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TV Discussion of HOT Lanes Gets Heated

by ARLnow.com February 8, 2011 at 9:16 am 1,601 80 Comments

In case you missed it from Friday (we did), County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman was a guest on TBD’s NewsTalk with Bruce DePuyt program.

The topic of conversation was the failed plan to build HOT lanes on I-395, and Arlington’s lawsuit against the plan. Joining Zimmerman were two big critics of Arlington’s lawsuit: Bob Chase of the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance and Fairfax County Supervisor Pat Herrity.

Chase and Herrity took turns bashing Arlington’s HOT lanes lawsuit. At one point, Herrity mocked what he described as “claims of racism from probably one of the whitest and richest counties in the area.”

(Zimmerman disputed that the lawsuit claimed racism — instead, he said the case focused on “environmental justice” provisions in the law.)

Things got a bit heated about six minutes into the video above, when Zimmerman and Chase started arguing about details of the suit.

“Bob, Bob, you’re just not telling the truth now… now you’re just making stuff up,” an exasperated Zimmerman said to address one of Chase’s allegations.

“You didn’t see anybody rushing to trial with this thing,” Zimmerman concluded. “We think we had a pretty strong case, I suspect the other side thinks we had a pretty strong case.”

TBD has more about the discussion here.

  • NArl

    I don’t really care about the HOT lane issue, I will say that you can build all the roads you want in Arlington, there will always be a ton of traffic. You would have to fix the roads in DC as well as in Arlington to make traffic flow better, and we know that can’t be done. DC does not have the people and leadership to get this done right, or the space.

    • NPGMBR

      What the supporters of HOT lanes have failed to do is convince Arlington residents how they stand to benefit from these lanes. When ever I make a trip to Woodbridge I rarely use the HOV lanes because im almost always by myself. In my daily commute from home on Columbia Pike to Foggy Bottom I take a single Metro Bus. So what is the State doing for the residents of Arlington County who will almost never have a need to use HOT lanes?

      • SnowDay

        That’s where I am on this issue as well. What’s the proposition for the Arlington taxpayer? Rebate a significant chunk of my property taxes or fund my schools with the revenue, and then I’ll be happy to make driving through Arlington easier for people that insist on living way out and commuting into DC.

        As it stands now, HOT lanes don’t provide much of a benefit to Arlington residents, and in some (probably minimal way) diminish the value of our properties here by making the outlying areas more convenient. I realize that’s a shitty attitude, but I manage to live in Arlington on a government salary just fine. I sacrificed space to do it. So I’m not really sympathetic toward the McMansion dweller out in Manassas that needs to get his car into DC every day.

        Expand Metro and VRE. I can support that.

        • NPGMBR

          Don’t get me wrong. I too am a Fed and I currently rent but I plan to own within the next five years and its extremely likely that my first place will be far south of Arlington County because property here is too expansive.

          What im saying on this particular topic is how do these lanes benefit Arlington residents? What do we get in return for making the commute other State residents easier when these lanes will do nothing to make our commute easier?

          Does Richmond wanna fund Metro Rail or other light rail system up the Columbia Pike corridor to Annandale? Or maybe create infrastructure in the Arlington to support charging stations for residents to transition to vehicles like the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf?

          Tell us what we get out of it.

          • SnowDay

            You’d be surprised what you can afford in Arlington. Part of it is a matter of timing, and I will admit that I couldn’t afford my block today but that a property dipped about two years ago and we got on it. There are good places to live in the 300’s. Condos in Ballston on the lower end, townhomes along Columbia Pike, etc. Living in Arlington is very much about the property ladder unless you were born into money, which I was not. If you’re willing to start a little lower, you can benefit from this area’s relative stability during the housing crash and find yourself in a much better place in 10 years. Of course, it does mean starting in a lower end property, and the end point (if you don’t move out of the DC metro area entirely) is maaaaaaaybe a fifth of an acre and 3-4 BR for 600k. You also don’t rip your hair out going to work every morning, and you get to see your family.

            I get the attraction to Manassas, Springfield, most of Loudoun, etc. You get a real lot with a large house, plenty of parking, and a cul-de-sac. That’s great, but there are sacrifices. It’s not like you’re going to find great housing for 200k, at least not as a reasonable investment. You’ll still have to spend 300-400k to get in, you’ll just get more for it. I’d rather trade off the space to have convenience and more free time.

            Again, this isn’t me ripping on people who can’t afford 400k for a house. I get that. But Arlington isn’t all 400k properties. There’s a lower entry point, but it’s not on a cul-de-sac, and it doesn’t come with acreage. You still get our schools, our low property tax rate, and the convenience of living close in. The tradeoff isn’t all bad, I promise. This also isn’t me judging people who choose based on different values, but it is an acknowledgment of the tradeoff that they have made. If you want to spend the same as me on housing, but have half an acre and a 2500sqft house, that’s fine. I just don’t think that you and I should have to solve their commutes with our money.

