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Commuting Beltway Express Lanes

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#1 DonRocks

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 03:40 PM

The VDOT Express Lanes are open this weekend which will ultimately trickle across to the Dining in Tysons Corner threads. As of 2:30 this afternoon, southbound, the tolls were 30 cents to Jones Bridge Road, and $1.65 all the way to I-395 in Springfield. One pretty neat feature is that you can look up the historic toll rates on the website, too, at any time, from any entry and exit point. The technological possibilities of cheap computer storage are awesome - just don't ever take away my left exit to I-66 East and we can co-exist in harmony.

Completely by coincidence, I also took the Maryland Intercounty Connector today for the first time in my life - which was really interesting to me since that's my home turf. It was cool to see my homeboy highway, New Hampshire Avenue, all grown up and featured on the exit sign. I also need to get a life.


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#2 Joe H

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 07:02 PM

These lanes are a nightmare: a concept that was not thought through.
1. Southbound on 495 there is no exit from the toll lanes for Leesburg Pike, Arlington Blvd (route 50!) or Little River Turnpike. Instead they want drivers to exit at Gallows road (for route 50) and drive back through lights and traffic to reach it which essentially defeats the purpose of the toll lanes.
2. Northbound from Springfield the entry onto the toll lanes is DANGEROUS. Yesterday morning there were four accidents from 7 to 9 AM and this is with perhaps one car per 45 seconds passing by. The problem is that the roadway is six or seven lanes across and the private company who built the toll lanes did NOT BUILD SIGNAGE SPANNING THE ENTIRE ROAD. There are only signs on the lefthand side. For the four or five lanes to the right of them there is little awareness of the impending entrance. The result is that we saw two near accidents tonight from cars who found themselves about to enter and swerved hard at the last minute to the 495 lanes to avoid them.
3. The lack of signage is appalling. There should be signs spanning the entire road, not just the two lefthand lanes. But they didn't do it. Most of the highway is separated by only white "sticks" with the two left hand lanes literally built adjoining the other lanes.
4. The entrance onto the toll lanes from the Dulles Toll road is confusing. Simply, there are not enough signs to specify exactly where you enter. This is a theme throughout the toll lanes: they saved money by not erecting sufficient signage for all the lanes to see.
5. The toll lanes end just past Tysons Corner where they merge onto 495 northbound before 193. There is going to be incredible gridlock here. The area already backs up at a standstill and now we have the toll lanes (which may be as much as $6.00 with heavy traffic for 9 or 10 miles) funneling into the four existing lanes.
6. Southbound the toll lanes end at the 95 interchange. We drove into Maryland where the last four or five miles you are on similar "express" lanes that are free. They look the same. And are free. Only a few miles shorter.
7. If someone lives in Loudoun County and works in Springfield the toll on the Greenway (privately owned) is $5.55 for the rush hour. The Dulles Toll Road is expected to be $4.50 within three years and then, during the rush hour as much as $6.00 on the Beltway toll lanes. That's $15.55 each way X 2 = $31.10. Multiply this by 5 (for a week) = $155.50. X 52 weeks = $8,086.00 a year after taxes. Assuming, say, a 28% tax bracket, 5.75% VA state tax and 7.65 FICA, medical, the actual gross cost of using these toll lanes is approximately $13,000 a year. To use toll lanes to go back and forth to work.

I am not a fan of them.

#3 DonRocks

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 07:09 PM

These lanes are a nightmare: a concept that was not thought through.
1. Southbound on 495 there is no exit from the toll lanes for Leesburg Pike, Arlington Blvd (route 50!) or Little River Turnpike.


As a consolation prize, Arlington Blvd. parallels I-66 - I suspect there was nowhere to put the exit ramps. I always thought it was tragic that there were previously no beltway exits for Lee Highway, but 29, 50, and 66 are all right on top of each other there. I think this is more to funnel traffic from Maryland to I-95.

BTW, if someone from VDOT is reading ... under the "Plan Your Trip" section, how about listing not just the estimated time on the Express lanes, but on the non-Express lanes also? That's vital information - I don't care how fast the express lanes are because I figure the price will always make the times comparable; it's the regular lanes that people need to know about - surely the technology is there?

