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Local Officials Celebrate HOT Lanes Decision

Arlington County officials and local lawmakers are celebrating VDOT’s decision to scrap its plan to build High Occupancy Toll lanes on the Arlington and Alexandria portion of I-395.

Here’s the county’s official press release:

ARLINGTON, Va. – Arlington County Board Chairman Christopher Zimmerman today welcomed VDOT”s announcement that it is pursuing a new, more limited High Occupancy Toll (HOT) Lanes project on I-95 that will undergo an in-depth environmental analysis.

“The state is now doing, for this new project, what Arlington asked it to do for the I-95/395 project,” said Arlington County Board Chairman Christopher Zimmerman. “The County’s goals have always been to protect transit and High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) travel in the corridor and to preserve Arlington neighborhoods.”

VDOT’s new project appears to preserve I-395 as an HOV/transit corridor. Questions remain, however, about the impacts of this new project on transit and HOV south of the Beltway. The County trusts that the environmental assessment to which VDOT is now committed to performing will address those concerns.

Arlington is also pleased to see that the state is addressing transportation problems at the Mark Center in Alexandria and the Engineering Proving Grounds in Fairfax County arising from BRAC decisions. These issues were not addressed in VDOT’s original HOT Lanes project. Arlington welcomes the opportunity to examine the HOV/transit connection to the Mark Center that VDOT now says it will construct in addition to the redesigned HOT Lanes project.

Arlington is still reviewing VDOT’s new project and assessing its impact on Arlington’s litigation against the state and federal governments. A key question for Arlington is the status of the Categorical Exclusion granted by the federal government for the original project. In light of VDOT’s decision to proceed with an Environmental Assessment of the new project, it would appear to be appropriate for the Categorical Exclusion to be rescinded by the federal government, or withdrawn by VDOT. Resolution of this issue remains a key factor in Arlington’s decision-making on the litigation.

Arlington remains committed to doing what it has always done – working to protect transit, ensure the ability to efficiently move people and safeguard Arlington neighborhoods. Arlington will continue to work together with neighboring jurisdictions and the state to address the urgent transportation needs of Northern Virginia.

Del. David Englin (D), who represents parts of Arlington and Alexandria, issued the following press release:

Richmond – Delegate David Englin (D-45) issued the following statement in response to today’s announcement from Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton that the state no longer plans to build High Occupancy Toll lanes on I-395:

“Today’s announcement that the I-395 HOT Lanes project will not go forward is welcome news and an important victory for thousands of Alexandria and Arlington residents whose neighborhoods and quality of life would have been harmed. I commend Secretary Connaughton for being responsive to our community’s concerns by finding an alternate solution to our region’s traffic mess, and also for working so hard to address the traffic challenges created by the Department of Defense relocation to Alexandria’s Mark Center. Congratulations to the many citizen activists throughout our community who made their voices heard in defense of our neighborhoods, and to the leaders who stood with them.”

Englin has worked closely for nearly two years with citizens in Parkfairfax, Fairlington, Shirlington, and the surrounding neighborhoods in opposition to the original I-95/395 HOT Lanes proposal. In addition to working to address environmental and design concerns with VDOT and its corporate partners, Englin has championed several pieces of legislation intended to impose greater accountability and environmental scrutiny over these massive public-private partnerships.

Regarding Arlington County’s lawsuit against VDOT and the Federal Highway Administration, Englin added the the following:

“While I will continue to push for greater accountability over similar projects, this new plan will no longer affect neighborhoods along the I-395 corridor, so I believe Arlington County’s lawsuit against VDOT and the Federal Highway Administration is now moot, and I hope we can move beyond it in short order.”Connaughton’s letter to local officials detailing VDOT’s revised proposal can be found here.

Delegate David Englin is Vice Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus and is serving his third term in the Virginia House of Delegates, where he represents the 45th District, which includes parts of the City of Alexandria, Fairfax County, and Arlington County. An Air Force veteran, Englin is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. He serves on the Finance Committee, the Health, Welfare, and Institutions Committee, and the Agriculture, Chesapeake, and Natural Resources Committee. For more information, visit http://www.davidenglin.org.

Del. Adam Ebbin (D), who also represents parts of Arlington and Alexandria, issued the following statement:

Friends,

I’m happy to report that the Virginia Department of Transportation has just announced that it no longer plans to construct six miles of high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes inside the Beltway in Arlington and Alexandria.

Instead, the state will move forward with new HOT lanes on I-95 from Garrisonville Road in Stafford County to Edsall Road in Fairfax, linking them to the new HOT lanes on 495 already being built.

It makes much more sense to terminate the HOT lanes at the Beltway-where traffic can be disbursed in a number of directions-rather than backing up traffic on 395 at the previously planned terminus at Eads Street.

This also means there will be no construction disrupting neighborhoods like those adjoining Shirlington Circle, such as the historic communities of Fairlington and Park Fairfax.

I’m pleased that VDOT also announced that it is accelerating plans to build a ramp to connect the existing HOV lanes on I-395 to Seminary Road, which currently has no HOV access way, in order to help accommodate the influx of traffic to the new Mark Center building.

While this announcement is a step in the right direction, we need to address our transportation needs with an increased emphasis on transit rather than encouraging sprawl by only focusing on expanding existing roadways.

I want to thank Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton for acknowledging the concerns of Arlington and Alexandria residents.

Thank you for your continued support,

Adam Signature

Adam Ebbin

Member, Virginia House of Delegates

Alexandria’s mayor tells WTOP that VDOT’s decision is “a win” for the city. Alexandria Councilman Rob Krupicka, who expects to compete against Ebbin in a possible state Senate primary battle, has also issued a statement.

This is the right step…but there is more to do.

This is a big win for Fairfax, Alexandria and Arlington residents concerned about overextended roads and cut through traffic. We need to study the details, but it looks like significant help to two big regional traffic problems is on its way. My hat is off to all of the regional elected officials who worked together on this. People often fight for credit in politics, but sometimes it really is a team effort.

I was happy to draft the Alexandria City Council’s policy against hot lanes as well as our position to protect the Winkler Preserve near BRAC. This action appears to be consistent with both (we have to look closely at the Seminary interchange plans). I think the best thing about this news is that it shows that civic debate, activism, discussion and effort can lead to a positive resolution.

The focus needs to remain on transit. I co-chair the Alexandria planning group that is working to build a streetcar system in Alexandria that can connect to Fairfax and Arlington’s Columbia Pike/Skyline streetcar project. We are also working on the dedicated transit connection between Crystal City and Old Town. Ultimately, these systems all have to connect throughout the region which will give us a new transit backbone to serve us well into the future. Our region won’t have a future if we don’t get this mass transit infrastructure right. It takes a lot of work to work through the engineering and design details, but its some of the most important work we can do.

Arlington County has posted more information about its lawsuit against the HOT lanes project here.

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