Arlington County announced tonight that it will be withdrawing its controversial lawsuit against the proposed High Occupancy Toll lane project on I-395. VDOT revealed last week that it’s no longer pursuing HOT lanes on the Arlington and Alexandria portions of I-395, at least partially due to Arlington’s suit.
The county issued the following press release about its decision to halt legal action against the HOT lanes plan.
The Arlington County Board today announced that it will withdraw its lawsuit on the proposed I-95/395 High-Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes project. The County Board has directed the County Attorney to seek a suspension of court proceedings so that necessary filings to dismiss the case can be prepared.
“With the announcement last week by Secretary Connaughton, it is clear that the County’s objectives have been achieved and the lawsuit can be terminated,” said Arlington County Board Chairman Christopher Zimmerman.
On February 3, the state proposed a new I-95 HOT lanes project that will undergo required environmental review, and will preserve I-395 as a transit and HOV corridor. “Arlington County filed suit because we saw the potential for irreparable harm to residents of Arlington and others throughout Northern Virginia, and because the issuance of a ‘Categorical Exclusion’ by the Federal Highway Administration left us with no alternative but filing suit,” commented Zimmerman.
The new I-95 project effectively nullifies the Categorical Exclusion that was the basis for the County’s legal challenge. The Commonwealth has stated that it will conduct a thorough Environmental Assessment (EA) of impacts to the environment, public health, and transportation, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Such an assessment will provide to the I-95 project the level of analysis that Arlington sought for the I-95/395 project, and will allow for greater opportunities for public participation.
In addition, the specific aspects of the initially proposed project that would have adversely impacted transportation in Arlington directly – notably in the Pentagon-Pentagon City-Crystal City area, and at Shirlington – have been eliminated from the new project.
Critical transportation corridor
Arlington continues to work with our regional counterparts to improve transportation options throughout region. Mobility in Northern Virginia is vitally dependent on the existing HOV lanes, which currently moves far more people per lane-hour than any other roadway in the region. It is important that the new I-95 HOT lanes project be carefully designed to ensure that there is no degradation of transit capacity in the corridor.
“We applaud the Commonwealth for agreeing to do an Environmental Assessment on the new project, said Chairman Zimmerman “It is crucial that the impacts of the implementation details of this new I-95 project be carefully evaluated and appropriately mitigated before turning the facility over to a private company for decades. ”