Two new ramps linking Interstate 95 to the Baltimore Beltway are scheduled to open for today's morning rush hour, part of the Maryland Transportation Authority's $1.5 billion project to add express toll lanes to the heavily traveled north-south highway.
The ramps connect southbound I-95 to eastbound Interstate 695 toward Essex, and to westbound I-695 toward Towson.
Motorists headed toward Essex will now use the right lane to exit, instead of the left lane. Teri Moss, an MdTA public information officer, said the configuration is a safety measure true of all the ramps involved in the project. The agency also plans to change all current left-hand exits on a 10-mile stretch of I-95.
The whole project aims to reconstruct I-95 from Interstate 895 to White Marsh Boulevard, adding two express toll lanes and four general-purpose lanes in each direction by 2016.
Express toll lanes are separate, relatively free-flowing highways that motorists can pay to use.
"It benefits all drivers even if you don't choose to use the express lanes," Moss said. "Traffic is spread out, so drivers will still experience the congestion relief on general purpose lanes."
Moss said the MdTA has not set toll prices, but the agency's Web site says the cost will vary depending on the time of day and the amount of traffic on the road.
Another ramp, connecting westbound I-695 to southbound I-95, is scheduled to open next week, Moss said. And in mid-July, MTA will switch the traffic pattern at the I-95/I-895 split. Instead of directing Annapolis traffic to the left and Baltimore traffic to the right, I-895 south motorists will merge to the right, and I-95 south motorists will stay to the left.
The new ramps take up about half the project's funding. The plan consists of 11 construction contracts, and each contract ranges from about $2 million to more than $200 million, Moss said. Funding comes from tolls and bonds.
The duration of each contract varies from 24 months to 42 months, and MdTA has been working on the newly opening ramps since January 2007.
The MdTA added four new ramps in 2008, and replaced the bridges that carry Cowenton Avenue and Joppa Road over I-95, as well as the Rossville Boulevard bridge that runs over I-95.