School Boundary Meeting on Wednesday — Arlington Public Schools will hold its next school boundary meeting on Wednesday (February 6), at 7:00 p.m. in the Williamsburg Middle School auditorium. APS will share feedback gathered at the January 23 meeting, and present a smaller set of boundary options. After reviewing the options, meeting attendees will have the opportunity to offer feedback. The final set of options is expected to be offered to the School Board in late March.
Metro Region Worst for Traffic — The annual Texas A&M Transportation Institute survey lists the D.C. metro area as number one for the country’s worst traffic congestion, topping Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Boston. The average driver is said to spend 67 hours per year sitting in traffic. Analysts believe drivers will add seven hours to that number by 2020. [Washington Post]
Cuccinelli Backs Alternative Transportation Plan – Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is not backing Gov. Bob McDonnell’s transportation plan, but rather a plan that’s considered the conservative alternative. Instead of eliminating the gas tax and increasing the sales tax as McDonnell’s plan proposed, the alternative plan would replace the current gas tax with a sales tax on gasoline. McDonnell’s plan has been controversial, including when the Arlington County Board bashed the proposal late last month. [Washington Examiner]
Free Pancakes at IHOP — Customers at IHOP can get a free short stack of pancakes today. Guests celebrating National Pancake Day are encouraged to leave a donation for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. The offer is limited to one stack per customer while supplies last. Arlington’s lone IHOP is at 935 N. Stafford Street in Ballston.
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
(Updated at 4:45 p.m.) County Board members spent a portion of Tuesday’s meeting expressing distaste with Governor McDonnell’s proposed transportation plan, namely the idea of eliminating Virginia’s gas tax.
The proposal would do away with the 17.5 cents per gallon gas tax, but would increase the state’s sales tax from five percent to 5.8 percent. The plan also would increase vehicle registration fees and add a yearly $100 charge for drivers with alternative fuel cars. McDonnell said that would raise about $3.1 billion over five years to fund road, transit and rail projects across the state.
County Board member Jay Fisette said that while it’s good to have some sort of proposal on the table in order to start a conversation about transportation funding, this plan is not the answer. He further stated that the plan was offered to the General Assembly at the last minute, without adequate time to review and understand it.
“Many people see this as a vehicle on which to find a better compromise or a more functional proposal,” he said. “This is hugely important to Arlington, to Northern Virginia and to the future of this state. I’m willing to give kudos for starting a conversation, but if this passed it would be a big mistake in the form it was proposed by the governor.”
Fisette believes eliminating the gas tax would incentivize driving and reduce the use of public transit.
“While it sounds good to eliminate a tax, they would be adding others. This is a user fee. There is a gas tax in every state in the United States. We would be the first to decouple the incentive to drive with the cost of driving,” said Fisette. “You’re still looking at a fee to ride transit, but you’re going to remove the gas fee for driving and spread that cost among everyone who buys something in Virginia. That doesn’t seem fair to people who choose to use transit.”
Several Board members worried that the proposal wouldn’t actually raise the additional money McDonnell says it will, but simply moves it over from a different area.
“It shifts money from the general fund, which has been the basic source of funds for education, human services and public safety, and shifts those to transportation,” said Fisette. “So it’s robbing the basic source of funds for the rest of our needs to pay for transportation.”
Board member Mary Hynes echoed Fisette’s concern.
“We can talk about how poorly they’ve spent the money they have, but the reality of what the governor has proposed is it’s mostly smoke and mirrors,” she said. “It’s taking away with one hand and putting it in another place. The actual new money that’s involved in any near term frame is very small.”
Both Fisette and Hynes pointed out that nearly one-third of the proposed funds ($1 billion) would not be immediately available because it’s tied to pending legislation in Congress regarding internet sales tax revenue.
The transportation plan’s perceived dilution of local government’s authority and an increased role for state government proved to be another recurring topic of discussion. Board member Chris Zimmerman called it a “blatant power grab.”
“This is getting very frustrating to a lot of people in local government, that the administration has been not only not helpful in providing more funding, but essentially is continually distracting the conversation with these efforts to shift power away from people who have to pay the bills,” said Zimmerman.
A legislative committee approved the governor’s proposal today, and it’s expected to go before the full House and Senate in the Virginia General Assembly next week. The General Assembly is currently about halfway through its short 45 day session.
