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TransUrban deal prevents Virginia from adding lanes on I-95 to fix Occoquan bottleneck

The state's deal with Express Lanes builder TransUrban prevents Virginia from adding new lanes on I-95 unless the state pays the company for lost tolls.

OCCOQUAN, Va. -- Traffic congestion is a major problem in the D.C. region.

One of the biggest bottlenecks is on I-95 crossing over the Occoquan River from Fairfax County into Prince William County. Lawmakers are pushing for a solution, but it comes with a huge, expensive string attached.

"It backs up Monday through Friday. It backs up in the morning, it backs up in the afternoon, it backs up in the middle of the day. t backs up Saturday and Sunday. It backs up in both directions. All the time. Every day of the week," said state Senator Scott Surovell.

He said the bottleneck at the Occoquan Bridge on I-95 is the number one complaint he receives from constituents.

RELATED: VERIFY: How are toll prices determined on Virginia's I-495 and I-95 Express Lanes?

But the bridge is not the problem. That bridge has four lanes of traffic going in each direction. The problem is what's happening around the bridge and especially just south of the bridge, where those four lanes squeeze to three lanes.

"You have one lane coming off of Route 1, pushing onto I-95, then you have a lane coming off of Route 123 getting onto 95. All trying to squeeze in only three lanes. And it all just jams up," said Surovell.

It seems like a simple solution. Just build another lane, right? Not so fast. Because Virginia lawmakers did want to raise taxes to build more roads, the state made a deal with TransUrban, the company that built those I-95 Express Lanes. Part of the deal says that Virginia cannot add capacity on I-95 unless it pays off TransUrban.

"What that means is that if we ever do expand it, without paying them money, they will sue us for lost tolls...I think what most people would prefer is we try and negotiate a compromise," said Surovell.

He and other lawmakers have been pushing Governor Ralph Northam and transportation officials to renegotiate the contract with TransUrban.

"When I tell people about it, they get very upset. I've had people yell at me at town hall meetings, tell me, its' just a contract, why don't you just violate it and let them sue us? But this bottleneck is one of the most frustrating pieces of road in all of Northern Virginia. People are very upset about it and want us to do something. They don't like hearing excuses about it."

WUSA9 reached out to Governor's office asking about possible negotiations with TransUran, but have not received a response.