Virginia Opens New EZ Pass Express Lanes In Effort To Make The Beltway Safer
This article was written by Virginia personal injury lawyer Thomas Soldan.
On November 17, 2012, the transportation landscape of northern Virginia changed with the opening of the EZ Pass Express lanes linking the Springfield “mixing bowl” interchange and the western commuter route of I-495 to the Maryland border. It remains to be seen whether commuters will adjust to the new transportation options to limit traffic on the Virginia side of the Capital Beltway. What is known, however, is that completion of the EZ Pass Express lanes should make I-495 a safer highway in several regards. First, easing congestion will allow traffic to flow at a more consistent, safe speed. Second, the completion of construction zones should allow for lane markings to return to normalcy, and unexpected shifts in the expected lanes of travel were to blame for numerous accidents in the past few years. Third, with the opening of a new highway, enforcement of aggressive and impaired driving is a stated priority of the Virginia State Police. Finally, the separation between drivers who know exactly where they are going and drivers who are visiting the areas for the first time should allow both groups to travel in a more safe manner.
One of the obvious safety drawbacks of the EZ Pass Express lanes, in my opinion, is the relative proximity of the new toll lanes to the existing, albeit improved in many instances, lanes of travel. In many places, the toll lanes are only separated by a series of tube-like dividers, and though I imagine they are engineering marvels, they do not exude the same confidence from a larger system of barrier walls. It will be important for drivers on the new EZ Pass Express toll lanes to remain free of distractions. As we all now, distracted driving is a leading cause of car accidents in Virginia, and distracted driving in the tight quarters of the new toll lanes could potentially lead to disaster. In all, I have high expectations for the EZ Pass Express lanes, and their potential impact in alleviating some of the stress of commuting on the Virginia side of the Capital Beltway.
The EZ Pass Express toll lanes are an innovative project because they deal with improving an existing route of traffic. In contrast, the InterCounty Connector (ICC) in Maryland is a new route that joins interstate highways with a direct route instead of the existing circuitous path down I-95, around the Maryland side of the Capital Beltway, and back up I-270. Initial reviews of the ICC are mixed, but it is still a small project compared to the newly opened section of State Highway 130 connecting Austin and San Antonio in Texas. Not only does State Highway 130 include a per mile toll rate on the over 40 mile stretch of highway, but it also includes the nation’s highest posted speed limit of 85 miles per hour. The privately run, like EZ Pass Express, system did not post the radical speed limit on its own, it was approved in the recent session of the Texas Stat Legislature. It will remain to be seen whether the higher speeds with impact the accident and injury rate on this open stretch of highway, as this car accident lawyer is certain that this new route will be scrutinized for years to come.
Remember that wherever your destination and whatever your route of choice, be mindful of the road conditions, your speed, and the other drivers sharing the road. Be safe out there, take your time, avoid distractions and everyone will have a much happier and more enjoyable beginning to the holiday season.