Two New Virginia Toll Plans Compete

Mon March 22, 2004 - National Edition

FREDERICKSBURG, VA (AP) An Arlington engineering firm submitted a $1 billion proposal to Virginia this week to build and operate toll lanes on Interstate 95 between Massaponax and Washington, D.C..

The plan of Fluor Virginia would be the most extensive network of its kind in the capital region and let drivers buy their way out of traffic.

If the state also approves another toll-lane plan that a sister company, Fluor-Daniel, has pending for the Capital Beltway, motorists could drive toll lanes 70 miles from a point on I-95 south of Fredericksburg to Georgetown Pike along the Beltway.

I-95 and the beltway segment are two of the capital region’s most congested routes.

Fluor’s proposal to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will compete with a similar, less ambitious plan for I-95 submitted in September by Clark Construction Group, Shirley Contracting Co. and Koch Performance Roads. It would cost $400 million to $500 million.

Both companies predict toll revenue will pay for all construction costs. VDOT will evaluate both plans over several months.

“We encourage and promote competition,” said Pierce Homer, Virginia’s deputy transportation secretary. There’s a long road to go in terms of process.”

Toll lanes are a modified version of High-Occupancy Vehicle lanes, or HOV lanes. Only vehicles carrying three or more drivers can use HOV lanes. Toll lanes are still open to those drivers without cost. But vehicles with fewer occupants also can use themby paying a toll.

Toll costs vary based on the time of day and level of traffic congestion. Flour’s tolls would cost an average of 15 cents per mile, company officials said. James W. Atwell, a Clark group consultant, would not disclose average toll costs in the Clark, Shirley and Koch proposal, calling the information confidential.

The toll lanes also would be monitored to control congestion and closed to new traffic as needed.

Clark, Shirley and Koch’s plan calls for work along 36 miles of road from Springfield to Stafford. Fluor’s D.C.-to-Massaponax plan calls for work along 56 miles of road. Fluor also plans to build bus stops, bus stations and park-and-ride lots along the route, blending its project with existing northern Virginia mass-transit systems.

Gary Groat, Fluor project director, said the Clark, Shirley and Koch proposal would only move a transportation bottleneck near Dumfries to Stafford.

“When we looked at the other proposal, we came to the conclusion that it didn’t solve the transportation problem,” Groat said.

Clark, Shirley and Koch officials cited several difficulties involved with extending their plan, like Fluor’s, north into the Beltway or south across the Rappahannock River. But Atwell called the proposals’ differences beneficial.

“We hail the competition and think it’s healthy for the industry,” he said.