            Besides, I know plenty of feds (who make more than me) that commute in from far away. They take VRE, slug, drive to metro, etc. It’s not like Arlington is setting up a garrison at Hadrian’s Wall (495?). If people want a different solution, they need to make it worth my while too.

        • JackFan

          Amen! Why should those who reside in Arlington be put out b/c those that chose to sacrifice proximity for space need to get to work faster? Too bad…

      • Suburban Not Urban

        This is exactly the flawed logic that the Arlington elite use in every discussion. That the only commute that matters is from Arlington to Arlington or Arlington to the District – This cuts Arlington off from the Greater Washington Metropolitan Area and when the Federal government budget cuts kick-in we’ll be wishing we can get to some of those jobs in MD, Fairfax and Prince William.

        • local

          Wut? Because we don’t add another lane to a we’re “cut off” from the rest of the region? Come on.

        • SnowDay

          Or we’ll move. This is a congested area and there will always be tradeoffs. You want me to bear the cost of easing your commute. I’m not against the HOT lanes, but I think it needs to be done in conjunction with other work to expand mass transit. And I think that Fairfax, Loudoun, PWC, etc need to pay for it. It’s a choice – you need to pay for the real costs of living farther out, either by making it worthwhile for Arlington to accomodate or in the time costs from sitting in traffic.

          • Lou

            Part of the toll money would go to pay for improved transit services on the HOT lanes (BRT), and in the areas around the HOT lanes (new express bus routes, better commuter parking facilities near transit services). Arlington will not get any of that money now, since they rejected the HOT lanes.

          • BoredHouseWife

            Wasn’t part of the shady contract, to not keep up the roads near the hot lanes?

          • Mark

            Yes. The profit goes to the private company first. And then after profit hits 18% (i think) the state splits the profit 50/50 with the company.

      • Arlwhenever

        The HOT lanes project was part of an integrated plan that,

        “In addition to new lanes and access ramps, the proposal provides
        substantial funding for the purchase and operation of new buses and routes, 3,000 satellite parking spaces and transportation management programs. When complete, the facility will offer seamless travel at faster, more
        predictable speeds in the I-95/I-395 corridor as well as to Tysons Corner via the I-495 HOT Lanes facility. Traffic diverted to the new facility will create additional space and improve travel speeds for those using the
        conventional lanes. The HOV lanes will operate better than they do today and support increases in carpooling and buses.”

        In other words, there was something for everyone, clearly not good enough for the ACDC elitists. Downstream the 2,000,000 Virginians who live outside of Arlington and Alexandria will take notice.

        • El Fat Kid

          anyone that claims there will be “seamless travel” is obviously not being straightforward.

        • Eponymous Coward

          “We’d like to inconvenience you with construction to pave toll lanes for high speed traffic through your neighborhood, which you’re less likely to use for commuting, to collect tolls for a legislature that routinely screws you on funding. How’s that sound?”

          I’m not saying HOT is a good or bad idea, but I’m baffled by anyone upset that Arlington doesn’t see this as a value proposition. Seriously? Cheap energy sounds like a good idea for everyone except the guy who gets a nuclear plant in his backyard. For that guy, you have to make it worth his trouble. Or he’s going to resist.

          Is the new term for “NIBMYism” to call it “elitism”? To me, that just says, ‘damn, we didn’t expect this community was sophisticated enough to get organized.’

          • cj

            The tolls would go to the private operators of this monstrosity. And their contract requires the state to compensate them if their profits go down. This is a good deal for whom?

          • Westover

            Commuters who will have traffic move for them and those that live close enough to I-395 to currently choke when cars sit and idle a half mile from their homes.

      • Arlwhenever

        That would be 2,000,000 Northern Virginians.

      • Westover

        The HOT lanes will allow YOU to use the HOV lanes now if you need to. Just have to pay a little bit, could be well worth the money depending on the trip’s mission.

        • BoredHouseWife

          If one needs to use the express lane, car pool. simple.

          All snark aside, no one talks about what happens when the cars get to the 14th st bridge. 295 is a mess most days. All the HOT lanes would do is create more exhaust fumes for Arlington since it wouldn’t solve the bottle neck.

  • TryTheTacos

    Video seems to be unavailable while embedded. Maybe it’s just me. But I watched that juice tax ad 3 times before figuring out I could open the video separately to see it. Now I want some juice.

    • It worked for me. Try reloading the page, that may help.

  • charlie

    Zimmie is actually right. Chase is just wanting to pave everything. It won’t solve the problems.

  • Arlwhenever

    Geez, who is the liar?

