in court.

They didn't.  What the Commonwealth wants, the Commonwealth usually gets.  In this case a scaled-down version of what VDH originally wanted, but still a continuous freeway to close that gap, which Arlington had vowed to stop.

Having said that, there is not really much widening that is warranted (IMO) - 3.8 miles according to Google Maps, and much of it (especially on the westbound side) has already been widened.

I would like to see continuous three lanes all the way from the Dulles Connector Road's half interchange, Exit 67 (westbound only) to the Exit 71 for Va. 120/Va. 237 (North Glebe Road) (eastbound side).  Much of the added lane work is already in place (in particular on the westbound side between Exit 71 to Exit 69 (Sycamore Street).

I wanted to get in on the conversation, but unfortunately was too busy to do it until now.

CPZ mentions the current Dulles exemption to the I-66 HOV rules.  Essentially, Dulles Airport users get a toll free bypass on the Dulles Access Road and they also get a free pass from the HOV rules on I-66, all the way to DC. 

Essentially, as far as I-66 is concerned, eastbound if a car is coming from the Dulles Access Road, they can drive on I-66, but any new car that joins I-66 from the Beltway, from I-66 west of the Beltway, from the Dulles Toll Road, or from any of the on-ramps in that area are committing a violation if they are not HOV.

I was wondering whether implementation of a similar rule might resolve some of the problems on the 95/395 express lanes at Edsall.   
Northbound, anyone who is already in the express lanes (because they paid some kind of toll), are permitted to continue their journey all the way to the Pentagon (or DC), but any new vehicles coming in from an on-ramp in Arlington must be HOV-3 (no transponder necessary) during morning rush.

For southbound, I don't see the proposed implementation as being much of a problem.  Only HOV will be on the roadway at first, and then they'll be joined by toll-paying customers at Edsall.  Very few people will be forced to exit, since I imagine that any regular HOV driver on the corridor will get an EZ Pass Flex. 
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: oscar on December 21, 2014, 12:35:51 PM
I was wondering whether implementation of a similar rule might resolve some of the problems on the 95/395 express lanes at Edsall.   
Northbound, anyone who is already in the express lanes (because they paid some kind of toll), are permitted to continue their journey all the way to the Pentagon (or DC), but any new vehicles coming in from an on-ramp in Arlington must be HOV-3 (no transponder necessary) during morning rush.

Arlington County didn't want non-HOV traffic during rush hours on its part of the HOV lanes, with the limited exceptions already in place for traffic between the Pentagon and D.C.  Its lawsuit, on that basis, is why the HO/T lanes end in Alexandria.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 21, 2014, 02:10:16 PM
We drove down the I-95 express lanes yesterday en route to Florida. The right lane of the three-lane segment could be smoother. The ride in that lane was a bit bouncy due to rippled pavement. Otherwise, perfectly nice way to drive. Nothing too interesting to say about it.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mtantillo on December 21, 2014, 03:26:55 PM
Yesterday CPZ and I took a ride down the new lanes. The intent was to drive south, have late lunch in Fredericksburg and take our time, and then take the lanes back north after 4. Our plan was thwarted because they never did a midday reversal, the lanes were open southbound all day.

As a result of no realistic way to control congestion, there was a 25 minute backup to exit the lanes at the southern end (and barely any delay on the mainline). Then because the lanes never opened  northbound, that direction was gridlock most of the way to the Beltway. So not exactly the best experience.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: froggie on December 21, 2014, 03:29:27 PM
Your plan might have had better luck had you not tried it on a weekend that is right before a major holiday or is involved with a holiday.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mtantillo on December 21, 2014, 05:11:13 PM
I don't think it was that. Transurban has been shutting the lanes down overnight. So they likely got lazy and decided when they opened them SB on Saturday to just leave them SB all day, then close them for the overnight, and reopen them northbound on Sunday rather than do a midday flip. They have also been shutting the lanes down at about 8:30 PM on weeknight.

