SPRINGFIELD, Va. (WUSA) - The entrance to the I-495 Express Lanes in Springfield comes up quickly. Too quickly for six drivers in the first three days of the Express Lanes opening. They swerved into other cars, slammed on their brakes and even stopped in their tracks trying to avoid getting on the toll lanes.
Since the lanes opened on Saturday morning, there have been six crashes right at that Northbound entrance, which is in the two far left lanes just two miles after the Springfield interchange. It is a busy part of the Beltway's Outer Loop where vehicles are merging left to get out of lanes that are ending.
Officials want to remind drivers to keep alert. If they accidentally take the Express Lanes and do not have an EZ Pass, do not stop or swerve to avoid them; keep going. Pierce Coffee with Transurban says you can go to 495ExpressLanes.com and click on "Missed A Toll" to pay and also order an EZ Pass or EZPass Flex if you plan to carpool for free. You'll need to have 3 peopel in your car to do so, and remember to turn the HOV on.
To help alleviate some of the confusion, V-DOT and Transurban (the company that manages the lanes) are making these changes:
- Adding additional colored reflectors to the channelizing posts (white barriers)
- Changing digital messages on electronic signs to read: "new traffic pattern" and "use caution" and "two left lanes express lanes only"
- Extend merge area and alert drivers sooner to the Express Lanes entrance
-Heading north from Springfield Interchange, begin transitional striping (dotted line) in the area where the Springfield Interchange ramps meet the Beltway. This is nearly one mile south of current Express Lanes entrance; this striping more clearly indicates to drivers that the two left lanes will soon turn into Express Lanes
-Heading north from Springfield Interchange, begin solid line warning drivers not to merge lanes approximately 700 feet sooner (further south) than where the solid line begins today
Transurban says it will continue to monitor the situation and advance additional strategies over the coming days, including:
- Add new pavement markings saying "E-ZPass Only" approximately one mile and again one half mile before Express Lanes entrance
- Further enhance channelizing posts in the area of the entrance
Monday morning was the first rush hour commute for the new 495 Express Lanes, which is a 14-mile section running from the Springfield Interchange to just north of the Dulles Toll Road. Drivers coming from Maryland told WUSA 9 that there was also confusion Monday morning at the Southbound Express Lanes entrance in McLean. Nancy McCarthy said people were braking in order to read the toll prices on the overhead message boards.
There have been at least 7 crashes on the Express Lanes since they opened on Saturday.
Written by Peggy Fox, @PeggyTV