Major changes on Powhite Parkway starting Tuesday

By Jola Szubielski, NBC12 News

Drivers can expect some major changes on the Powhite Parkway starting Tuesday. The Richmond Metro Authority will shut down three toll lanes on the northbound side at the Powhite Plaza, reducing nine lanes to six. 

The official shut down isn't until Tuesday, but already the work has already begun. Three toll lanes are closed and waiting to be demolished.

RMA assistant director of Operations David Caudill says, "By tonight, close to 1 a.m. or midnight, we'll have the plaza configured to its conditions it'll be in the morning."

For the next two to three months, as RMA crews work through this next phase of the "open road toll system" -- one of only a handful in the country. While getting nine northbound lanes of traffic through six toll lanes is a task in itself, the worst of it will be during the morning rush. Drivers should expect major delays between the peak hours of 7 a.m. - 9 a.m.

But RMA is doing one thing that may bring a small amount of reprieve -- they'll be splitting the further lane to the right, the full service lane, into two.

"What we're trying to do to mitigate some of the backup, have that one lane funnel into two temporary toll booths just downstream and that doesn't give us the efficiency of 7 lanes, but its better than 6," says Caudill.

In the meantime, RMA officials hope the testing and opening of the southbound "open road toll" or ORT lanes in July will help ease the frustration for drivers commuting on the northbound side.

"They'll see a month in advance, they'll have an opportunity to use the ORT lanes in advance," says Caudill. "They'll have no problems, go at highway speeds, no stopping,their commute time in the evening, will be significantly reduced."

RMA is reminding drivers to plan ahead. Find an alternate route or make sure you leave early to avoid the worst of the congestion.

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