He’s still got one more year in office, but we already know that Bob McDonnell has failed as Virginia’s Governor. He never proposed a real plan to solve the major problem facing Virginia: how to generate enough public revenue to pay for our transportation systems.
We should have known.
We should have known when McDonnell said he could solve our transportation problems with a flawed proposal to sell off Virginia’s publicly-owned liquor stores. He campaigned on this idea in 2009, and spent his first year in office trying to get his flawed plan enacted. Those were two wasted years.
We should have known when McDonnell said he could solve our transportation problems using Virginia’s Public-Private Transportation Act (PPTA). In practice, the PPTA has produced tremendous distortions in risk allocation, allowing private sector companies unjustly to enrich themselves while forcing the public sector into wasting hundreds of millions of our tax dollars on ill-conceived projects.
In 2013, Bob McDonnell is giving transportation funding one last try. He won’t succeed. How do we know? Because he’s already proved that he lacks a strategic plan to generate sufficient public revenue for transportation. What’s missing from all his plans: sufficient new tax increases to generate the necessary funds.
The higher taxes we need to fund Virginia’s transportation systems have to be enough higher to solve the problem. McDonnell’s latest plan does involve an increase in the state sales tax, but that increase is way too little to generate the necessary funds. And, McDonnell is also proposing to eliminate the main current source of funding for transportation: the gas tax. Finally, the sales tax is used to fund many other vital programs, like education and mental health services, which also need more revenue, but will lose revenue to help try to pay for transportation.
Excusing past failures by saying a real solution will be DOA in the Virginia legislature is not an excuse.
Governor McDonnell: take a stand, propose a real solution and fight for it. Maybe you’ll get your plan enacted, maybe you won’t. Why not try?
Wouldn’t it be better in the end to propose a real solution and fall short rather than an inadequate solution and fall shorter?
Peter Rousselot is a member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee. Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column published on Tuesdays. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.
Silver Line Could Shift Economic Development — As Metro’s Silver Line nears completion, there’s speculation it could prompt an economic development competition between Arlington and Fairfax County. Fairfax officials are already crediting the new line with bringing in at least one new business — Intelsat, an international satellite system provider. Gerald Gordon, the head of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, said the transformation of Tysons Corner will put it on a level playing field with the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor as far as attracting businesses. [Sun Gazette]
Polar Bear Sports Registration — United Social Sports is expanding its typical offerings of “bar sports” — such as cornhole, shuffleboard and skeeball — to include Polar Bear soccer leagues this winter. The leagues are for die hard players who wish to continue playing outdoors throughout the winter on a soccer field at Long Bridge Park. Registration is available online for the league, which offers weekly games on Sundays or Tuesdays. Games start the week of January 13. [United Social Sports]
McDonnell Offers Budget Amendments — Governor Bob McDonnell appeared before Virginia’s General Assembly on Monday to pitch a series of both cuts and spending increases for the state’s two-year, $85 billion budget. The increases would ease the burden on cities and counties that have been dealing with substantial funding cuts in recent years, by about $45 million. McDonnell is still cautious due to Virginia’s potential to take a hit if Congress can’t come to an agreement to avoid the year-end fiscal cliff. [Associated Press]
Three Democratic members of Congress from northern Virginia, including Rep. Jim Moran, have sent a letter to Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) in support of avoiding the “economic disaster” of sequestration through a “balanced approach to deficit reduction.”
The letter asks McDonnell to “prod” Republicans in Congress to support a deficit reduction package that closes tax loopholes, eliminates “unneeded subsidies,” and avoids deep cuts to social safety net programs.
Sequestration could cost Virginia 207,000 jobs and $20.9 billion in lost economic activity, according to one economist.
From a press release:
Congressmen Jim Moran (VA-08), Gerry Connolly (VA-11), and Bobby Scott (VA-03) wrote to Governor Bob McDonnell today detailing the impact sequestration cuts would have on Virginia families and urging Gov. McDonnell to use his leadership position in the national Republican Party to prod House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor “to begin discussions on a balanced deficit reduction package that can garner bipartisan support” and avoid an economic disaster for the Commonwealth.
The Virginia lawmakers were responding to McDonnell’s October 9 letter urging President Obama and the Virginia Congressional delegation to support a House Republican “cuts-only” plan that would shift all defense cuts to safety-net domestic programs. “We were puzzled by your recent letter to the President and congressional delegation urging support for the cuts-only approach,” the three Democratic lawmakers wrote. “Your concerns about the impact on Virginia of a sequester to defense spending, which we share, applies almost equally to nondefense discretionary spending, to which your letter is silent.”
