As 2019 comes to a close, we are looking at some of the most significant changes to our commute. Most of the old HOV lanes are now called as Express Lanes or Toll lanes. In the past, HOV was enforced only during the peak hours on weekdays and was open to all during off peak hours, weekends and holidays. With the new Express Lanes all vehicles except motorcycles require E-ZPass to access Express Lanes. HOV with three or more passengers can drive free with E-ZPass flex on “HOV ON’ mode. If you drive in Northern Virginia you may want to consider buying E-ZPass or E-ZPass Flex to access Express Lanes. There are a few miles of HOV lanes on I-66 outside beltway which will be made Express Lanes in 2022.
Commuters driving along I-395 corridor during non-peak hours may be affected by the changes in the I-395 HOV Lanes. This may increase the number of drivers picking up slugs, or drivers may switch to public transportation. This may also be an opportunity to organize new sluglines inside beltway from places like Landmark Mall.
History of HOV Lanes:
High Occupancy Lanes (HOV) is one of the greatest innovations in transportation. In 1969, The Henry G. Shirley Memorial Highway, often shortened to Shirley Highway was the first Busway (Bus Rapid Transit) separated by barriers. at that time, buses did not attract enough passengers and it got more expensive to operate. The initial 4.8 mile reversible bus-only lane was extended and expanded into a 9 mile two-lane reversible facility in 1973. In December of 1973, Shirley Busway was opened to carpools with 4 or more passengers to reduce the expense and increase the usage. This gave birth to slugging, drivers primarily the Pentagon personnel picked up passengers waiting at the bus stop to drive in the HOV lanes.
In January 1989, the HOV requirement was reduced to HOV 3+. Since that time, the HOV facility has been extended further south on I-95 reaching its current limit just south of Route 234 in Dumfries in 1997. This facility, which carries 14 percent more persons during the morning HOV-restricted period (6:00 to 9:00) than the general purpose lanes and nearly 10 percent more persons during the evening HOV-restricted period (3:30 to 6:00), is recognized by the transportation community as the most successful HOV facility in the United States. Sluglines, played a major role in the success of the HOV facility, it is estimated that 25% of the vehicles had at least one slug in the car.
In December 2014. I-95 Express Lanes was built from Garrisonville Road in Stafford County to Edsall Road on I-395 in Fairfax County, leaving 8 miles of I-395 HOV lanes between Washington DC and Edsall Road.
In November 2019, the I-395 Express Lanes was extended for eight miles north from Edsall Road to the D.C. line, to reduce congestion in the I-395 corridor, increase capacity by adding an additional HOV lane to make three reversible lanes on I-395 and extend the benefits and travel options of the 95 Express Lanes further north.