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More shifts, twists and turns coming to the Beltway

Tuesday - 8/30/2011, 12:54pm  ET

ribbon_cutting
Local leaders, including Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova, left, and VDOT officials, cut the ribbon on new bridges opened at Little River Turnpike and Braddock Road as part of the HOT lanes project. (Adam Tuss/WTOP Photo)

Adam Tuss, wtop.com

ANNANDALE, Va. -- Construction-weary drivers who have been dealing with the shifts, twists and turns of the Capital Beltway High Occupancy Toll Lanes project should get ready for another big dose.

"It's going to be a very busy four months now, through the remainder of the year," says Larry Cloyed, VDOT's senior project manager.

He says asphalt teams will try and take advantage of the weather before winter sets in.

About 75 percent of the entire HOT Lanes project -- stretching from Springfield to just north of the Dulles Toll Road -- is now complete.

"The big work remaining is to complete the shifts, pushing the traffic out, getting into the middle, and getting these HOT Lanes built," Cloyed says.

The project will add two new lanes to the Beltway in each direction. The center-most two lanes will become the HOT lanes; the remaining four lanes on the outside will be general purpose lanes.

It hasn't been an easy task moving drivers around while the work has been going on.

"It's essentially like trying to hold a cocktail party while you're changing the carpet underneath everyone," Cloyed says.

The estimated opening date for the project now stands at December 2012, according to VDOT.

When the lanes open, drivers will be able to use them if they pay a toll or if they have three or more people in their vehicle. Tolls will rise and fall based on how many drivers are in the lanes. The more people that use the lanes, the higher the tolls.

The idea is that people will be priced out of the lanes at some point, and traffic will be able to continue moving.

Tolls will be collected using an E-ZPass-like device that will allow traffic to keep flowing. The operator of the lanes, Fluor-Transurban, has promised a minimum speed of 45 miles per hour at all times.

Transit advocates also are championing the lanes as a way to move buses quickly between different points on the Beltway since traffic flow is supposed to be predictable.

VDOT leaders, as well as local elected officials on Tuesday, cut the ribbon on new bridges that have been built at Little River Turnpike and Braddock Road as part of the project. In all, 58 new bridges are being built.

VDOT also says nearly 80 percent of the sound walls required for the project have been put in place.

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(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)