The lawmakers questioned Governor McDonnell’s support of the “Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act” (H.R. 5652) passed by the House on May 10 on a party line vote. The legislation would prevent the sequestration cuts to defense programs by cutting an additional $300 billion over the next 10 years from safety net programs like Medicare, SNAP (food stamps), and non-profit health clinics providing preventive services. The bill also requires all current and future federal workers to pay an additional 5 percent of their salary toward their federal pensions. “Contrary to its title, this bill does not avert sequestration, instead shifting cuts to safety-net domestic programs in the early years and leaving the door open to across-the-board cuts in later years.”
Along with the defense cuts and their impact on Virginia’s federal contracting sector, sequestration could trigger massive layoffs in the federal workforce, and would result in fewer air traffic controllers, border guards, food inspectors, and cuts to public safety and nearly every other government function. The House Republican bill advanced by McDonnell would only make those cuts more severe since it contains no balance of new revenue.
Ironically, in 2011, Governor McDonnell wrote the Virginia delegation calling for a bipartisan solution with all options, including revenue, on the table. The cuts-only approach advocated by Governor McDonnell in his October letter departs from his previous bipartisan approach. “Last year…we applauded your initiative. We hope you will join us in calling on Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Cantor to begin discussions on a balanced deficit reduction package that can garner bipartisan support. We stand ready to work with you to achieve a balanced solution that delivers on the tradition of our Commonwealth,” Connolly, Moran, and Scott wrote.
Sequestration, which mandates $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction, came about after House Republicans, for the first time in history, refused to support the President’s request for a clean debt limit bill and instead demanded massive cuts. A commission formed in the aftermath failed to reach agreement on the savings when Republicans refused to consider closing tax loopholes, ending unneeded subsidies or any other revenue measures, and walked away from the table.
Unless Congress is able to find these savings, on January 2nd, defense spending immediately will be cut by about 10 percent, while non-defense discretionary spending will be cut by roughly 8 percent, and payments to Medicare providers will be cut by two percent – a total reduction in spending of $110 billion for fiscal year 2013.
Dr. Stephen Fuller of George Mason University predicted sequestration cuts could cost Virginia 207,000 jobs and put a $20.9 billion hole in Virginia’s economy.
Connolly, Moran, Scott, and other Democrats in Congress have repeatedly urged the House Republican leadership to cancel the 5-week August recess and the current 7-week recess to bring Congress back to Washington to deal with sequestration and other pressing fiscal matters that expire at the end of the calendar year.
October 18 Connolly, Moran, Scott Letter to Gov. McDonnell – http://connolly.house.gov/uploads/McDonnell%20sequester%20response%20Connolly%20-%20Moran%20-%20Scott%2010-18-12.pdf
October 10 Letter from McDonnell to President Obama and Virginia delegation – http://connolly.house.gov/uploads/McDonnell%20sequester%20letter%20to%20POTUS%2010-10-12.pdf
McDonnell Letter of July 2011 from McDonnell to President Obama and Virginia delegation – http://connolly.house.gov/uploads/McDonnell%20to%20President%20on%20debt%20ceiling%2007-20-11.pdf
Arlington Newlyweds Climb Mountain in Tux and Gown — Bob Ewing and Antonie Hodge Ewing, a newlywed couple from Arlington who happen to be avid rock climbers, have attracted national media attention by climbing a summit in Seneca Rocks, W. Va. while wearing a tux and a wedding dress. A small wedding party, including the bride’s mother, also completed the climb with them. [ABC News]
McDonnell Gives Speech at GOP Convention — Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell delivered a speech at the Republican National Convention last night. McDonnell said the election “is about restoring the American Dream” and implementing the kind of fiscally conservative policies that have benefited Virginia. [NBC Washington, Transcript]
Boathouse Comment Period Extended – Updated at 12:30 p.m. — The National Park Service is now accepting public comments about preliminary alternatives for a Potomac River boathouse in Arlington County through Sept. 30. Of the four possible locations identified for the boathouse, two are just south of the Key Bridge, one is near Gravelly Point, and one is on Daingerfield Island. “The boathouse facility and its amenities would enhance public waterfront access in the vicinity of Arlington County for non-motorized recreational activities,” NPS says. [National Park Service]
Photo courtesy Andrew Clegg
