Maryland Capital Beltway/I-270 Toll Lane Plan Now in Peril: What Does This Mean for Virginia?

Decision on I-495/I-270 toll lanes contract delayed; project’s fate now rests with Governor Elect Wes Moore, new Bureau of Public Works

Virginia’s Department of Transportation (VDOT) has aggressively pursued extending the I-495 Toll Express Lanes north to the American Legion Bridge. The plan was to spur Maryland to build its own toll lanes north of the Potomac river and create more demand for Virginia’s tolled express lanes. A few years ago, Virginia signed yet another no-bid contract with Transurban of Australia for another dose of Beltway Express Lanes: this time in the McLean area to the Potomac River.

In November 2019, then Governor Ralph Northam and Governor Larry Hogan announced a curious deal to build a new beltway bridge over the Potomac River with additional tolled lanes. Although the Potomac River along this stretch lies completely in Maryland, Virginia would pay for replacing the “free” northbound lanes over the Potomac, while Maryland would pay for the southbound lanes all the way to the George Washington Parkway in McLean. No additional free lanes would be built, and the number of free lanes would be capped at four in each direction in perpetuity–or at least for a half century.

On the Virginia side of the river, Transurban hired Lane Construction Corporation to begin construction of the “Northern Extension” of tolled express lanes in March 2022. But much of the other work south of the Potomac river would be done by the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT), as a result of the Northam/Hogan agreement. This work includes rebuilding the GW Parkway bridge of the beltway, a pedestrian tunnel, local street work, and trail connections.

If Maryland does not build its own toll lanes, it is unlikely they will do any of the anticipated work hoped for in Virginia either. VDOT can be an extremely challenging neighbor for its highway construction; imagine trying to deal with MDOT as it attempts to perform large construction projects in Virginia.

While Transurban / Lane Construction Corp will likely complete just the toll lane portion in Virginia on their own, the extended express lanes will still abruptly end in Virginia—this time near the American Legion Memorial Bridge rather than three miles to the south.

From Maryland Matters:

The Maryland Department of Transportation will not seek approval of a multibillion-dollar contract to build toll lanes on Interstates 270 and 495 until late winter, after Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has left office, the agency announced on Thursday.

The decision is a significant blow to the long-planned project, one of Hogan’s top transportation priorities, as its fate will soon rest with three Democrats, Gov.-elect Wes Moore, Treasurer Dereck Davis and Comptroller-elect Brooke Lierman.

More information is at

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