A quick drive down Route 1 shows that there is much progress taking place in Woodbridge—blighted buildings coming down, road work taking place, new sidewalks being built. In an effort to keep the community informed of the transformation taking place, Supervisor Frank Principi invited the community to a Transportation Town Hall, with officials from Virginia Department of Transportation, Prince William County Department of Transportation and Virginia Express Lanes on hand to provide project updates and answer questions. Below are answers to the most frequently asked questions from the town hall:
Route 1 Construction & Traffic Patterns
- It seems like Route 1 construction is taking place in stages, rather than being done all at once. Why is that? Widening Route 1 to six lanes, along with undergrounding utilities and adding bike lanes and sidewalks, is a large and expensive project. To obtain the needed funding, it has been broken into three sections—Annapolis Way to Mary’s Way, Neabsco Mills to Featherstone and Featherstone to Mary’s Way—each with a different combination of funding sources and timetables.
- When will the Route 1 widening and undergrounding of utilities be complete? The answer varies by section. Those receiving federal funding have the longest time table, as the projects must adhere to the process set forth by the federal government. Funded by the County, work on Neabsco Mills to Featherstone is able to move more quickly than the other sections.
- Annapolis Way to Mary’s Way
- Undergrounding of utilities will be completed mid-2016
- Widening will begin April 2016
- Featherstone to Mary’s Way
- Right-of-Way will begin September 2016
- Construction will begin January 2019
- Neabsco Mills to Featherstone
- Final configuration of the intersection of Rippon/Dale Boulevard and Route 1 will be completed December 2015
- Paving will begin April 2016
- Entire section will be completed June 2016
- Will the work along Route 1 be continued all the way through Prince William County? The County plans to widen Route 1 through the entire County, and is in the process of securing funding for the remaining sections.
- What is being done to make the Route 1 corridor safer for pedestrians and cyclists? Once the projects are completed, there will be a multiuse path on the western side of Route 1 for cyclists and pedestrians and a sidewalk on the eastern side. This includes connecting the “sidewalks to nowhere” currently found in parts of Woodbridge. All intersections will also have lighting and improved crosswalks and signals with countdown timers.
- Is Fairfax planning to widen the Route 1 bridge in conjunction with Prince William County’s widening its section of Route 1? While Fairfax County was initially unreceptive to Prince William County official’s attempts to address the need for widening of the bridge, it is now in Fairfax County’s Comprehensive Plan, and Fairfax has recently approached Prince William about conducting a joint feasibility study.
Maintenance & Cleanup of VDOT Properties Along Route 1
- In obtaining right of ways to prepare for road expansion, VDOT became the owner of a number of now vacant properties. People leave cars parked there “For Sale,” litter and loiter in these areas. How will VDOT clean up these properties and address these issues? Currently, VDOT can post flyers on these vehicles notifying the owner that if the car is not moved within two weeks, it will be towed. VDOT is also in the process of contracting to have “No Trespassing” and “Towing Enforced” signs created and installed on these properties. Once posted, VDOT can authorize quicker enforcement and removal of cars. Plans are in place to address the dumping as well. Residents who notice illegal activity on these properties are encouraged to report it to 703-383-VDOT.
- When will VDOT demolish the Econo Lodge and BP buildings at the corner of 123 and Route 1? With the partial demolishment, illegal dumping and homeless taking residence there, it is an eyesore and hazard. Since the northern Route 1 project (Annapolis Way to Mary’s Way) is federally funded, VDOT needs a mechanism (an attached project) to demolish the buildings. For surrounding buildings, the duct bank and undergrounding of utilities were the mechanism for demolition. However, the mechanism for tearing down the Econo Lodge, BP and Virginia Inn is the widening construction which will begin in April 2016. VDOT cannot fund the demolition outside of the federally funded project to which it is assigned.
- Why will it take VDOT so long to demolish the Econolodge and BP buildings at the corner of 123 and Route 1? Can’t they begin by demolishing these buildings prior to starting the rest of the project? The Federal Government will not allow VDOT to demolish these buildings unless there is a contract in place for the full project to which the demolition is attached (i.e., widening of Route 1). In response to Supervisor Principi’s Town Hall in Oct., VDOT indicated that it will talk to its property management department about boarding up Econo Lodge in the interim.
