NBC12: I-95 Express Lanes extending to Stafford, impacting traffic across the commonwealth

NBC12, MADISON MCNAMEE

Interstate 95 is seen as one of the most congested parts of highways in the nation, especially between Richmond and Washington, D.C., but that could change this week.

I-95 is getting an extension to its Express Lanes in the Stafford area.

On Wednesday, Aug.16, Governor Glenn Youngkin and other Virginia leaders celebrated the new extension, adding a 10-mile stretch to the existing Express Lanes.

It will add to the south part of the lanes between Route 610 and Route 117. Virginia leaders say this is one of the more backed-up areas in the commonwealth and the country.

It allows drivers to take the Express Lane from Fredericksburg to D.C.

“It is going to unclog so much of people’s aspirations, whether it is what they’re doing around their family, what they’re doing around their business, or what they’re doing in their free time,” Gov. Youngkin said. “And that is so important. You know, Virginia is really on the move. What I’ve seen is just in the last 18 months, you’ve had 200,000 more Virginians working than then 18 months ago.”

The great traffic problem has bi-partisan support gathering to solve some of its headaches and make life and travel easier for Virginians. Senator Tim Kaine knows the pains of 95 all too well, as he was one of the many caught in its traffic during a storm last year.

“Traffic means not getting to hear kids, you know, sports event on time, traffic means, you know, you’re coming back for a family event, and you’re late, traffic means it’s harder to get to a doctor’s appointment. Imagine the businesses that rely on the trucks going around the region,” Senator Kaine said.

Drivers will have to pay for the lanes, which will fluctuate based on the traffic. HOV laws could impact your cost, too.

“67% of people that live in the DMV use our Express Lanes network. So that’s a large number. The other thing just to mention is that through the concession itself, we contribute $15 million annually to transit,” Amanda Baxter with Transurban North America said.

Virginia leaders say the extension’s benefits surpass those paying to use the route.

“When people think, oh, I can divert off of 95, I can go somewhere else, you know, that ends up getting the secondary roads to be highly problematic, far more congested, and that impacts people not commuting up and down 95, but indeed, also folks just trying to run to the grocery store,” 7th District Representative Abigail Spanberger said.

It’s the start of a series of projects for transportation in Virginia, though Richmond-area drivers may have to wait a bit for the lanes to go all the way to their homes. But if you’re making a trip to D.C., this new feature could also help cut down your ride.

“There’s not a plan that I’m aware of with Transurban to go south of this extension, but there are other plans in the corridor,” Kaine said.

Drivers can use the extension on the southbound lanes beginning late Thursday. The northbound lanes will open Friday morning in time for rush hour. Construction work will continue over the next few months as another entry point is set to open in the winter.

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