Express toll interchange for I-95 at Route 43 approved

Restoring a cut made to a high-profile project at the height of the recession, the Maryland Transportation Authority, voted Thursday to build an interchange linking express toll lanes on Interstate 95 with Route 43 in White Marsh.

The action by the authority's board brings the cost of a project that previously was estimated to slightly more than $1 billion. The board awarded a contract for $142.6 million to build the interchange, but offset all but $37 million of that with savings on other contracts in which the bids came in lower than estimated, authority chief engineer Doug Hutchinson said.

The addition means that when the supposedly congestion-free toll lanes open about late 2014, their southbound users will be able to get on and off at Route 43 instead of continuing on to the Beltway. Hutchinson said northbound access to 43 would be part of a future, not yet funded extension on the toll lanes.

The authority pared back the project in 2009 after toll revenue fell off sharply during the 2008-2009 recession. With a rebound in collections and the contract savings from aggressive bidding in a weak construction sector, authority officials decided the interchange could be restored.

The express toll lanes will operate parallel to the existing free lanes of I-95. The toll lanes are expected to be priced at rates that will vary with the level of traffic — keeping the express lanes free-flowing while the regular lanes are congested.

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