Opinion: Letter to the Editor: 495 NEXT Project: A ‘Game Changer in the Region’

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: 495 NEXT Project: A ‘Game Changer in the Region’

Having lived in McLean for more than 36 years and represented McLean and Great Falls in the House of Delegates, I have experienced our traffic congestion as it has grown worse each year. Travel along the northern section of I-495 near my neighborhood along the Georgetown Pike historic byway has become challenging. Once the covid health crisis is behind us, the prospect of more congestion will be ahead of us as normal commuting patterns resume.

The proposed 495 NEXT Project, which will extend the 495 Express Lanes north to the George Washington Memorial Parkway, can solve many of these challenges. By providing new connections at the Dulles Toll Road and George Washington Memorial Parkway, this project will provide a reliable travel choice that will reduce travel time significantly. Safety will be improved by reducing the number of accidents on I-495 and by reducing the cut through traffic on local roads – a very important factor for neighborhoods like mine. This project will allow transit and carpoolers to bypass congestion with a faster toll-free trip, a point I made consistently as a state legislator when the original HOT lanes were being constructed. That last point is even more compelling today. As Tysons - and the region – continue to grow, the Express Lanes will move more people in fewer vehicles.

Perhaps more importantly, the 495 NEXT Project will allow Virginia to be prepared for the Capital Beltway Accord Project that will include rebuilding the American Legion Bridge and extending the 495 Express Lanes across the Potomac River into Maryland. This project will address one of the most congested corridors in the country and certainly will be a “game changer” for our region.

I encourage the Commonwealth to move this project forward as soon as possible. In addition to the benefits discussed above the 495 NEXT Project will create thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in economic activity at a time in which our region greatly needs this investment. As a former state legislator, a transportation policy activist, and a longtime resident of McLean, I strongly support this project.

Margaret G. Vanderhye