New Beltway lanes seek to break gridlock in DC

MATTHEW BARAKAT
Associated Press
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Soon to be opened express lanes are empty, left, as northbound traffic is heavy on Interstate 495, the Capital Beltway, near Tysons Corner in Fairfax County, Va., Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012. The $2 billion, 14-mile, decade-in-the-making Express Lanes are set to open Nov. 17. The four Express Lanes, two northbound and two southbound, supplement the existing eight lanes on the Virginia side of the Beltway. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

McLEAN, Va. (AP) — The Capital Beltway, notorious both as a symbol of our political gridlock and traffic gridlock, is getting a major makeover.

The 495 Express Lanes will open Saturday on a 14-mile stretch of the Beltway in northern Virginia. The four new Express Lanes — two in each direction — will supplement the existing lanes.

Drivers who want to use the new lanes, though, will have to either pay a toll or join a carpool of three or more.

The lanes were built as part of a $2 billion public-private partnership and are part of a growing trend across the nation of so-called High Occupancy Toll lanes, or HOT lanes.

Once derided as "Lexus lanes" that would only benefit the wealthy, many early opponents of the project have come to support it.