If your commute includes I-495, Virginia State Police encourage commuters to plan in advance, especially during the Monday morning drive.
Virginia State Police have responded to four crashes since the new lanes opened early Saturday morning, two of which have resulted in non-life threatening injuries. All four crashes occurred in about the same location: The northbound entrance of the I-495 Express Lanes near Springfield.
As northbound motorists come upon the change in traffic patterns at the Express Lanes entrance, they have swerved or made lane changes to avoid the toll lanes, Virginia State Police said.
State Police say that drivers are also stopping or backing up in an attempt to avoid the Express Lanes and to get into the general purpose lanes. Drivers should never stop or back up on an interstate, state police note.
If you accidentally find yourself in the Express Lanes or are unable to safely merge into the general purpose lanes, then just keep going in the Express Lanes. Take the first exit and then go to www.495ExpressLanes.com and pay the toll online. Backing up or stopping puts you at risk of causing a crash and being seriously injured or killed.
Plan Your Commute Online
“If ... you will be using I-495 in the morning, then please plan ahead and before your trip research your options with the new Express Lanes,” said Capt. Mike Spivey, Virginia State Police Fairfax Division Commander, in a news release.
“Your morning drive on I-495 is going to look much different from what you are used to, so take advantage tonight of the maps and detailed information provided at www.495ExpressLanes.com," he said. "Familiarize yourself with where the traffic lanes change to decide if you want or can use the Express Lanes in the morning, thus preventing yourself from being stuck in traffic or causing a serious crash.”
Virginia State Police have spent the weekend working with VDOT and Transurban to assess and improve signage to warn northbound I-495 motorists of the upcoming lane changes. Additional markings are also being planned.
Motorists are also advised that only two-axle vehicles are permitted in the I-495 Express Lanes. Tractor-trailers, passenger vehicles pulling trailers and other vehicles with more than two-axles are prohibited from using the new toll lanes.
Police Enforcing E-ZPass and Flex Rules
For those using the 495 Express Lanes, troopers will be stopping and citing those in violation of the state law mandating the HOV-3 requirement in the Express Lanes (Code of VA 33.1-56.3 http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+33.1-56.3):
- If traveling with an E-ZPass Flex set to HOV mode, then there must be at least three people riding inside the vehicle to be in compliance with the HOV-3 requirement. Those drivers not in compliance will be ticketed.
- When using the E-ZPass Flex mode, the mode must be selected before entering the 495 Express Lanes. So, don’t forget to flip (the switch) before your trip.
- Make sure you nominate (through the 495 Express Lanes Website or by phone) the bumper mounted transponder for HOV-3 travel at least 30 minutes prior to entering the Express Lanes.
HOV-3 regulations in the 495 Express Lanes apply 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Motorists are also advised that crossing between the white, lane dividers (aka ballards) from the main I-495 lanes into the Express Lanes is prohibited and is extremely dangerous. Violators will be cited.
For more information, please visit www.495ExpressLanes.com.