State awards $925 million contract to private sector partnership to build I-95 express lanes

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Gov. Bob McDonnell announced Tuesday that the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has entered into an agreement with a group of private-sector companies to build about 29 miles of express lanes on I-95 from Garrisonville Road in Stafford County to Edsall Road in Fairfax County. Construction will begin on the $925 million project early next month.

“This is a historical day for transportation and the economy in Virginia,” McDonnell said in a statement.  “… Virginia is taking bold action to move more people with fewer cars by giving them more transportation choices that will save time and money, and improve the environment. The project will also support nearly 8,000 jobs over the construction period and stimulate $2 billion in economic activity.”

VDOT Commissioner Greg Whirley executed a comprehensive agreement and reached financial close with 95 Express Lanes LLC, a joint venture between Transurban DRIVe and Fluor Enterprises, Inc. Signed under the Public-Private Transportation Act, the agreement allows VDOT to partner with 95 Express, which will make a substantial investment in the project and share in the financial risk of construction and operations. Construction is expected to be complete by late 2014.

The project will expand and improve existing HOV lanes from Dumfries to Edsall Road and extend new HOV lanes from Dumfries to Garrisonville Road. Vehicles with three or more people will be able to travel the lanes at no cost. Vehicles with fewer than three passengers can choose to pay a toll to use express lanes, or they can ride the general purpose lanes for free.

“The 95 Express Lanes combined with the nearly completed 495 Express Lanes will bring a transportation network that manages congestion efficiently, saving time and better connecting commuters with some of Virginia’s most important employment centers and military sites,” said Transportation Secretary Sean T. Connaughton.

Under the comprehensive agreement, VDOT will maintain ownership of the infrastructure and oversee 95 Express’ activities. 95 Express will finance, build, operate and maintain the facility for a 76-year concession period. 95 Express also will assume risk of delivering the project on a performance-based, fixed-price, fixed-date contract, protecting users and taxpayers from cost overruns and delays. 

The key components of construction include:
•      Extending nine miles of existing HOV lanes from Dumfries to Garrisonville Road in Stafford County, alleviating one of the region’s worst traffic back ups
•      Expanding existing HOV lanes from two to three lanes for 14 miles between Prince William Parkway to the vicinity of Edsall Road on I-395
•      Making operational improvements to the existing two HOV lanes for six miles from Route 234 to Prince William Parkway
•      Adding eight new or improved access points to and from HOV/HOT network at key interchanges
•      Expanding and adding commuter parking lots

Financial and tolling highlights:
•      Project will cost $925 million with 95 Express providing $854 million in funding. This includes an anticipated TIFIA loan of $300 million, which is expected to be available in November 2012
•      VDOT will provide $71 million in public funds, a lower amount than the original estimate of $97 million, due to lower-than-expected financing costs at closing.
•      Tolls will be collected electronically using E-ZPass, including the new E-ZPass Flex, eliminating the need for toll booths

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