A map of where VDOT's express toll lanes are located in Hampton Roads. (Virginia Department of Transportation image)
Change has affected traffic flow on Interstate 64 in Virginia's Tidewater, and more is coming fast in many forms — express lanes, road widening and tolls.
To that end, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has hired New Jersey-based Conduent Transportation to design, install and operate express tolling lanes along Interstate 64 in Hampton.
The $51 million contract is a three-year deal, with options to renew every year over the next nine, a Conduent spokesperson told the Daily Press, a news outlet based in Newport News.
The Florham Park, N.J., company plans to use technology to review license plate images, process transactions and, potentially, vehicle occupancy detection. Conduent is ready to begin work on the project following a 16-month implementation period involving system design, testing and installation.
The Daily News reported that Conduent is expected to have its work on Hampton's I-64 toll lane project completed by the end of 2022.
The scope of work will include a 14-mi. stretch between Bower's Hill and I-264, with a single high-occupancy toll (HOT) lane in each direction and multiple toll zones with posted rates, said David Caudill, VDOT's director of tolling operations. The contract has options to include other segments in the future.
Conduent will be responsible for adding the overhead gantry, tolling, meter and pricing equipment — including cameras, traffic sensors and antennas to read transponders. The existing lanes in each direction, including one being built as a HOT lane, would operate seven days a week around the clock with express toll lanes, Caudill noted.
Vehicles with two or more passengers in the express HOT lanes would not be charged a toll. Motorists driving solo, however, would be charged, according to Caudill. Motorists need a transponder to use the express lanes and a special flex transponder for high-occupancy vehicles (HOV).
VDOT will start monitoring traffic at various times during the day to determine toll rates based on the amount of congestion, which will help maintain reliable speeds and trip times, he added.
"What we don't want is to have it set too low, [because] then it becomes gridlock in the [high-occupancy toll] lanes. No one is getting through," Caudill explained. "We don't want to raise it too high, because we want people to use it to provide, you know, some congestion relief from the general-purpose lanes."
HOT lanes that switch back to general purpose at certain times of the day have been in place since 2018 on I-264 to I-564 and as far as the Norfolk Naval Station.
Entire Toll Lane Project to Cost $797 Million
The VDOT/Conduent work is one part of the much larger 44-mi. Hampton Roads Express Lanes Network (HREL) construction project. The building effort is being rolled out in segments, beginning at the Jefferson Avenue exit in Newport News, and continuing through the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel underneath Chesapeake Bay, and eastward on I-64 to Bowers Hill in Chesapeake.
VDOT estimates the (HREL) project's total cost to be nearly $797 million, the Daily News reported.
The complex HREL enterprise is being built in segments:
- In Chesapeake, the work will stretch from the I-64/I-464 interchange to the I-64/I-264 interchange and will consist of converting 7.65 mi. of an existing HOV lane into an express lane in each direction. The segment's cost is $19.18 million.
- The $192 million Norfolk project will focus on creating reversible lanes. From I-264 to I-564, an existing general-purpose shoulder is to be converted into an express part-time shoulder lane in each direction for 9 mi.
- Across the water in Hampton, work will take place from LaSalle Avenue to Settlers Landing Road. One express lane is due to be built, and one general purpose lane will be remade into an express lane in each direction for 2.5 mi.. The projected price tag for that effort is a hefty $429.8 million.
- The Newport News segment of the overall project will stretch from Jefferson Avenue in Newport News to Mercury Boulevard in Hampton, and an existing HOV lane will be converted into an express lane in both directions. In addition, one express lane will be constructed in each direction from Mercury Boulevard to LaSalle Avenue in Hampton. The length of this segment is 13.5 mi., at a cost of $156 million.
The projected finish date for the HREL project has not been revealed.
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