Major changes to the Downtown expressway Tuesday

Posted at 10:47 PM, Apr 02, 2012
and last updated 2012-04-03 00:28:49-04

RICHMOND, Va (WTVR)- Richmond Metropolitan Authority warns  motorists traveling westbound on the Downtown Expressway will experience a noticeable traffic shift Tuesday as crews begin construction of Open Road Tolling (ORT), also known as express lanes, in the center lanes of the toll plaza.

Concrete Jersey barriers will be placed to separate E-ZPass and cash motorists just prior to the toll plaza approach. Customers with an E-ZPass will travel in the far left lanes, while cash (exact change and full service) customers will travel in the far right lanes. There will be no cash option to the left after the designated decision point. Signage will be in place to guide motorists to the appropriate travel lanes.

A minimum of seven lanes still will be available to motorists in the peak travel direction. This temporary lane configuration is scheduled to end in late summer.

The Downtown Expressway ORT (express lanes) project is scheduled to be completed in the early fall. This $14.5 million initiative will include implementation of three, westbound express lanes, whereby E-ZPass customers will be able to travel on the designated, barrier-free thoroughfare at 45 mph. The lanes will make full use of new technologies that electronic tolling has enabled in the last few years, which customers currently experience on the Powhite Parkway.

Construction involves canopy widening in both directions, the installation of additional lanes on both sides of the roadway, demolition of a portion of the toll plaza canopy, and implementation of an ORT gantry.

Upon completion, the project is expected to have similarly successful results as the Powhite Parkway ORT project, including a reduction of evening rush-hour back-ups, the elimination of reversible lanes and improved air quality.