Biz Leaders Ask Arlington to Drop HOT Lanes Suit

Area business leaders are urging Arlington to drop its lawsuit against High Occupancy Toll lanes on Interstate 395 and 95.

Twenty professionals, including Arlington Chamber of Commerce president Richard V. Doud, Jr., signed a memo urging county board chairman Jay Fisette to embrace the toll lanes project.

“The primary obstacle to advancing this innovative, multi-modal improvement is the Arlington County Board’s lawsuit that precludes the project from securing any private or public sector funding,” the letter stated.

Alexandria and Prince William County business leaders also signed the letter, despite opposition to the project from elected leaders in those jurisdictions.

When Arlington filed the suit in August 2009, officials said the lanes would create more traffic, would lead to more pollution and would have an adverse affect on Arlington residents who live along I-395. They said Virginia transportation officials were allowed move forward with the project without conducting the necessary environmental studies.

Arlington officials also said the lanes would benefit mostly affluent, white residents from Stafford and Spotsylvania counties. Wednesday’s letter called those allegations absurd.

“Charges that the Obama administration and Governor Tim Kaine’s Secretary of Transportation acted with the ‘implicit intent’ to harm minority and vulnerable populations and benefit predominantly Caucasian Virginians are not credible and frankly an embarrassment to this region,” the letter stated.

The push to convert HOV lanes from Dumfries to S. Eads Street to toll lanes was halted last summer when the two companies vying to build the lanes, Texas-based Fluor and Australia’s Transurban were having problems finding investors for the project.

The suit was the next blow to the project, which has been on hold ever since.

Construction of HOT lane infrastructure on the Beltway, meanwhile, is moving forward. Last week Virginia’s transportation secretary attended the groundbreaking for a new HOT lane control center in Alexandria.

The Beltway HOT lanes, which will give single riders the option to buy their way out of congestion for about $6 one way, are expected to open in late 2012.

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