Alexandria, VA

JUST IN: Car Fire Blocks I-395

Alexandria firefighters are on scene of a car fire on I-395.

The engine of an SUV caught fire in the northbound lanes of the highway, between Seminary Road and King Street. Firefighters are currently working to extinguish the fire.

Two mainline lanes of northbound I-395 are currently blocked. According to scanner traffic, police are currently looking for the driver, who reportedly ran off.

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After the launch of the I-395 Express Lanes, Transurban is turning its attention to a ramp connecting I-395 to Seminary Road near the Mark Center.

The south-facing ramp, which opened in 2016, is currently restricted to HOV traffic and buses traveling north in the morning and south in the evenings. Transurban hopes to change that, opening the ramp up to toll-paying traffic — allowing another point of access to Seminary Road for drivers on I-395 and another incentive to use the Express Lanes.

Transurban is scheduled to pitch its plans at a meeting scheduled for next Monday, Dec. 9, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Minnie Howard Campus (3801 W. Braddock Road). The presentation is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.

According to a press release:

The meeting is an opportunity for the public to find out about an operations analysis assessing the traffic and safety impacts and benefits of converting the I-395 and Seminary Road Ramp in the City of Alexandria from a High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV)-only ramp to a High Occupancy Toll (HOT) ramp. The ramp would continue to provide access to the 395 Express Lanes but would be available to vehicles with fewer than three occupants who pay a toll, and for free to vehicles with three or more occupants.

The north-facing ramp is currently open to toll traffic. The City of Alexandria’s webpage for the ramp said Transportation and Environmental Services (T&ES) is coordinating with Transurban and the Virginia Department of Transportation on an analysis of the potential change and looking at how the changes could impact local traffic.

Revenue from the tolls on I-395, and from the ramp, would go towards transit services and multimodal solutions — projects aimed at getting people out of their cars and onto mass-transit.

Photo via Google Maps

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It’s all hands on deck at the Transurban offices as the company prepares for the launch of the new I-395 Express Lanes this weekend.

The 395 Express Lanes — which run from Edsall Road in Fairfax County up eight miles to the 14th Street Bridge, passing through Alexandria’s West End — are scheduled to switch over to High Occupancy Toll lanes this Sunday, Nov. 17.

In a command center at 6440 General Green Way, just west of Alexandria city limits, Transurban staff sit in front of a sprawling wall of televisions flickering between views of Northern Virginia’s highways. In the camera feeds, construction crews can be seen working to finish up some of the final touches as they convert the two reversible HOV lanes into three Express Lanes.

The new Express Lanes are similar to ones installed earlier on I-495 and I-95. They require an E-ZPass to drive in, with options to drive toll-free if there are three or more passengers, or to pay a dynamic toll based on demand.

Mike McGurk, a spokesman for Transurban, said tolls — for those who want a quicker trip — are expected to average $8 but could range from a few dollars up to “high or mid $20s.”

McGurk said his main concern, going into the change, is safety. If a driver accidentally pulls into an express lane without intending to, McGurk said to keep driving and get to your destination — then when you get mail about the bill, contact Transurban and explain the situation.

The new Express Lanes should also relieve some of the traffic on the non-toll lanes as well, McGurk said, and estimated that non-Express traffic would see a 7-15% decrease in travel time based on experience with other Express Lanes. McGurk also said that the new lanes were unlikely to push more traffic onto Alexandria side streets.

A south-facing ramp at Seminary Road in Alexandria is currently planned to remain HOV-only, but McGurk said Transurban is currently in discussions with Alexandria to open the ramp to tolled, non-HOV traffic.

Map via Transurban

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(Updated at 11:30 a.m.) Traffic is slow from Seminary Road to Duke Street after a crash and reported medical emergency in the southbound lanes of I-395.

The incident was reported shortly before 11 a.m., underneath the Duke Street overpass. Initial reports suggest that a driver suffered a medical emergency and crashed. It was not immediately clear whether how many other vehicles were involved in the crash.

Virginia State Police, along with Alexandria and Arlington firefighters and medics, rushed to the scene. First responders arriving on scene reported that they were performing CPR on the driver.

As of 11:15 a.m. two lefthand lanes of I-395 were blocked by the emergency activity.

A second crash along I-395 in the same area, involving a sedan and a dump truck, was reported just prior to 11:30 a.m.

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