Though the I-495 Express Lanes opens to commuters this Saturday, Virginia officials, stakeholders and residents gathered for an early ribbon-cutting celebration celebration Tuesday in Tysons.
Hundreds of people attended the ceremony, including Gov. Bob McDonnell, U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-11th) and Fairfax County Supervisor Jeff McKay (D-Lee), among others.
McDonnell said the economic impacts from the massive construction project were cause for celebration. Building the lanes brought more than 16,000 jobs and $3.5 billion to the Commonwealth, he said.
“It’s pumped billions of dollars into the economy and put thousands of people to work,” McDonnell said. “You see pavement. I see jobs.”
Developers paid for 80 percent of the $2 billion project, which added two northbound and two southbound lanes to the 14-mile stretch from the Mixing Bowl Interchange in Springfield to just north of the Dulles Toll Road.
All travelers who use the express lanes when they open will need an E-ZPass or an E-ZPass Flex. Carpools with three or more riders can travel in the Express Lanes for free by switching to HOV mode, which keeps the vehicle free from charges.
Tolls are projected to be $3 to $6 during rush hour, and $1 to $2 during lower traffic periods. Toll prices will be updated in real time depending on congestion — the worse the congestion, the higher the toll.
McDonnell called the tolls “reasonable” in his remarks.
“This is a major new selling point now in bringing business and jobs to Virginia,” he said.
Connolly said while the lanes wouldn’t solve the area’s traffic problems outright, it would give drivers an option for when they needed it most.
“We’re never going to solve congestion,” he said. “But we can create choices.”
McKay said the benefits from the project were far-reaching and would be felt by commuters, business owners and residents who live along the corridor.
“The Express Lanes will also help cut down cut-through traffic in our neighborhoods around the Beltway,” McKay said. “Too many of our communities over the years have felt like they’d become an expressway for traffic trying to avoid the Capital Beltway gridlock, with this project they’ll see some relief.”
See also: I-495 Beltway Express Lanes to Open Nov. 17