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Small change could have big effect for I-66 commuters

Monday - 2/14/2011, 1:15pm  ET

Hank Silverberg,

FAIRFAX, Va. -- If you travel on Interstate 66 on weekends or during off-peak hours your life could get a bit easier at the end of the month.

Virginia is going to open up the westbound HOV ramps at Monument Drive and Stringfellow Road to all traffic during non-HOV hours and on weekends starting on Feb. 28.

The area is much more congested than when the ramps were constructed, says State Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton, and opening the ramps should make a difference.

"We think that by opening these up at least to the westbound direction, it's really going to help the traffic situation in and around those interchanges."

VDOT estimates more than 8,000 vehicles will use the two ramps each day as a result of this change.

The improvement was suggested several years ago, but since the ramps are on an interstate, the Virginia government needed federal approval to open the gates.

"We had pushed to try and get them to open both eastbound and westbound," says Connaughton. "However, it looks like the only way we can get them open is for the westbound drive."

Connaughton says the change in traffic pattern is more important now because of the construction of an interchange at the Fairfax County Parkway at nearby Fair Lakes.

Drivers should watch for overhead signs that will tell them when the ramps are open to all traffic or are HOV only.

Until now those gates were opened only during morning and afternoon drive for HOV traffic.

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