The time has come for big change for local commuters: after two years of work, the I-395 HOV lanes inside the Beltway are becoming express toll lanes later this month.
The switch over is slated to take place on Sunday, Nov. 17.
Among the changes of which drivers should take note:
- The number of reversible lanes is increasing, from 2 to 3
- While the lanes remain HOV-3 — that is, free to use for vehicles with three or more occupants — you will need to have an E-ZPass Flex transponder switched to HOV mode
- Tolling and HOV restrictions will now be in place at all times, rather than just non-holiday rush hours
- Vehicles with 1-2 occupants will need to pay tolls that will increase and decrease with demand, like on I-66. Tolls can only be paid via an E-ZPass device.
- The new tolling will run from Edsall Road, at the end of the I-95 Express Lanes, to the 14th Street Bridge
- Exiting to the Pentagon and Pentagon City will be easier thanks to a reconfigured S. Eads Street interchange
- Those entering the HOV lanes bound for the 14th Street Bridge at Eads Street in Pentagon City will need an E-ZPass
The tolls will offer “busy drivers a convenient new choice,” will help reduce traffic in the regular lanes of I-395, and will generate $15 million annually for transit projects, according to toll lane operator Transurban.
The project is also adding a fourth southbound regular lane between Duke Street Edsall Road to alleviate backups.
More from a press release, below after the jump.
The 395 HOV lanes are set to open as dynamically tolled express lanes on the night of Sunday, November 17, pending weather and on-road crew activities.
For final preparation, the 395 HOV lanes will close the evening of Friday, November 15. With safety as the priority, the Express Lanes team is preparing drivers for the changes.
Here’s what drivers need to know before hitting the road
- All ramps that currently lead to the 395 HOV lanes will require an E-ZPass® or E-ZPass® Flex when the lanes become the 395 Express Lanes. This includes the northbound ramps near S. Eads Street.
- The 395 Express Lanes will pick up where the 95 Express Lanes leave off (around Edsall Road) and run up to the 14th Street Bridge in D.C., giving drivers a continuous trip to the D.C. line.
- The redesigned interchange at S. Eads Street will bring quicker access to the Pentagon and Pentagon City, but it may take drivers some time to adjust to the new traffic patterns. There will be two ramps to exit the northbound 395 Express Lanes to S. Eads Street – one ramp to the Pentagon and another ramp to Pentagon City. If exiting to the Pentagon remember to stay left. New traffic lights will also go into effect.
- Beginning the evening of November 14, new stoplights on S. Eads Street and the Pentagon reservation will be placed into flash mode until the Lanes open on Sunday, November 17. Virginia State Police and/or Safety Service Patrol will be on location to assist travelers.
- The time it takes to reverse the 395 and 95 Express Lanes may take a bit longer during early operations because of the new stoplights at S. Eads Street.
Tips to stay safe on the road
- Drivers need to stay alert and give themselves extra drive time while getting used to the new routes.
- Drivers who accidently get on the 395 Express Lanes shouldn’t worry. They should safely continue until they reach their destination, then give the Express Lanes customer service team a call, who will work with drivers that get on the Lanes by mistake.
- Beginning the evening of November 15, drivers traveling I-395 during late-night periods should take extra caution as there will be crews and police on the road to unveil all signage and coordinate the opening.
E-ZPass® or E-ZPass® Flex will be required at all entry ramps to the Express Lanes
Drivers who get on the northbound 395 HOV lanes just before D.C. may be less likely to have an E-ZPass® compared to other drivers on the HOV lanes. Drivers are reminded that the ramps to the northbound Express Lanes from S. Eads Street and from the regular lanes just before the 14th Street Bridge will require an E-ZPass®.
Carpools with 3 or more people will need an E-ZPass® Flex to travel for free. The Express Lanes team is offering an option for carpoolers who don’t have an E-ZPass® Flex when the lanes open. At any point before December 1, carpoolers who don’t have an E-ZPass® can contact the Express Lanes team to register their license plate number for seven days of toll-free travel on the Lanes. The grace period is to give drivers time to order an E-ZPass® Flex online or pick one up from an area retailer.
Drivers can get an E-ZPass® by signing up online, calling 877-762-7824, or in-person from E-ZPass® Customer Service Centers or E-ZPass® On-the-Go retail locations. Still have questions? Head to the Express Lanes website for more information on E-ZPass® and E-ZPass® Flex. […]
Once the Lanes are open, pricing will be available on overhead signs. Updates about any on-road issues will be shared via Twitter (@VAExpressLanes).