Beginning the week of August 13 through the end of the month, the 495 Express Lanes team will be testing the Express Lanes' tolling and traffic management systems through a series of "test-drives" at highway speeds in the 495 Express Lanes. Drivers traveling on the adjacent Beltway lanes are advised to stay alert when traveling on the Beltway during this time, as the lanes are not yet open to the traveling public.
The on-road vehicle testing is part of a thorough series of system tests that are underway on the 495 Express Lanes – all of which are necessary to ensure that the 495 Express Lanes' tolling and traffic management equipment and systems (on the roadway and in the Operations Center) work properly and can manage Express Lanes traffic at all times.
"The all-electronic facility will use technology to manage travel on the Express Lanes and get drivers moving on the Beltway," commented Tim Steinhilber, Transurban-Fluor's General Manager of the 495 Express Lanes. "The full functionality of the 495 Express Lanes' tolling and traffic management system is essential to the success of the 495 Express Lanes. This testing phase is critical to ensure that our systems are ready to deliver faster and more predictable travel to drivers."
Steinhilber added, "Because the on-road testing will be clearly visible to travelers on the adjacent Beltway lanes, it is important that drivers stay alert and do not follow these vehicles into the Express Lanes. As always, drivers should avoid distractions when traveling the Beltway during the testing phase and through the remaining months of busy 495 Express Lanes construction."
What to Expect:
- The on-road vehicle testing is scheduled to begin the week of August 13, with marked test vehicles driving certain sections of the 14-mile Express Lanes Corridor. Testing will continue the week of August 20.
- During this time, a variety of vehicles will travel in a loop on the 495 Express Lanes, from approximately the Gallows Road Interchange to the Route 123 Interchange in Tysons Corner, simulating real-time traffic conditions in order to test the Express Lanes' tolling and traffic management systems.
- The vehicles will operate under a series of defined scenarios such as various speeds and lane selections, and will generate enough trips to accurately test the tolling system that will manage traffic on the Express Lanes. Some test drives will be above normal highway speeds.
- Testing will occur throughout the day to capture various driving conditions, and traffic control operators at the Express Lanes Operations Center will be monitoring the roadway at all times.
- Many of the newly installed electronic message signs on the Express Lanes and on local roads within the corridor will be activated and display clearly marked test messages.
Technologies and Equipment undergoing Testing:
- On-road traffic sensors, which will monitor traffic 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to gather the traffic data necessary to determine toll prices.
- Electronic message signs, which are placed in advance of each Express Lanes access point, to inform drivers of real-time toll prices so they can decide whether to enter the Express Lanes.
- E-ZPass readers (radio frequency identification technology), which are installed on the overhead gantries and will communicate with vehicle E-ZPass transponders to pass transaction information to the Express Lanes Operations Center to process trips and charge tolls.
- Closed-circuit and automatic incident-detection cameras on the roadway, which will be used to manage traffic by quickly detecting incidents and alerting the Express Lanes Operations Center traffic control operators to notify dedicated incident-response crews assigned to the Express Lanes.
What Drivers Need to Know Before the Express Lanes Open:
- All drivers, including carpoolers, will need an E-ZPass or E-ZPass Flex for the all-electronic 495 Express Lanes.
- Pricing will change for the Express Lanes based on real-time traffic conditions to manage the demand for the lanes, keeping the Express Lanes moving. The technology being tested will help keep the Express Lanes free flowing.
- Signage in advance of each entry point will show the price to three destinations. Drivers will lock in their rate when they enter the Express Lanes.
- The Express Lanes are expected to be completed by December 2012.