Interstate 95 in Virginia

Interstate 95 in Virginia traverses 178.93 miles north-south, including the 3.20-mile-long overlap with I-64 and the 7.56-mile-long overlap with I-495. I-95 runs from the North Carolina border in Greensville County to the District of Columbia border (Potomac River) in the City of Alexandria (I-95/I-495 makes landfall in Maryland after crossing the Potomac River). I-95 serves the towns and cities of Emporia, Petersburg, Colonial Heights, Chester, Richmond, Ashland, Fredericksburg, Falmouth, Dale City, Woodbridge, Springfield, and Alexandria. I-95 was built near to and parallel to existing major interregional highways; US-301 from North Carolina to Petersburg, US-1/US-301 from Petersburg to Richmond, and US-1 from Richmond to the District of Columbia. Virginia I-95 has four Interstate spur and loop routes, I-195 and I-295 in the Richmond area, and I-395 and I-495 in Northern Virginia near Washington, D.C.

The terrain that Virginia I-95 crosses is generally Piedmont gently rolling land through the southern, central and northern part of the state. The Fall Line passes through Richmond, west of Fredericksburg, and west of the District of Columbia. Much of the route from Richmond to Northern Virginia is through heavily forested areas. I-95 crosses two major transportation barriers, the James River (the James River Bridge is 4,185 feet long) in downtown Richmond, and the Potomac River (the Woodrow Wilson Bridge is 6,120 feet long) from Virginia to Maryland.

I-95 crosses a wide variety of both rural areas and major urban areas. It runs through the cities of Petersburg and Colonial Heights, serving a metropolitan area of 130 thousand population called the Tri-Cities, which also includes the city of Hopewell. I-95 runs through Richmond, the state capital, a metropolitan area of 800 thousand population. I-95 also passes through the city of Fredericksburg, and that metropolitan area has over 140 thousand people. I-95 serves Northern Virginia, which is the regional name of the Virginia suburbs of D.C., with a population of almost 2 million people. I-95 serves the entire D.C. region of 4.7 million people, which includes the District of Columbia, the Virginia suburbs, and the Maryland suburbs. Military installations served by I-95 and its spurs and loops (I-195, I-295, I-395, I-495) include Fort Lee near Petersburg, the Quantico U.S. Marine Corps Reservation near Triangle, Fort Belvoir near Lorton, and the Pentagon in Arlington. Major commercial airports served include Richmond International Airport and Washington National Airport. The once-planned I-595 Airport Connector from I-395 to National Airport was built as a partially-access-controlled highway upgrade of US-1, and the George Washington Memorial Parkway forms the limited access highway link from I-395 to the airport.

Route openings. The first section of I-95 in Virginia to open to traffic was on July 1, 1958 with the 29.9-mile-long section of the Richmond-Petersburg Turnpike (RPT) from US-301 in Petersburg to US-301 in Henrico County just north of Richmond, and the RPT was a state-built revenue-bond-financed tollroad (no state or federal tax revenue used). The RPT was a tollroad from its inception until July 1, 1992 when it became toll-free and all the toll booths were removed. The first section of federally-funded Interstate highway (from the 1956 federal highway act) to be completed in Virginia was the 4.87-mile-long I-95 Emporia Bypass which opened on Sept. 9, 1959. The remaining 8.6 miles of I-95 from the Emporia Bypass to the North Carolina border opened in June 1963. The 10.8-mile-long section from the RPT to VA-35 in Prince George County opened in 2 sections in Oct. 1961 and Oct. 1962, and this directly tied into the 28-mile-long 4-lane rural US-301 highway that provided a continuous 4-lane route that also tied directly into the I-95 Emporia Bypass. That section of US-301 was widened to 4 lanes divided in 1958, and with just one traffic signal at VA-40 in Stony Creek, it provided the effective completion of I-95 in Southside Virginia (I know, it wasn't a limited access highway, but it provided near-rural-Interstate highway width, alignment, speed and capacity, and no other traffic lights needed to be added before I-95 was built through there). The 10.9 miles of I-95 from the north end of the RPT to VA-54 at Ashland was opened in Feb. 1963. The 17.6-mile-long VA-350 Shirley Highway was completed on May 24, 1952, from US-1 just north of the Occoquan River at Woodbridge to the 14th Street Bridge over the Potomac River into D.C.; and it was incorporated into the Interstate system in 1965, and it was reconstructed to urban Interstate standards from 1965-1975. The 71-mile-long section of I-95 from VA-54 at Ashland to the south end of Shirley Highway was opened in 3 sections in 1964 (the last on Dec. 18, 1964), completing I-95 from Richmond and Petersburg to the District of Columbia, and effectively completing I-95 in Virginia (see my note above). The 18.3 miles of US-301 from Jarratt to VA-35 was reconstructed to Interstate standards and completed in 5 sections between Oct. 1979 and June 1980. The final 9.5 miles in I-95 in Virginia, from the I-95 Emporia Bypass to Jarratt, opened in 2 sections in mid-1982, with the last section, the southern 4.9 miles, on Sept. 15, 1982. Nationally, I-95 runs 1,907 miles from Miami, Florida to the Canada border at Houlton, Maine.