Fairfax Approves Pike Streetcar — By a vote of 7-2, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has approved a plan to build a streetcar line along Columbia Pike from Pentagon City to the Skyline area of Fairfax. The vote gives Fairfax and Arlington, which approved the project last week, the opportunity to apply for federal funding. Fairfax Board Chairwoman Sharon Bulova said of the project: “The streetcar will relieve congestion and present economic development opportunities for the Skyline area and serve a population with the demonstrated support and need for transit.” [Washington Post, Washington Examiner]
Moran Leads Fundraising Race — Incumbent Rep. Jim Moran (D) has out-raised his Republican opponent by a factor of more than eight. As of June 30, Moran raised $813,000 and had $308,000 cash on hand, compared to the $98,000 raised and $55,000 cash on hand for Republican challenger Patrick Murray. Independent candidate Jason Howell had $1,900 cash on hand. [Sun Gazette]
Defense Contractors Rally Against Cuts — Worried about the $500 billion in automatic defense spending cuts which will go into effect next year unless Congress acts, defense contractors held a rally in Crystal City on Monday. Among those in attendance was Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), who joined local congressmen and business leaders in decrying the potential for more than 200,000 job losses in Virginia as a result of the cuts. [Patch]
By a 5-4 decision, announced this morning, the Supreme Court has upheld President’ Obama heath care law. Numerous local and state officials and candidates are now weighing in on the high court’s ruling.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) called the decision a “blow to freedom.”
Today’s Supreme Court ruling is extremely disappointing for Virginia and for America. The PPACA will create a costly and cumbersome system that will impair our country’s ability to recover from these challenging economic times, infringes on our citizen’s liberties, will harm small businesses, and will impose dramatic unfunded mandates on Virginia and all states. Simply put, this is a blow to freedom. America needs market-based solutions that give patients more choice, not less.
Virginia will evaluate the steps necessary to comply with the law. While we have awaited this decision, planners have been working to identify necessary resources and issues to be addressed to ensure Virginia implements this flawed law in the most effective and least costly and burdensome way possible. In coming months, Virginia’s healthcare leaders will work to develop the best possible system to meet the healthcare needs of our citizens. It remains my hope that we will elect a new President and Senate so that the existing law will be repealed and states will be given the freedom they need to implement healthcare solutions that work best for their citizens. We will evaluate the opinion in detail in the days ahead and determine what policies are proper for the people of Virginia.
Rep. Jim Moran (D) applauded the ruling, saying the Affordable Care Act will result in “life-saving reforms.”
Today the Supreme Court reaffirmed what Democrats and President Obama have known for two years; the Affordable Care Act stands on firm constitutional grounds.
People across the country are already benefiting from reforms in the Affordable Care Act, including 6.6 million young people who can stay on their parents’ insurance, 105 million Americans who no longer have a lifetime limit on their coverage, and 5.3 million seniors in the ‘donut hole’ who have saved $3.7 billion on their prescription drugs.
Though today’s ruling provides assurance as the Administration phases in life-saving reforms including a ban on insurance companies denying coverage to individuals with pre-existing conditions, Republicans in Congress will undoubtedly continue their efforts to dismantle critical provisions of the Affordable Care Act. We must continue fighting these efforts in the House of Representatives to repeal ACA.
Passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2009 represented a giant leap forward to not only make our health care system work better for Americans of any age, race, gender, or income level, but to rescue our economy from the suffocating grip of spiraling health care costs. We spend nearly 18 percent of our entire economy on health care – twice what every other industrialized nation pays. The Affordable Care Act will reduce our deficit while improving access to, and the quality of, care for all Americans.
Washington has been struggling to deliver meaningful health care reform for more than six decades. Today’s ruling means the United States can finally see its way closer to delivering on that promise for all Americans.
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R), a leading opponent of the health care law, said today is “a dark day for American liberty.” He is planning to hold a press conference at noon today in Richmond to discuss the decision.
Wienermobile Spotted in Arlington — The Oscar Mayer Wienermobile was spotted yesterday afternoon at the entrance to Bluemont Park (above). No word yet on what it was doing there.