Express Lanes & E-ZPass
- Why are the tolls to use the Express Lanes so high? The Express Lanes use dynamic pricing to help manage the flow of traffic. As traffic increases, the toll price also increases to manage the demand and keep traffic flowing at federally mandated standards of at least 55 mph. Transurban, the owner and operator of the lanes, signed an agreement to keep the minimum speed at 55 mph, but aims for 60-65 mph. An increased price on the lanes correlates to an increased time savings.
- How much does it cost to buy an E-ZPass? The cost of an E-ZPass or an E-ZPass Flex is $35, however, it comes loaded with $35 in pre-paid tolls, so essentially customers are paying for the tolls and receiving the pass at no charge.
- I heard that it is free to use the Express Lanes if I have three or more people in my car or drive a motorcycle. Do I still need an E-ZPass? Yes, order an E-ZPass Flex. Then, when you drive with three or more people in your car switch it to HOV mode and you will not be charged to use the lanes. However, if your E-ZPass Flex is switched to toll mode, you will be charged based on the toll price at that time. Motorcycles can use the Express Lanes without an E-ZPass, free of charge.
- I have the E-ZPass Flex for occasional trips to D.C. Recently, I received a letter stating that because I don’t frequently use the HOV setting, I must either swap my pass for a non-HOV E-ZPass, or pay a $10 fee every six months. Why is this, and who can I talk to about this? In Virginia, EZ-Pass is managed by Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), not Transurban. This summer, VDOT announced that E-ZPass Flex users who obtained their pass after October 1, 2014, and have not used it in HOV mode at least once during the prior six-month period, will be charged a one-time upgrade fee of $10. These users also have the option to swap their Flex for a regular E-ZPass at no charge. You can call VDOT Customer Service at 1-877-762-7824 with questions.
- How do I find the closest location to enter and exit the Express Lanes? You can find a map with entrance and exit information atwww.expresslanes.com/on-the-road. . Transurban is also developing on a mobile app that would assist you in finding this information.
- Currently, from Woodbridge, I have to go out of my way to enter the Express Lanes. Are there plans to add additional entrance points? Transurban is looking into the possibility of additional entrances and exits. Supervisor Principi will share updates onwww.NewWoodbridge.org andwww.Facebook.com/NewWoodbridge.
- On the weekends, the Express Lanes always seem to be open in the wrong direction to aid traffic flow. Is this being addressed? Yes. Transurban is monitoring traffic flows to determine the best times for the lanes to be open in each direction in order to be the more effective. This is a longer term project, as time is needed to complete the study and determine a course of action.
- I see an increased amount of police presence on the Express Lanes. Does that mean that there are there now fewer police officers monitoring the standard I-95 lanes? No. Transurban funded the hiring of additional Virginia State Police to monitor the Express Lanes. These officers are specially trained to enforce both the HOV-3+ requirement and other traffic laws. As an addition to the force, their presence does not reduce the amount of officers on the standard I-95 lanes.
- How do the residents of Virginia, whose taxes paid to build the original HOV lanes, benefit from the Express Lanes, which are owned and operated by a private company, Transurban? Transurban’s initial investment included improvements, and addition of several, access points along the original HOV lanes, widening the lanes form two to three lanes for 14 miles from Prince William Parkway to Edsall Road and extending the terminus of the lanes from 234 to Garrison Road, a nine mile extension. The company also funds the operation and maintenance of the lanes and tolling equipment.
- How are penalties for not paying tolls assessed? For refusal to pay a toll or falsely claiming carpool status, under Virginia law a judge can choose to issue the following civil penalties:
- $50 for a first offense
- $250 for a second offense
- $500 for a third offense within a period of two years of the second offense
- $1,000 for a fourth and subsequent offense within a period of three years of the second offense
Transurban has a First Time Forgiveness Program. For the full payment options please visit www.expresslanes.com/missed-a-toll. For additional information on the Express Lanes please visitwww.expresslanes.com or call Customer Service at 1-855-495-XPRS (9777).