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#4 Joe H

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 07:27 PM

These lanes are a nightmare: a concept that was not thought through.
1. Southbound on 495 there is no exit from the toll lanes for Leesburg Pike, Arlington Blvd (route 50!) or Little River Turnpike. Instead they want drivers to exit at Gallows road (for route 50) and drive back through lights and traffic to reach it which essentially defeats the purpose of the toll lanes.
2. Northbound from Springfield the entry onto the toll lanes is DANGEROUS. Yesterday morning there were four accidents from 7 to 9 AM and this is with perhaps one car per 45 seconds passing by. The problem is that the roadway is six or seven lanes across and the private company who built the toll lanes did NOT BUILD SIGNAGE SPANNING THE ENTIRE ROAD. There are only signs on the lefthand side. For the four or five lanes to the right of them there is little awareness of the impending entrance. The result is that we saw two near accidents tonight from cars who found themselves about to enter and swerved hard at the last minute to the 495 lanes to avoid them.
3. The lack of signage is appalling. There should be signs spanning the entire road, not just the two lefthand lanes. But they didn't do it. Most of the highway is separated by only white "sticks" with the two left hand lanes literally built adjoining the other lanes.
4. The entrance onto the toll lanes from the Dulles Toll road is confusing. Simply, there are not enough signs to specify exactly where you enter. This is a theme throughout the toll lanes: they saved money by not erecting sufficient signage for all the lanes to see.
5. The toll lanes end just past Tysons Corner where they merge onto 495 northbound before 193. There is going to be incredible gridlock here. The area already backs up at a standstill and now we have the toll lanes (which may be as much as $6.00 with heavy traffic for 9 or 10 miles) funneling into the four existing lanes.
6. Southbound the toll lanes end at the 95 interchange. We drove into Maryland where the last four or five miles you are on similar "express" lanes that are free. They look the same. And are free. Only a few miles shorter.
7. If someone lives in Loudoun County and works in Springfield the toll on the Greenway (privately owned) is $5.55 for the rush hour. The Dulles Toll Road is expected to be $4.50 within three years and then, during the rush hour as much as $6.00 on the Beltway toll lanes. That's $15.55 each way X 2 = $31.10. Multiply this by 5 (for a week) = $155.50. X 52 weeks = $8,086.00 a year after taxes. Assuming, say, a 28% tax bracket, 5.75% VA state tax and 7.65 FICA, medical, the actual gross cost of using these toll lanes is approximately $13,000 a year. To use toll lanes to go back and forth to work.

I am not a fan of them.


They either were not able to buy land at these interchanges or did not have the budget.

Virginia's manipulation of traffic is an outrage:

1. The new toll lanes.
2. HOV 3 on them vs. HOV 2 on the toll road. (All HOV should be the same.)
3. I 66 allows you to drive on the shoulder in areas and during certain time frames. Other areas have you exit on the shoulder. It's confusing.
4. Rather than erect signage spanning the entire road (including the toll lanes) the signage is more compact with more information in a smaller area. I have no idea how a driver is going to read this while travelling at 55 mph? I have no idea now someone whose native language is not English is going to understand any of it.
5. Should I mention that 495 becomes 95 south of Springfield although it is the same road? I don't mean turning off of 495 onto 95 southbound rather that once you pass the Springfield interchange the route number changes from 495 to 95 northbound.
6. What is happening is that the Northern VA part of the Beltway has become too sophisticated, too complicated. The toll lanes have just pushed everything over the top.

Someone in Richmond thought they could save the money by not widening the road and let a private company build parallel toll lanes for approximately half of the length of the beltway in Northern VA.

It doesn't work.

Sorry to react so passionately but we just returned home from driving on them and fear what will happen tomorrow in the rush hour. We also wonder how they will plow snow since the lanes are parallel. Should I also mention the $12.50 they'll charge you for entering them without a flashpass? (which most in Montgomery and P. G. county do not need; other than the Intercounty Connector there is not a toll road in either county) There are cameras all over the place on them.

And last, tonight in the 10 minute drive from Braddock Road (the start) to 495 near 193 (the end) we passed a total of 8 cars coming in the opposite direction on them. I should note that a guess of several thousand cars in the "regular" lanes (versus these eight) would not be too wild of a guess.

#5 DonRocks

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 08:00 PM

5. The toll lanes end just past Tysons Corner where they merge onto 495 northbound before 193. There is going to be incredible gridlock here. The area already backs up at a standstill and now we have the toll lanes (which may be as much as $6.00 with heavy traffic for 9 or 10 miles) funneling into the four existing lanes.


The key to this sentence is "past Tysons Corner" which is all anyone has given a damn about since ... what was that place called again? ... Evans Farm ... remember that? ... was sold (*). Don't think for a second that greedy developers didn't have their eyes set on Tysons even back then - I'm certain that they did. And they (perhaps literally) mortgaged an entire generation because of it - remember Inox, look at Route 7 right now.

Many of your problems seem to be signage which, hopefully, will be relatively inexpensive to produce.

I agree that the Virginia highways have become too sophisticated. And do you know what's going to happen because of all this efficiency? More real estate development, and do you know what's going to happen because of more real estate development? Right. More traffic. And the developers? They'll all be sitting by the pool in Miami if they aren't already.

Forced "growth" such as this is for the birds. The birds, lobbyists, developers, and politicians. I think the City of Falls Church is awesome for not allowing I-66 to go through it. And for *you*, brian ... this is the same type of "do it quick" mentality that led to the disaster that was Brutalism. B) Seriously, where is the beauty and humanity in any of this? Allowing people to commute more quickly so they can spend more time with their families in their plastic-siding condominiums thrown up in the exurbs? I don't buy it. I've already accepted that someone will chime in and call me an "elitist" for that last sentiment - go ahead, but know in advance that (at least in my mind) it's actually the opposing philosophy. Sometimes yoga is better than running bleachers; I understand the usefulness of both.

I'm going to have the option of using these lanes (or not), in various combinations, a fair amount in the next few years. I'd say "we'll see how it goes," but I don't like thinking in the short-term like most birds, lobbyists, developers, and politicians do, and the "next few years" won't be enough to judge. Talk to me in fifty, and if I sound ambivalent right now, I guess I am.