Vornado Hurt By BRAC — Vornado Realty Trust, one of the primary commercial landlords in the Crystal City area, is hurting due to the Base Realignment and Closure Act. The company is currently “staring down the barrel of nearly 2.4 million square feet of vacant space” as the U.S. military continues to move offices and departments from leased buildings to forts and other owned properties.. [Washington Business Journal]
One Handgun a Month Law Repealed — Yesterday Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) made it official and signed a bill that repeals the state’s 19-year-old “One Handgun a Month” law. In response, Rep. Jim Moran (D) said in a statement: “Today Virginia retreated from sensible gun control policy… The repeal of this law will return Virginia to being the nation’s number one gun-running state, putting more guns into the hands of criminals and traffickers.”
Hotels Gouging For Inauguration? — Booking a room in Arlington for Inauguration Day 2013 is going to cost you. Hotels have already jacked up prices in anticipation of the crush of visitors to the D.C. area for the inauguration. TBD.com compiled a list of notable examples, and found $479 per night rooms at the Rosslyn Hyatt, $399 per night rooms at the Ballston Comfort Inn, and $299 per night rooms at the Lee Highway EconoLodge.
Dust at Courthouse Metro Station — We’ve heard from several readers who were concerned about a high concentration of construction dust at the Courthouse Metro station yesterday. Apparently, the dust was left over from track work over the weekend. Not to fear, says WMATA spokesman Dan Stessel. According to Stessel, the dust was “not harmful.”
General Assembly Approves ‘Conscience Clause’ Bill — The state legislature has passed — and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) says he will sign — a bill that would allow private adoptions agencies legally discriminate against gay couples for religious or moral reasons. [Associated Press, Reuters]
McDonnell Reconsidering Abortion Ultrasound Bill? — Gov. Bob McDonnell “is backing off his unconditional support” for a bill that would require women to receive a potentially invasive, medically unnecessary ultrasound before receiving an abortion. The bill drew more than a thousand protesters to Richmond over the weekend, and has attracted national attention. Both Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show have recently taken turns poking fun at it. Lawmakers are said to be working on a compromise version of the bill. [Washington Post]
Lopez Claims Free Clinic Victory — Del. Alfonso Lopez says his budget amendment to restore $1.6 million in funding to Virginia’s free clinics has been approved by the House Appropriations Committee. Gov. Bob McDonnell had called for cuts to free clinics, arguing that the federal health care reform bill will grant health coverage to many of the low income individuals who use the clinics. The cuts would have impacted the local Arlington Free Clinic. [Del. Alfonso Lopez]
Seventeen-Year-Olds to Vote in Board Election? — Civic-minded 17-year-olds will be allowed to vote in the upcoming March 27 County Board special election — provided they turn 18 by this year’s general election date (Nov. 6). [Sun Gazette]
Flickr pool photo by BrianMKA
Dems Hold County Board Caucus — A sizable crowd showed up at last night’s Democratic caucus at Washington-Lee High School. The Democratic blog Blue Virginia notes with some surprise that those who stood in line to vote for a County Board nominee appeared to be “overwhelmingly white and… older” — in contrast to the youth and diversity more often associated with the Democratic party. Those who didn’t vote last night will have a chance to do so on Saturday. [Blue Virginia]
Garvey Leads Fundraising Race — Democratic County Board candidate Libby Garvey is leading the fundraising race with $33,940 collected through Dec. 31, including a $5,000 personal loan and a $5,000 donation from Patsy Ticer’s Senate campaign fund. Melissa Bondi was next with $30,941 in receipts, followed by Kim Klingler, Terron Sims, Peter Fallon and Audrey Clement. [Washington Post]
McDonnell Endorses Romney — Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, mentioned as a possible Republican vice presidential pick, endorsed Mitt Romney for president this morning. McDonnell said Romney was “a ‘results-oriented conservative’ who can appeal to Democrats and independents.” [Richmond Times-Dispatch]
Arlington Little League Registration — Registration for Arlington Little League’s spring baseball season is now open. The league offers six levels of recreational baseball for boys and girls ages 4-12. The league also has teams for mentally and physically challenged players. Registration is open until March 4 with discounted fees available through Feb. 16. [Arlington Little League]
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has proposed cutting the $455,000 program, which funds sex education and birth control for teens in seven areas with some of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the state. McDonnell says the program has not worked.
In a statement, Favola said the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative (TPPI) helps teens make healthier decisions.
This is a recipe for unintended pregnancies and significant health risks to young women. Teens need good information to make healthy decisions, but not all of Virginia’s youth are receiving medically accurate information from trusted sources.
