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More Lanes Won't Mean Less Traffic On I-95, Says New Study

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There's plenty of traffic on I-95 in Virginia, but simply adding more lanes won't be enough.
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There's plenty of traffic on I-95 in Virginia, but simply adding more lanes won't be enough.

Anyone who drives I-95 in Fairfax and Prince William Counties in Virginia knows the traffic congestion there is terrible, and what can be done about it is the subject of a new study.

Congestion is still driving motorists mad on I-95, despite improvements to the Springfield interchange and the recent widening of a notorious six-mile stretch to four lanes in each direction. For many people living in the 21-mile corridor that runs through Fairfax and Prince William Counties, I-95 is the only way to work.

But David Versel, a researcher at George Mason University's Center for Regional Analysis, says adding more lanes is only a short-term solution. "The answer really has to be done through a comprehensive look at land use, transportation, and economic development all at the same time," he says.

Versel took a look at where the jobs are going in the two counties, and concluded that better access to public transit — both Metro and VRE — will be necessary to connect people to their offices, especially those who work irregular hours.

"If you actually look at how the current transit facilities in the corridor are set up, it is really hard to get from there to anywhere meaningful. You know, Franconia is a good half-mile walk to the closest commercial building," he says.

Versel's study echoes the research of regional transportation planners, who say the area's future will rely heavily on public transit investments and land use strategies that give people the option to live closer to their jobs and leave their cars at home.

Versel says even after the completion of the $1 billion project to extend the I-95 express lanes — set for early 2015 — several segments of the highway will still operate at failing levels of congestion.

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