(*) I still think that, in terms of geographical positioning, Bistro Vivant could have a thirty-year run if that's what the goals are. Admittedly, that's quite a projection and is more allegorical than anything, but it seems like it's going to be surrounded by everything - I guess a lot of it is going to depend on how much people drive in the future because that area isn't set up for foot traffic.

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#6 Joe H

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 08:31 PM

We live two blocks from where the golf course in Reston may be rezoned to allow development. I am not a fan of growth.

Again, sorry to be so passionate about this but the Springfield interchange has as many as 22 lanes in width. Tyson's now has as many as 20 in a similar snakepit like configuration. There are four subway exits at Tyson's. I believe the expectation is that at three of them, similar to say, Ballston, people will walk off rather than drive off. I'm just not sure where they will walk to.

Reston Town Center will probably double in size (from Town Center to the toll road), what is called the Spectrum (from Town Center to Baron Cameron-about four blocks in the other direction) will have high rises on both sides. On the other side of the toll road (where the Sheraton and Weston are) will be another concentration of high rises and then we have the golf course. (Remember the "old" Indian Spring?)

I've never liked Crystal City. But it is growing up around me.

#7 Escoffier

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 08:36 PM

Now all those a**holes who park in the left lane are going to get what's coming to them.

In memory of David Weber of Malvern Racing, Desmo4USA, and StephenB. Good friends gone forever.


#8 DonRocks

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 09:12 PM

And do you know what's going to happen because of all this efficiency? More real estate development, and do you know what's going to happen because of more real estate development? Right. More traffic. And the developers? They'll all be sitting by the pool in Miami if they aren't already.

There are four subway exits at Tyson's. I believe the expectation is that at three of them, similar to say, Ballston, people will walk off rather than drive off. I'm just not sure where they will walk to.


Oh, by the way, did I mention ... <_<

If that golf course is being rezoned for the Dulles Metro, there won't be any hope for it.

It's really interesting to see the divide between Montgomery County and Fairfax County growing deeper and deeper - boy, the two could not be more different.

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#9 Joe H

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 07:17 AM

It is 7:08AM and there has been a four car accident at the Braddock road entrance to the northbound toll lanes on I 495. Channel 5 just reported that they have been continually watching cars swerve at the last minute to avoid entering these lanes. They've even seen cars enter the toll lanes and then slam on their brakes, pull over onto the left shoulder and BACK UP to try and reenter the four free lanes.

Saturday morning there were four accidents between 7 AM and 10 AM at the same entrance with people going to the hospital in two of them.

THEY ARE NOT PROPERLY MARKED. Simply there is not sufficient notice given to drivers that if they remain in the left two lanes they are going to have to commit to the toll lanes. Yes, there are signs, but they are inadequate. There should be signs that span all six or seven lanes where the toll lanes start with each lane having an arrow noting it's destination (i.e. 495 Tysons Corner or 495 Toll Lanes). There should be at least two of these road spanning signs allowing sufficient time with cars in heavy traffic to change lanes. There must be EMPHASIS that this decision is approaching. The problem is very simple: at the last minute-out of the blue-white sticks appear between the lanes separating the toll lanes from the free lanes.

For drivers coming from the Wilson Bridge what compounds the confusion (and lack of preparation) is that there is similar separation just after crossing the bridge into VA. There you make the choice between "collector" lanes or "express lanes." They are both free. A couple of miles after they end you once again face a separation. This time the choice is different since it involves a toll. AND IT INVOLVES HAVING A FLEX PASS WHICH MOST MARYLAND DRIVERS DO NOT HAVE.

http://www.wtop.com/...cause-confusion

#10 porcupine

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 07:54 AM

They've even seen cars enter the toll lanes and then slam on their brakes, pull over onto the left shoulder and BACK UP to try and reenter the four free lanes.


Any driver who attempts that and survives should be shot.

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#11 DonRocks

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Posted 20 November 2012 - 11:29 AM

It is 7:08AM and there has been a four car accident at the Braddock road entrance to the northbound toll lanes on I 495. Channel 5 just reported that they have been continually watching cars swerve at the last minute to avoid entering these lanes. They've even seen cars enter the toll lanes and then slam on their brakes, pull over onto the left shoulder and BACK UP to try and reenter the four free lanes.

Saturday morning there were four accidents between 7 AM and 10 AM at the same entrance with people going to the hospital in two of them.

THEY ARE NOT PROPERLY MARKED. Simply there is not sufficient notice given to drivers that if they remain in the left two lanes they are going to have to commit to the toll lanes. Yes, there are signs, but they are inadequate. There should be signs that span all six or seven lanes where the toll lanes start with each lane having an arrow noting it's destination (i.e. 495 Tysons Corner or 495 Toll Lanes). There should be at least two of these road spanning signs allowing sufficient time with cars in heavy traffic to change lanes. There must be EMPHASIS that this decision is approaching. The problem is very simple: at the last minute-out of the blue-white sticks appear between the lanes separating the toll lanes from the free lanes.