I really hope this isn't going to be a pattern. People have to know whether the lanes can be expected to be open at a given time based on the schedule. If they are going to deviate from that, they need to let people know through the media outlets and provide a reason (a reason other than "we didn't feel like doing a flip"). If they just haphazardly pick a schedule, then people can't really depend on the lanes.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: froggie on December 21, 2014, 06:18:26 PM
Pretty sure they have to adhere to VDOT's scheduling.  I'd guess they kept them open southbound all day to accommodate the out-of-town exodus for the holiday.  VDOT's done that in the past...
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: oscar on December 21, 2014, 06:23:16 PM
Yesterday CPZ and I took a ride down the new lanes. The intent was to drive south, have late lunch in Fredericksburg and take our time, and then take the lanes back north after 4. Our plan was thwarted because they never did a midday reversal, the lanes were open southbound all day.

I'm hoping that Transurban follows a Saturday schedule on Christmas Day so I can do what you tried to do.  Since the lanes will need to be open southbound for the Christmas Eve evening rush, and probably northbound for the Boxing Day morning rush (for those commuting that day, rather than making returns at the malls -- but most Federal workers will have the day off), I expect Transurban will need to reverse the lanes at some point, and hope it'll do it midday on Christmas.

But I'm not betting the ranch on that.  Hopefully Transurban will stick better to its schedules once it starts charging tolls.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on December 21, 2014, 11:37:57 PM
Washington Post: Virginia HOT lanes aren’t everything advocates hoped, or critics feared (http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/virginia-hot-lanes-arent-everything-advocates-hoped-or-critics-feared/2014/12/21/7e1e276e-86d9-11e4-a702-fa31ff4ae98e_story.html)

Quote
A decade and a half after the conversation began, the D.C. region’s commuters still are trying to figure out the HOT lanes concept.

Quote
It isn’t just a matter of understanding how to navigate the high-occupancy toll lanes. They want to know where these things came from.

Quote
Some have dim memories of discussions involving the Virginia Department of Transportation. Others are just beginning to focus on this major change in highway travel because they heard the Interstate 95 Express Lanes go HOT on Dec. 29.

Quote
In late November, one traveler asked me: “Is there any chance of reversing VDOT’s decision to create a full-time toll road that also requires the use of the E-ZPass transponder?”
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: cpzilliacus on December 21, 2014, 11:40:20 PM
Still images of the 95 Express Lanes from North to South, taken yesterday and posted on Facebook (you do not need a Facebook account to see these): https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10204418042243252&type=1&l=5a4961a43d
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: Zeffy on December 22, 2014, 12:13:35 AM
Still images of the 95 Express Lanes from North to South, taken yesterday and posted on Facebook (you do not need a Facebook account to see these): https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10204418042243252&type=1&l=5a4961a43d

Thanks for sharing! I agree with 1995hoo's comment on how Transurban did a pretty good job on the signage.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mrsman on December 22, 2014, 12:34:35 AM
Yesterday CPZ and I took a ride down the new lanes. The intent was to drive south, have late lunch in Fredericksburg and take our time, and then take the lanes back north after 4. Our plan was thwarted because they never did a midday reversal, the lanes were open southbound all day.

I'm hoping that Transurban follows a Saturday schedule on Christmas Day so I can do what you tried to do.  Since the lanes will need to be open southbound for the Christmas Eve evening rush, and probably northbound for the Boxing Day morning rush (for those commuting that day, rather than making returns at the malls -- but most Federal workers will have the day off), I expect Transurban will need to reverse the lanes at some point, and hope it'll do it midday on Christmas.

But I'm not betting the ranch on that.  Hopefully Transurban will stick better to its schedules once it starts charging tolls.

To me it seems that the most important thing is to keep a schedule in place that can be easily found.  I would expect that any week with a major holiday should have some type of shift that is different from the norm.

The norm:

SUN All day north
MON Northbound until 11 a.m., closed 11-1, southbound 1 - 12 MID
TUE WED THURS FRI Closed 12 Mid - 2 am, Northbound 2 am - 11 am, closed 11-1, southbound 1pm -12 MID
SAT Southbound 12 MID - 2pm, Closed 2pm-4pm, Northbound 4pm-MID.

