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Video shows drivers reversing on I-395 to access Express Lanes and avoid minor backups

Reckless drivers are regularly backing up on I-395 to get to the Express Lanes, despite bollards placed to prevent it.

Video has captured a number of drivers getting onto northbound I-395 from the Route 110 ramp, near the Pentagon, then driving in reverse to get around bollards that block access to the high-occupancy toll lanes. In return for driving the wrong way on a major highway, the drivers get to save a couple of minutes by avoiding minor traffic backups in the main lanes of the 14th Street Bridge.

Footage of the wrong-way drivers has been published by public safety watchdog Dave Statter over the past two years. The most recent jaw-dropping video — showing multiple drivers drive in reverse in traffic lanes — was posted last week.

It appears the scofflaws have upped their antics in response to the addition of the bollards near where the main lanes and the Express Lanes split, before the bridges.

“Last year, in close coordination with [the Virginia Department of Transportation] and external engineering firms, we worked together to determine that adding bollards at that location was and continues to be the best solution,” said Pam Davila of the Australian company Transurban, which operates the 495/95/395 HOT lanes. “We’re confident that the bollards continue to serve their purpose and cannot stress enough that drivers should be mindful to practice safe driving at all times, on and off the Express Lanes.”

She said Transurban and VDOT discussed “other mitigation options” and talked extensively about issues such as the optimum length for the bollards.

After they went up, Statter observed an improvement, but 15 months later, people are out-maneuvering them.

Virginia State Police is “very aware of” this problem, spokeswoman Corinne Geller says, and is working with VDOT and Transurban to tackle it from both enforcement and engineering perspectives.

“As a preventative measure, state police has stepped up its enforcement and presence in that particular area,” she said. “But our troopers simply cannot be everywhere all the time, nor would permanently stationing a trooper at that one location be efficient or fair use of our limited resources across the Northern Virginia region. Our troopers are committed to doing everything we can to prevent such reckless behavior from occurring.”

Statter’s videos show what people did pre-bollards. Originally, defiant drivers crossed the highway at a nearly perpendicular angle to make the lane.

Orange barrels and cones didn’t deter some drivers. With surprising courtesy, one driver used the turn signal to cross three traffic lanes — blocking oncoming cars — and squeeze through an opening.

More barrels went up in shorter intervals, which did not stop this intrepid driver from creating an opening.

https://twitter.com/VaDOTNOVA/status/1283172582213197825

Instead of making these dangerous moves, the Transurban spokeswoman says drivers can access the Express Lanes at a different juncture.

“There is an option for drivers coming from the Pentagon City to safely get on the Express Lanes by taking the Pentagon/Eads Street ramp, and we encourage drivers to use that route, especially during rush hour when there is heavy traffic on the general-purpose lanes,” she said.

While enforcement plays a role in stopping the antics, Geller reminded drivers it is their job to follow the basic rules of the road.

“There is still a responsibility on the driver to make safe, legal and logical decisions when behind the wheel,” she said. “Backing up and/or driving the wrong way on an interstate ramp and/or in a travel lane put that driver and countless other motorists at risk of a crash and serious injury. The safety of our highways is a collaborative responsibility and one we hope the motoring public will help us improve, especially at this particular location.”

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