For drivers coming from the Wilson Bridge what compounds the confusion (and lack of preparation) is that there is similar separation just after crossing the bridge into VA. There you make the choice between "collector" lanes or "express lanes." They are both free. A couple of miles after they end you once again face a separation. This time the choice is different since it involves a toll. AND IT INVOLVES HAVING A FLEX PASS WHICH MOST MARYLAND DRIVERS DO NOT HAVE.

http://www.wtop.com/...cause-confusion


So much for the old catch-phrase, "All Politics is Local."

Oops.

In the military, it's called "acceptable collateral damage."

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#12 B.A.R.

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Posted 20 November 2012 - 11:59 AM

As you are approaching the Springfield interchange on the inner loop, there are 7 lanes. Two on the left go to the ramp leading to 95 South, one on the far right leads to 395 North, the one on the second right leads to a Springfield ramp and the three lanes go through.

Now two of those three lanes, the ones in the center and on the far left, become a Toll Lane 1 mile after passing under the overpass. So most of those thru drivers will try to get RIGHT to avoid the toll lane. AT THE SAME TIME, 5 lanes from 395 South and 95 north are merging down to 4 lanes before Braddock Road, all moving LEFT. So that is 7 lanes of traffic merging into 4 lanes of traffic in a one mile stretch of road, at one of the busiest freeway intersections in the country.

How did they not see this coming?

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#13 DonRocks

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Posted 20 November 2012 - 12:54 PM

As you are approaching the Springfield interchange on the inner loop, there are 7 lanes. Two on the left go to the ramp leading to 95 South, one on the far right leads to 395 North, the one on the second right leads to a Springfield ramp and the three lanes go through.

Now two of those three lanes, the ones in the center and on the far left, become a Toll Lane 1 mile after passing under the overpass. So most of those thru drivers will try to get right to avoid the toll lane. AT THE SAME TIME, 5 lanes from 395 South and 95 north are merging down to 4 lanes before Braddock Road. So that is 7 lanes of traffic merging into 4 lanes of traffic in a one mile stretch of road, at one of the busiest freeway intersections in the country.

How did they not see this coming?


Acceptable collateral damage.

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#14 Ericandblueboy

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Posted 20 November 2012 - 01:28 PM

I have an office in Falls Church that looks out over 495. There is basically no traffic in the hot lanes at this time. I live in McLean and I take 495 to and from work, and I don't expect to ever use the hot lanes

#15 DonRocks

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Posted 20 November 2012 - 04:16 PM

Why doesn't the Dulles Toll Road change to this system?

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#16 goldenticket

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Posted 20 November 2012 - 04:56 PM

Maybe drivers need to slow down and be more alert, especially when there are new signs and traffic patterns in a familiar area. The opening of the HOT lanes has been well publicized and it wasn't exactly a low-profile construction project.

I seem to recall the same bitching went on with the opening of the "Local" and "Thru" lanes crossing the Wilson Bridge from Virginia into Maryland.

Transurban (the Australian company behind the HOT lanes project) and their contractors have been responsive to concerns. See here for a list of recent, and future, improvements to the southern end of the express lanes.

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#17 DonRocks

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Posted 20 November 2012 - 04:58 PM

Maybe drivers need to slow down and be more alert, especially when there are new signs and traffic patterns in a familiar area.


That's true, but it's not going to happen. Just today, I was coming back from Reston on the Dulles Toll Road, and getting over into the EZ Pass Express Lanes was like driving in the Indianapolis 500.

Driving has become *extremely* dangerous, just in the past few years. What else could it be other than cell phones?

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#18 lion

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Posted 20 November 2012 - 05:00 PM

495 Express lanes were a bad idea from the get-go.

#19 goldenticket

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Posted 20 November 2012 - 05:22 PM

That's true, but it's not going to happen. Just today, I was coming back from Reston on the Dulles Toll Road, and getting over into the EZ Pass Express Lanes was like driving in the Indianapolis 500.

Driving has become *extremely* dangerous, just in the past few years. What else could it be other than cell phones?


Driving anywhere on the Beltway, or any of the major roads in the area, is like driving in the Indy 500; it's not unique to the Express Lanes. Cell phones, people being over-scheduled, in a hurry, just generally distracted - lots of reasons. I avoid the Beltway (and 66) if at all possible.

And to bring it back to food...traffic and avoiding it play a large part in my decision-making about where to eat. I pretty much never go to Montgomery County because it's such a hassle to get there - and I know I'm missing out on some good food because of that choice.

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#20 DonRocks

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Posted 20 November 2012 - 05:25 PM

Driving anywhere on the Beltway, or any of the major roads in the area, is like driving in the Indy 500; it's not unique to the Express Lanes. Cell phones, people being over-scheduled, in a hurry, just generally distracted - lots of reasons. I avoid the Beltway (and 66) if at all possible.

And to bring it back to food...traffic and avoiding it play a large part in my decision-making about where to eat. I pretty much never go to Montgomery County because it's such a hassle to get there - and I know I'm missing out on some good food because of that choice.


Drivers dehumanize other drivers in ways both obvious and subtle (refer to internet postings). It used to involve just giving the finger to a random piece of metal that wouldn't let you merge; now, the consequences are becoming more fatal.

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#21 Pat

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Posted 20 November 2012 - 05:44 PM

Driving anywhere on the Beltway, or any of the major roads in the area, is like driving in the Indy 500; it's not unique to the Express Lanes. Cell phones, people being over-scheduled, in a hurry, just generally distracted - lots of reasons. I avoid the Beltway (and 66) if at all possible.