Traffic volumes on I-95 vary widely. VDOT 1997 traffic volume data follows. Figures are published rounded to the nearest 100. At the North Carolina border I-95 carries 36,000 annual average daily traffic (AADT) with 20% large trucks; at US-58 at Emporia the AADT is 34,000, at VA-40 at Stony Creek it is 30,000 with 20% large trucks; and from VA-35 to I-295, the AADT is 38,000 with 17% large trucks. Traffic volume just north of I-295 is 28,000 with 9% large trucks, and volume increases northward, reaching 38,000 just south of the I-85 junction in Petersburg with 12% large trucks. I-95 north of I-85 is much busier, with 76,000 and 9% large trucks just north of the junction. The traffic stream of I-95 north of the junction essentially splits into 2 traffic streams (I-95 and I-85) each with about half the traffic, south of the junction. At Colonial Heights just north of VA-144 Temple Avenue, the AADT is 75,000; just north of VA-10 Chester it is 90,000; and from VA-150 Chippenham Parkway to Maury Street it ranges from 83,000 to 88,000. The James River Bridge carries 116,000 AADT with 9% large trucks, and the same volume extends to the I-64 downtown interchange. The I-95/I-64 3.2-mile-long overlap carries 126,000 with 9% large trucks. The volume is 102,000 just north of US-1, and 84,000 at Parham Road, and ranges from 84,000 to 97,000 from I-295 to VA-54 at Ashland, with 14% large trucks. Volumes from VA-54 to VA-3 at Fredericksburg range from 70,000 to 84,000, with the higher volumes on the south end of the section, the lowest just south of VA-3, and the large trucks are 16%. North of VA-3, the volumes are much higher, with 120,000 and 9% large trucks just north of VA-3. From US-17 north of Fredericksburg to VA-784 Dale Boulevard at Dale City, the volumes range from 106,000 to 128,000 AADT. Just north of VA-123 at Woodbridge, the AADT is 175,000 with 9% large trucks. Traffic just south of the VA-644 Franconia Road interchange is 195,000, and from VA-644 to I-495 is 285,000. Volume on the I-95/I-495 portion of the Capital Beltway ranges from 164,000 to 174,000 with 9% large trucks.

Number of lanes. These sections of I-95 were initially built with 6 lanes: 19 miles from Maury Street in south Richmond to VA-54 at Ashland, and 11 miles from VA-619 at Triangle to the US-1 interchange just north of the Occoquan River. The rest of I-95 was initially built with 4 lanes.

In 2000, I-95 in Virginia has 6 lanes for 101 miles from the I-85 junction in Petersburg to just south of the VA-234 interchange in Prince William County, where the center reversible roadway begins/ends. For the next 19 miles to the Springfield Interchange (I-95/I-395/I-495), the highway has 8 lanes with a 3-2-3 three-roadway arrangement with the center roadway reversible for HOV-3 for peak period traffic and unrestricted traffic otherwise (actually a 3-mile section from I-495 south has a 4-2-4 arrangement), and Shirley Highway continues in that configuration as I-395 to the 14th Street Bridge. At the Springfield Interchange (it is NOT the Mixing Bowl, recent 1998-1999 local newspaper articles notwithstanding), I-95 transfers between Shirley Highway and the Capital Beltway. The 7-mile-long I-95/I-495 Capital Beltway section from the Springfield Interchange to US-1 at Alexandria has 8 lanes on a standard 4-4 configuration, narrowing to 6 lanes at US-1, and is 6 lanes across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.

Major Interstate widening projects on I-95 include: Widened 9 miles of Shirley Highway from US-1 just north of Woodbridge to I-495 at Springfield (from 4 to 6 lanes, completed 1968). Widened 2/3 mile of I-95 at US-1 just north of Woodbridge (from 4 to 6 lanes, completed about 1980); this brought the only remaining 4-lane section north of VA-619 at Triangle to 6 lanes or more. Widened 22 miles from I-85 in Petersburg to Maury Street in south Richmond (from 4 to 6 lanes, completed 1977-78), joining the original 6-lane section from Maury Street northward. Widened 58 miles from VA-54 at Ashland to VA-619 at Triangle (from 4 to 6 lanes, completed 1983-87); joining the original 6-lane sections at either end. Widened and/or reconstructed 19 miles from VA-234 at Dumfries to I-495 at Springfield (from 6 to 3-2-3 and 4-2-4, completed 1995-97), this widening overlaps the previous 1968 9-mile-long widening project. This is a total of 108 miles of Interstate widening projects on I-95 in Virginia.

Current major construction projects on I-95 in Virginia include the I-95 James River Bridge reconstruction (completed 2002) and the Springfield Interchange reconstruction.

New interchanges added to the original I-95 are: In Henrico County, I-295 in Oct. 1980. In Prince George County, I-295 in June 1992. In Petersburg, Wagner Road in June 1989. In Colonial Heights, Ivey Avenue in Feb. 1989. In Chesterfield County, VA-288 in November 1989. In Alexandria, Eisenhower Avenue Connector, 1998.

For more details, see my articles Henry G. Shirley Memorial Highway (I-95 and I-395) and Capital Beltway (I-495 and I-95) and Springfield Interchange Project and Woodrow Wilson Bridge (I-495 and I-95) and 14th Street Bridge Complex (I-395 and US-1) and Richmond-Petersburg Turnpike (I-95/I-85) and I-295 and I-195 Beltline Expressway and Richmond Beltway and Route 895 Connector and Richmond Interstates and Expressways. See David "ZZYZX" Steinberg's Interstate 95 page for description of the national I-95 route.

Main page of Interstate Highway System in Virginia.

Copyright 2000-2003 by Scott Kozel. All rights reserved. Reproduction, reuse, or distribution without permission is prohibited.

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By Scott M. Kozel, Roads to the Future

(Created 5-31-2000, updated 12-20-2003)