The prevention of teen pregnancy is a critical issue in Virginia. In 2010, 367,752 children were born to girls 15-19, nationally. That’s a rate of 34.3 pregnancies per 1000 women. In 2010, 10,970 of those teen pregnancies were in Virginia. That’s a rate of 21.1 pregnancies per 1000 women. Though Virginia’s teen pregnancy rate is below the national average, 28 cities and counties in the Commonwealth are above the national average, and the TPPI program targets areas that are most vulnerable.
TPPI has been a key part of Virginia’s teen pregnancy prevention efforts since 1994. It provides convenient, on-site access to wellness education and preventive health services. TPPI’s goal is for teens to receive medically accurate information, make healthy choices, and provide pregnancy prevention resources. TPPI aims to reduce teenage pregnancy through life skills training, education, health services, and awareness.
The program provides essential services to teenage girls in high-risk areas. It provides convenient, on-site access to wellness education and preventive health services. Not all parents feel comfortable having ‘the talk’ or discussing other topics important for our youth’s health and safety. The only way to ensure teen pregnancy rates continue on their long-term downward trend is to provide teens with the necessary education and resources so they are empowered to make healthy decisions. TPPI helps to inform teens with medically accurate information so they can make safe and responsible decisions.
The governor’s decision to eliminate TPPI’s funding does a great disservice to Virginia’s teens. His proposed budget cut will deprive teenage girls in the most high-risk areas of the state of the critical services and education necessary to make responsible and healthy life decisions.
McDonnell Supports August Start for Va. Schools — A legislative priority of Arlington Public Schools may actually get some traction in the General Assembly this year. Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has thrown his support behind the repeal of a state law that prevents Virginia schools from starting before Labor Day. Known as the “King’s Dominion law,” the law was originally intended to benefit the state’s tourism industry. Arlington has repeatedly applied for a waiver from the requirement, arguing that an August start to the school year would allow for more instruction time, but the request always been denied. [Washington Examiner]
Arlington Loses Vote on Metro Board — Arlington has been “demoted” on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Board. County Board Chairman Mary Hynes, previously a voting member of the board, has been moved to alternate status in favor of voting status for a Fairfax County representative and a state government representative. [Sun Gazette]
Do Board Candidates Lack Conviction on Smart Growth? — Writing for Greater Greater Washington, environmental activist Miles Grant asks whether the Democratic candidates for County Board lack conviction when it comes to their support of traditional Arlington Democratic priorities like smart growth, affordable housing and transit. [Greater Greater Washington]
The lane was built as part of a 18 month, $14 million VDOT “spot improvement” project. Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) is touting the lane opening as a relief for drivers who face frequent heavy delays on that stretch of highway.
From a press release, issued this afternoon:
By 7 p.m. tonight, motorists will have some much-needed congestion relief on westbound I-66 between Fairfax Drive and Sycamore Street in Arlington County with the opening a two-mile auxiliary lane. It is the first of three spot improvements designed to reduce congestion and increase safety on westbound Interstate 66 inside the Beltway, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.
“Our Administration is focused on helping Virginians spend more time at work and with their families, and less time stuck in traffic,” said Governor McDonnell. “This spot improvement is another step forward in that effort. When it opens this evening, all motorists heading west out of Arlington will find a slightly smoother commute, and hopefully gain a little more time off the road. Through improvements like this one we are continuing to make progress in getting traffic moving again in the Commonwealth.”
The westbound acceleration and deceleration lane between Fairfax Drive and Sycamore Street has been lengthened to form a continuous auxiliary lane between the two ramps. The improvement includes a new 12-foot wide shoulder constructed with full-strength pavement so that it is capable of carrying traffic during emergency situations. The $14 million improvement took 18 months to complete.
Future spot improvements, not part of this contract, are planned from Haycock Road to Westmoreland Street, and from Lee Highway to Glebe Road. These next phases of spot improvements will reduce congestion and travel times during peak periods, and increase safety by lengthening merge areas and reducing the risk of stop-and-go accidents.
The estimated cost for the second and third spot improvement projects is $49.6 million. These will be funded after the I-66 multimodal study is completed next year.
There’s a silver lining for Caren Merrick, the one-time Republican candidate for state Senate who was soundly defeated by Democratic Arlington County Board member Barbara Favola.
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell (R) has appointed Merrick, a successful businesswoman, to the board of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. If the appointment survives a potential legal challenge, Merrick will be one of 17 members of the MWAA board.
The Authority has been facing scrutiny recently amid accusations of mismanagement, according to the Washington Post.