Add to that people who don't agree with the speed limit and go as fast as they want (not a little over but a lot over). I think part of the problem is calling them express lanes on the signs instead of toll lanes. Other express lanes are not necessarily toll lanes (as Joe H. has pointed out). People are realizing too late that they are going to have to pay a toll. I've seen people backing up on 395 and other roads for years because they realized they're about to miss their exit. Now that it's going to cost people, it doesn't surprise me that it's happening.

I also don't understand people who had no clue this was going to happen, since it's been an ongoing project. All I can figure is: 1) Some people pay no attention to news; 2) People who pay attention to news burn out on seeing the same coverage over and over; and 3) There are a lot of transient people in the region who may be completely unaware.

#22 thetrain

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Posted 20 November 2012 - 06:20 PM

This entire thread is part of the reason I don't own a car. Many of the roads around here are poorly designed, unnecessarily confusing, and require ridiculous merging and lane changing in extremely short distances.

I've only heard one news story mention that you can go on https://www.495expresslanes.com/ and pay your toll if you do not have an E-ZPass and get on the toll road.

And I'm sure there are a lot of transient people or non-regular drivers out there who have no idea what the lanes are or how they operate. Personally I had never heard of an all HOV highway before I moved here.

#23 Barbara

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Posted 20 November 2012 - 09:37 PM

This entire thread is part of the reason I don't own a car. Many of the roads around here are poorly designed, unnecessarily confusing, and require ridiculous merging and lane changing in extremely short distances.

I've only heard one news story mention that you can go on https://www.495expresslanes.com/ and pay your toll if you do not have an E-ZPass and get on the toll road.

And I'm sure there are a lot of transient people or non-regular drivers out there who have no idea what the lanes are or how they operate. Personally I had never heard of an all HOV highway before I moved here.


I don't own a car, either, but use Zip cars on occasion. I avoid the Beltway at all costs. And, I dread getting on Route 50 to get to Annapolis--people drive like bats out of Hell. Scares me half to death.

#24 bookluvingbabe

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Posted 20 November 2012 - 09:52 PM

And to bring it back to food...traffic and avoiding it play a large part in my decision-making about where to eat. I pretty much never go to Montgomery County because it's such a hassle to get there - and I know I'm missing out on some good food because of that choice.


Not really!

I hate to generalize but Virginia roads never have good signs. It is a standing rule in my office that my boss can't go into Virginia by himself because he'd never make it back.

I have to drive on 270 every day. I have to go on the Beltway a few days a week. I go to Virginia once a month or less. I don't see that changing. I do miss the Ray's empire but that's about it...

#25 Joe H

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Posted 20 November 2012 - 10:39 PM

Add to that people who don't agree with the speed limit and go as fast as they want (not a little over but a lot over). I think part of the problem is calling them express lanes on the signs instead of toll lanes. Other express lanes are not necessarily toll lanes (as Joe H. has pointed out). People are realizing too late that they are going to have to pay a toll. I've seen people backing up on 395 and other roads for years because they realized they're about to miss their exit. Now that it's going to cost people, it doesn't surprise me that it's happening.

I also don't understand people who had no clue this was going to happen, since it's been an ongoing project. All I can figure is: 1) Some people pay no attention to news; 2) People who pay attention to news burn out on seeing the same coverage over and over; and 3) There are a lot of transient people in the region who may be completely unaware.

The Australian company, Transurban, may have used Australian engineers...who drive on the "other" side of the road...

...You have two separate but parallel highways (the express toll lanes are three lanes for a significant portion) side by side with only white sticks as separation for most, if not all, of their length. There are two different sets of signs which are directed towards two different audiences. In some places they seem to contradict each other. (Northbound, passing Tysons Corner, are signs for the toll lanes which tell you to exit on the right. Seven lanes to the right of this is a sign telling the near four lanes to exit on the left.) Yesterday I watched a car backing up from the "left exit" of the toll lane.

There are too many signs. Simply, there is too much information to process especially while ostensibly driving and looking at the road and traffic in front of and around you. And, as noted above, even if one reads the signs they are confusing.

I've driven all over North America and Europe, heavily, for over thirty years. I've never seen anything anywhere that approached this level of confusion. Excepting the narrow serpentine roads without shoulders off of the south coast of Italy this may be the most dangerous section of highway of any that I have seen. There are elements of Bangkok and Mexico City in negotiating the area approaching Braddock road.

I can't imagine what this must be like for someone from Bangkok or Mexico City. Or even Bangladesh. They may all believe this is more dangerous than driving at home...

#26 DonRocks

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Posted 20 November 2012 - 10:52 PM

There are elements of Bangkok and Mexico City in negotiating the area approaching Braddock road.


This is classic.

I can't imagine what this must be like for someone from Bangkok or Mexico City. Or even Bangladesh.


And this is a scary thought. Usually, when someone says something is a "scary thought," the statement is discardable, but this actually *is* a scary thought.

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#27 Joe H

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Posted 20 November 2012 - 11:40 PM

This is classic.



And this is a scary thought. Usually, when someone says something is a "scary thought," the statement is discardable, but this actually *is* a scary thought.

