8-Year Va. Interchange Project Complete

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 26, 2005

SPRINGFIELD, Va. – Virginia officials celebrated completion Wednesday of an eight-year, $676 million interchange construction project designed to untangle one of the worst traffic bottlenecks on the East Coast.

The new Springfield Interchange includes more than 50 ramps and bridges connecting Interstates 95, 395 and 495, as well as 80 lane-miles of pavement. More than 430,000 vehicles pass daily through the interchange, where Interstate 95 merges with the Capital Beltway in the Washington area.

Virginia officials touted the project’s completion as “on time and on budget,” but it was subject to four cost revisions between 1999 and 2002, prompting a federal investigation and demands for an overhaul of operations at the Virginia Department of Transportation. The original cost estimate in 1999 was $350 million.

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In 2002, the new administration of then-Gov. Mark Warner pegged the cost at $676 million and promised it would hold to that amount. It did.

Gov. Tim Kaine said at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday that VDOT “had a little bit of a malaise” in the late 1990s “where on-time and on budget performances were really pretty embarrassing.”

Kaine said that has now changed and the project’s completion “is a victory for the notion that in a tough political climate, we can still get things done. We can still do big projects.”

The last major stage of the project, connecting part of the Beltway to southbound I-95, finished last month.

The project’s biggest advantage is the elimination of the merging and weaving onto tiny cloverleafs that slowed traffic and caused numerous accidents, project manager Larry Cloyed said. The new interchange separates and segregates traffic much earlier.

Now, for instance, if there is gridlock on southbound I-95 during the afternoon rush hour, backups on the Beltway from commuters trying to merge onto I-95 are largely confined to the massive overpass connecting the roads. Traffic that seeks to continue on the Beltway beyond I-95 can flow freely.

Traffic accidents that can result in massive rush-hour backups also have been reduced significantly, and vehicles can more safely merge onto highways now that they are able to maintain speed through the interchange.

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A service of the Associated Press(AP)