The question then comes up regarding major holidays, minor holidays, and days that aren't officially holidays but have a lot of people not working (like Boxing Day or the day after Thanksgiving, etc.)

I'm not sure what is actually done, but I would impose the following:

Minor holidays: Columbus, Vets, MLK, Pres Day - weekday reversion schedule with no HOV restictions.

If a major holiday (exc. July 4) is on a Monday - all day northbound.
If Xmas/NY is on Tuesday - Mon and Tuesday should be all day northbound.
If Xmas/NY is on Wed. -Wed. all day northbound.
If Xmas/NY/Thanksgiving is on Thursday - Thursday and Friday should be all day southbound.
If Xmas/NY is on Friday- Friday should be all day southbound.

July 4 should be reversible for fireworks.

Yes, some people may work on Christmas Eve or Boxing Day, but by and large the vacationers hold more of the traffic and the lanes should be adjusted for them.

But again, clear schedule on the website for the changes.


Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: 1995hoo on December 22, 2014, 05:45:41 PM
Good pictures. We had no delays at all at the southern end, but it was early morning.

Main thing that stuck in my mind was how the road felt like a very different place due to the loss of the trees in the median.
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: NJRoadfan on December 22, 2014, 05:54:38 PM
Main thing that stuck in my mind was how the road felt like a very different place due to the loss of the trees in the median.

Same story in NJ on the GSP.

The "decision points" on the lanes don't appear to be well signed. Were there other signs that listed toll rates on the mainline?
Title: Re: Northern Virginia HOT Lanes
Post by: mtantillo on December 22, 2014, 07:57:11 PM
Yesterday CPZ and I took a ride down the new lanes. The intent was to drive south, have late lunch in Fredericksburg and take our time, and then take the lanes back north after 4. Our plan was thwarted because they never did a midday reversal, the lanes were open southbound all day.

I'm hoping that Transurban follows a Saturday schedule on Christmas Day so I can do what you tried to do.  Since the lanes will need to be open southbound for the Christmas Eve evening rush, and probably northbound for the Boxing Day morning rush (for those commuting that day, rather than making returns at the malls -- but most Federal workers will have the day off), I expect Transurban will need to reverse the lanes at some point, and hope it'll do it midday on Christmas.

But I'm not betting the ranch on that.  Hopefully Transurban will stick better to its schedules once it starts charging tolls.

To me it seems that the most important thing is to keep a schedule in place that can be easily found.  I would expect that any week with a major holiday should have some type of shift that is different from the norm.

The norm:

SUN All day north
MON Northbound until 11 a.m., closed 11-1, southbound 1 - 12 MID
TUE WED THURS FRI Closed 12 Mid - 2 am, Northbound 2 am - 11 am, closed 11-1, southbound 1pm -12 MID
SAT Southbound 12 MID - 2pm, Closed 2pm-4pm, Northbound 4pm-MID.

The question then comes up regarding major holidays, minor holidays, and days that aren't officially holidays but have a lot of people not working (like Boxing Day or the day after Thanksgiving, etc.)

I'm not sure what is actually done, but I would impose the following:

Minor holidays: Columbus, Vets, MLK, Pres Day - weekday reversion schedule with no HOV restictions.

If a major holiday (exc. July 4) is on a Monday - all day northbound.
If Xmas/NY is on Tuesday - Mon and Tuesday should be all day northbound.
If Xmas/NY is on Wed. -Wed. all day northbound.
If Xmas/NY/Thanksgiving is on Thursday - Thursday and Friday should be all day southbound.
If Xmas/NY is on Friday- Friday should be all day southbound.

July 4 should be reversible for fireworks.

Yes, some people may work on Christmas Eve or Boxing Day, but by and large the vacationers hold more of the traffic and the lanes should be adjusted for them.

But again, clear schedule on the website for the changes.