One of my best friend's wife is Thai-she was born in Bangkok. On her first trip on the Beltway toll lanes yesterday she said that she felt "at home." She added that she felt "comfortable." The approaching confusion and threatening congestion were very reassuring for her.

But she didn't drive in Bangkok. She took cabs... Riding with her husband and daughter in the back seat stoked memories for her of cabs swerving up onto curbs to avoid parked cars, pedestrains or the ever present bicycle.. She added the white sticks could have easily been riders waiting at a bus stop who there typically stood in the rode rather than on the curb. She also lived for a time in Bangladesh and knew friends who had rode on trains. Rode on the top of trains.

She liked the new Fast Pass Express. Thought it would be extremely popular especially for those in Dhaka who surf the tops of cars in traffic. Thought they too would feel at home; in fact some could ride a bicycle with a fast pass and the two seaters, carrying three people, could use the express lanes for free. Two axles after all... Perhaps even four or five riders like in Dhaka.

She even suggested we call them the "Dhaka" express lanes.

#28 johnb

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Posted 21 November 2012 - 07:04 AM

Well, if anybody wants to join me down here in the bucolic Blue Ridge, where we don't have hot lanes (we consider ourselves lucky to have paved roads), you're welcome.

Of course living here does entail occasional trips to Atlanta, where they do have hot lanes, and where the local driving ethic makes DC look tame by comparison. In fact I'm headed down there this morning to pick up my daughter at the airport and do some last minute food shopping for tomorrow's turkey blowout. Not looking forward to getting back out on I-85 in late afternoon on the day before T'giving.

#29 DonRocks

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Posted 21 November 2012 - 02:19 PM

Data point: just paid 70 cents to use the lanes from Braddock Road to I-66 East. The backup in the regular lanes began at Rpute 50, and I actually felt guilty for sailing on by. It was like a dream.

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#30 B.A.R.

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Posted 21 November 2012 - 02:59 PM

Data point: just paid 70 cents to use the lanes from Braddock Road to I-66 East. The backup in the regular lanes began at Rpute 50, and I actually felt guilty for sailing on by. It was like a dream.


Nice! The mixing bowl mess notwithstanding, I will use it anytime it is available during what I feel is peak traffic time. I hate sitting in traffic.

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#31 DonRocks

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Posted 21 November 2012 - 03:44 PM

Nice! The mixing bowl mess notwithstanding, I will use it anytime it is available during what I feel is peak traffic time. I hate sitting in traffic.


The price is only going to go up as more cars catch on, alas - today's 70 cents is going to be tomorrow's $1.50.

I still think it's important information to have the time it would take in the regular lanes available. More people care about "20 minutes" than "70 cents."

Is the pricing involved dependent on how crowded the regular lanes are, or how crowded the express lanes are? I guess it's the latter because how else would they keep the express lanes open? An asymptotic line to infinity during the next serious traffic snarl?

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#32 bookluvingbabe

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Posted 21 November 2012 - 04:27 PM

My understanding is the price goes up as the speed of cars in the HOT lanes goes down.

#33 Joe H

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Posted 21 November 2012 - 08:11 PM

My understanding is the price goes up as the speed of cars in the HOT lanes goes down.


Up to $6.00 is approved for peak fares, $12.50 without a transponder.

#34 ktmoomau

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Posted 21 November 2012 - 10:38 PM

I am kind of glad that Arlington wouldn't participate in all the madness, although who knows what will happen with that. I DO wish that Arlingtonians could take 66 during the HOV times, we have county stickers, it wouldn't be hard to enforce. Really it's only trying to get from Arlington/Alexandria to Tysons that is really tough without using 66 West in the evening. I hope they improve the signage for the hot lanes, there seem to be a lot of wrecks. Be safe out there y'all. I take the Dulles Toll Road to and from work when I'm at our Reston office. People trying to get on 495 that block the to 66 lanes are kind of the bane of my existence. But I'm glad my work will pay for it, saves me a lot of time, cheaper than parking in Old Town so...

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#35 SeanMike

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Posted 25 November 2012 - 02:18 PM

I drove 66 East to the Beltway on Thanksgiving morning, and then 95-495-66 yesterday afternoon. I had no problems discerning when and where to enter and exit the HOT lanes. I chose not to, not because of price, but because there was little traffic on the Beltway.

I-95 was its usual craptastic, though.

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#36 DonRocks

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 10:30 AM

Why Nobody Uses The Express Lanes

 

I've said this before, but hopefully now that nobody is talking about it, my voice will be heard ...

 

It's the signage, stupid!

 

VDOT, listen up: NOBODY CARES if it costs 85 cents versus $1.05 to get from I-66 to Braddock Road.

 

*All* that matters - the *only* thing that matters - is the opportunity cost of *not* taking the Express Lanes.

 

People need to know whether that trip will take 5 minutes, or 20 minutes, if they *don't* take the toll road!

 

If that trip takes 20 minutes, I'd gladly pay $3.00 to use the Express Lanes. Nobody cares about twenty cents!

 

And that information is not available to people making the decision. So people drive into a hornet's nest, needlessly.

 

You have got to figure out a way to convey this information to drivers. And it won't be easy, either.

 

"Braddock Road: If You Don't Take The Express Lanes, You're Hosed Right Now!"

 

That's what the signs need to say. It is by far the most critical piece of information to most drivers.

 

Listen to what I'm saying here. I realize you can't do this via signage, but how about:

 

"Tune into 1580 AM To Hear Non-Express Lane Drive Times"

 

And the radio says "Outer Loop, Dulles Toll Road to I-95, 23 minutes, I-66 to I-95, 14 minutes ..." etc.

 

I understand there are lots of permutations, but the important ones need to be spoken clearly and quickly.

 

And there's your solution. That will be five dollars.


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#37 Sthitch

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 12:07 PM

They cannot give estimated times on the Beltway because the cellular technology is not accurate enough to tell the difference between the hot lanes and regular road - if I remember correctly it is accurate within 20 feet.

Edited to add the link to the story
http://www.wtop.com/...y-Express-Lanes

Edited by Sthitch, 26 May 2013 - 12:09 PM.


#38 DonRocks

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 12:10 PM

They cannot give estimated times on the Beltway because the cellular technology is not accurate enough to tell the difference between the hot lanes and regular road - if I remember correctly it is accurate within 20 feet.

 

Two thoughts:

 

1) This technology will change, so may as well start setting up for it.

2) Cameras are probably already in place - do it manually if need be.


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#39 Joe H

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 08:28 PM

On 495 @ the Dulles Toll Road a sign that says:

 

I 495      95S  18 MN  N/C

I 495EX 95S  12 MN 4.75

 

Let's also assume:

 

I 495      95S 12 MN N/C

I 495EX 95S 12 MN 1.95

 

For the first there will be some who will spend the $4.75.  If the 18 minutes becomes 28 and the 12 is the same then they may be able to charge the $6.00 they are approved for.

 

For the second they will go broke.



#40 DonRocks

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Posted 27 May 2013 - 05:31 AM

On 495 @ the Dulles Toll Road a sign that says:

 

I 495      95S  18 MN  N/C

I 495EX 95S  12 MN 4.75

 

Is this a hypothetical or actual situation? If the latter, great!


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#41 mdt

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Posted 27 May 2013 - 06:53 AM

Use Waze, http://www.waze.com/ It will tell you the fastest way to go, granted faster may be one minute.

#42 Joe H

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Posted 27 May 2013 - 10:19 AM

Is this a hypothetical or actual situation? If the latter, great!

 

Hypothetical, Don, but I used the Express lanes two or three times in each direction in their first month.  I will probably not use them again unless traffic radio notes significant delays in the local lanes.  I HAVE seen one day when the price from the Toll Road to Springfield was $4.95.  Similar to the Greenway which I rarely use I find this exhorbitant and probably like many others will ONLY use them if there is an absolute need.

 

I actually don't remember using them this year.

 

My guess is that they will end up as a terrible investment for the Australian company.



#43 DonRocks

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Posted 27 May 2013 - 01:11 PM

Hypothetical, Don, but I used the Express lanes two or three times in each direction in their first month.  I will probably not use them again unless traffic radio notes significant delays in the local lanes.  I HAVE seen one day when the price from the Toll Road to Springfield was $4.95.  Similar to the Greenway which I rarely use I find this exhorbitant and probably like many others will ONLY use them if there is an absolute need.

 

I actually don't remember using them this year.

 

My guess is that they will end up as a terrible investment for the Australian company.

 

I don't know, this is prime traffic real estate. Remember the Greenway was *completely* empty for a long time when it first opened - is that road ever going to be free, or is it a "toll for life" kind of thing? What's the traffic like on it these days? I can't imagine commuting from Leesburg to DC and not using it.

 

That the express lanes are free while the regular lanes are sometimes packed is example number 15,841 that people won't pay for something unless they absolutely have to.


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#44 Joe H

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Posted 27 May 2013 - 07:06 PM

If you live in, say, Ashburn and commute to Tyson's it will cost you $5.95 on the Greenway and $2.75 on the Dulles Toll Road.  That's $8.70 each way X 2 for the day which is $17.40/day.  @52 weeks X 260 days this equals $4,524.00 a year.  Assuming a 28% tax bracket and Virginia state tax of 5.75% + half of social securty you're looking at a shade over $7,000 a year gross in tolls to use the Greenway and the Toll road.

 

Adding the 495 Express Lanes (targeted for $6.00 each way during peak hours) onto this is ludicrous and insulting. 

 

Therefore, someone living in Ashburn who commutes, say, to somewhere around Springfield will spend, gross, over $10,000 a year on tolls alone. $29.40/day X 260 days = $7,644.00.  @39% for taxes that approximately $12,500 a year before taxes for tolls to commute.

 

Have I talked about the cost of a car, gas and insurance for this?

 

I am not a fan of toll roads.



#45 DonRocks

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Posted 27 May 2013 - 10:00 PM

If you live in, say, Ashburn and commute to Tyson's it will cost you $5.95 on the Greenway and $2.75 on the Dulles Toll Road.  That's $8.70 each way X 2 for the day which is $17.40/day.  @52 weeks X 260 days this equals $4,524.00 a year.  Assuming a 28% tax bracket and Virginia state tax of 5.75% + half of social securty you're looking at a shade over $7,000 a year gross in tolls to use the Greenway and the Toll road.

 

Adding the 495 Express Lanes (targeted for $6.00 each way during peak hours) onto this is ludicrous and insulting. 

 

Therefore, someone living in Ashburn who commutes, say, to somewhere around Springfield will spend, gross, over $10,000 a year on tolls alone. $29.40/day X 260 days = $7,644.00.  @39% for taxes that approximately $12,500 a year before taxes for tolls to commute.

 

Have I talked about the cost of a car, gas and insurance for this?

 

I am not a fan of toll roads.

 

That is a *lot* of money.

 

I don't want to get into politics, but I like the general concept of toll roads because they are essentially a "use tax" (oops, I just did). If you use the road, you pay for it; if you don't, you don't. It's so clean.

 

These exurbian townhomes aren't looking like quite the value they once were. I am not a fan of unbridled development. Although I don't want to say 'people are getting what they deserve' (because they're *not*), what I do want to say is that these folks have contributed to rampant, uncontrolled real estate development (which in turn, has been a direct cause of rampant, uncontrolled traffic congestion) by buying into the notion that they can save $60,000 on real estate in Loudoun County, falling trees, ruining parkland, using 6 gallons of gas a day ... boy I could write a book about this, but indeed, I really *have* crossed our unwritten "no politics" boundary with this post, and I suspect I'll delete it tomorrow.

 

But I'd be the best god damned dictator this world has ever known. I could make almost everybody happy (or happier) with policy based on long-term outlook, kindness, respect for individual freedoms and privacy, and fiscal common sense.


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#46 lion

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Posted 27 May 2013 - 11:48 PM

Does anyone know how much money is being generated by the Express Lanes?  I'm rarely on the Beltway during rush hours and at any other time, it seems empty. 



#47 JPW

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Posted 28 May 2013 - 07:40 AM

Don't know if taking the express lanes yesterday from 66 to the end near Maryland saved me any time, but it certainly saved on the stress that playing Jimmie Johnson in the ultimate all series race that is the beltway at the end of a holiday weekend which typically turns me into a combination of Bruce Banner, Dr. Jeckyl, and Howard Beale behind the wheel of a Volvo SUV.


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#48 B.A.R.

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Posted 28 May 2013 - 02:09 PM

Don't know if taking the express lanes yesterday from 66 to the end near Maryland saved me any time, but it certainly saved on the stress that playing Jimmie Johnson in the ultimate all series race that is the beltway at the end of a holiday weekend which typically turns me into a combination of Bruce Banner, Dr. Jeckyl, and Howard Beale behind the wheel of a Volvo SUV.

 

Ditto. I use them whenever I can because my stress level plummets when driving on the relatively empty and expansive new road.

 

To Rocks point, I believe they said the maximum toll would be $11.00 to go from Braddock to MD line. If they could tell drivers the time they would (could) save, there'd be a lot more people on there.


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#49 SeanMike

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Posted 28 May 2013 - 02:46 PM

Ditto. I use them whenever I can because my stress level plummets when driving on the relatively empty and expansive new road.

 

Exactly. That's why I use them.

 

As for the Greenway: it's pretty used. I could use it to get to my office, but it's not much faster than getting off at 28 and going to Waxpool Road that way. On the other hand, if I'm going to Sleazeburg or further (like visiting Catoctin Creek) I'll take it.


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#50 jayandstacey

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Posted 28 May 2013 - 03:04 PM

Two thoughts:

 

1) This technology will change, so may as well start setting up for it.

2) Cameras are probably already in place - do it manually if need be.

 

I've driven on the regular beltway, and I've driven on the express lanes.  The transponder readers know precisely when I'm in one and not the other.   All they really need to do is ping the transponders on the free side as timers, comparing them to the transponders on the toll road.  This would cost a little bit but not much.  Just set up a few readers along the left side of the free beltway - it doesn't have to be perfect as it isn't intended to collect actual tolls. 

 

I *guarantee* there are enough transponders on the free beltway to do this. 

 

That is a *lot* of money.

 

I don't want to get into politics, but I like the general concept of toll roads because they are essentially a "use tax" (oops, I just did). If you use the road, you pay for it; if you don't, you don't. It's so clean.

 

These exurbian townhomes aren't looking like quite the value they once were. I am not a fan of unbridled development. Although I don't want to say 'people are getting what they deserve' (because they're *not*), what I do want to say is that these folks have contributed to rampant, uncontrolled real estate development (which in turn, has been a direct cause of rampant, uncontrolled traffic congestion) by buying into the notion that they can save $60,000 on real estate in Loudoun County, falling trees, ruining parkland, using 6 gallons of gas a day ... boy I could write a book about this, but indeed, I really *have* crossed our unwritten "no politics" boundary with this post, and I suspect I'll delete it tomorrow.

 

But I'd be the best god damned dictator this world has ever known. I could make almost everybody happy (or happier) with policy based on long-term outlook, kindness, respect for individual freedoms and privacy, and fiscal common sense.

 

I don't think bad, car-based suburban planning and design are political topics per se, but like being born, breathing and dying...it isn't hard to turn the topic into a political mudfight.    






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