    The lawsuit alleged, and I quote,

    “The use of public funding, to serve the interests of wealthy, predominantly white Virginia residents from the southernmost counties affected by the Project and at the obvious expense of the largely less affluent, predominantly minority and ethnic populations that reside in and along the corridor of the Northern Section, in particular in Arlington County.”

    • Lou

      Zimmerman is just blabbering to obscure those very direct claims in the lawsuit. It’s egg on the County’s face now that the census numbers show their development policies have had a much more adverse effect on the ethnic or less affluent citizens in the past decade than any perceived impact from the HOT lanes traffic.

    • El Fat Kid

      that is a ridiculous way to put it. i’m no fan of the County govt, in general, but agree with them that the state failed to make this an appealing project to Arlington residents.

  • Art Deco

    So, if the HOT lanes are too successful in getting mass transit riders, we musty pay a fee to a private investor. This is precisely why transportation investment should be done by government to benefit all. This was just another payoff to a campaign contributor. Instead of Northern Virginia taxes going elsewhere, how about they stay here and build mass transportation. If more roads are the solution, just look to Los Angeles to see the results of too many roads and too little planning.

    • Burger

      HOT lanes were decided upon under Kaine’ administration – he’s a Democrat so what campaign contributor are you talking about. The governor before that was Warner – he’s a Democrat, too.

      A Mass transit is part of the solution but so are more roads….EEK! But it doesn’t make financial sense – as a capital cost or ongoing expenses to push trains and buses out to less dense areas.

      It is sad state of affairs in America when both sides of the political spectrum have become so deluded and inflexible that decisions can’t be made.

      • local

        “But it doesn’t make financial sense – as a capital cost or ongoing expenses to push trains and buses out to less dense areas.”

        Of course it does! As those areas grow, they can grow more dense, and therefore more able to take advantage of mass transit and other alternatives, instead of the same old sprawl way. That’s how Arlington transformed itself, and that’s how we’ll have to do it further out. Otherwise, those roads are going to be choked no matter how many lanes we build.

        • Westover

          Buses are expensive to trun, but far cheaper and much more flexable than trains. Arlington has the natural advantage of a close in location. Fairfax City, Reston, and Ashburn do not have the advantages of being close in or the disadvantage of severly limited space that Arlington had to redevelop itself under.

          • local

            All I see here is the claim about location. But that’s true for areas that are far from DC even if they have only roads instead of transit.

            If they build more densely, they can have more jobs where they are instead of depending on long commutes to get to job centers.

          • Westover

            Why must everyone’s development be more dense? If I could afford it I would have a close in house on Chain Bridge Road sitting on 3 acres in Arlington like Chuck Robb had, just have to win the lottery or have the wife design the next Beanie Babys/Jibblets.

          • local

            Nobody said EVERYONE’s development should be more dense. In fact, the opposite – denser development in certain areas (near transit stations) makes it easier for everyone else to avoid the pressure of development, and the clogged roads that go with it.

          • Westover

            We already see that Reston’s most dense development is off the Toll Road, and the Silver Line will increase that density, but they will actually do it in an even MORE planned out manner than Arlington ever did. But folks should have the freedom to live on a large parsel of land and be able to commute in without closer in refusing to do anything to make traffic flow through Arlington more smoothly. I am three houses from I-66’s right of way and have ZERO problem with adding more lanes within the right of way. The space is there, as they have shown with the patch work project going on. It would be nice to get the 8 miles to Bethesday without it taking 40 minutes.

          • local

            Won’t be long before they take your house for I-66, Westover. I-270 is 12 lanes wide now, it could happen to you too. T

          • Westover

            Oh, and they have a lot of jobs out there. But a spouse might work in DC. The economy can not be depended on for you to have a job that stays put for 35 years like existed in this country from the end of the depression until the mid-80’s. Technology puts too many things out to pasture unexpectedly for you to be able to buy a house and think that you and your husband/wife will be able to work within five miles of home for your entire career. There will be people living out there who will need to come into DC/Bethesda/Arlington/Landmark for jobs or to meet with clients, and they will need felxablity to do so that mass transit does not allow.

          • local

            Again, nobody said everyone has to live near and use transit. Those who can will have the option, and they’ll get off the roads for those who can’t.

        • Burger

          So we should spend billions of dollars we don’t have to expand to areas that might or might not ever get dense enough. Gee, that is good use of valuable resources.

      • Westover

        Yeah, this campaign contributor payoff is just a rotten red herring thrown out by the anti-car crowd.

    • Lou

      Traffic is so bad in LA that they only have the second highest economic output of all the cities in the US.

      • local

        So instead of saying LA traffic isn’t caused by overdependence on roads, you’re saying it’s irrelevant? Really? Is that true for DC too? We have a pretty good economy too.

        Imagine what LA’s economy would be like without all that horrible traffic. Imagine how many millions of poor people in LA might not be so poor.

        • Lou

          I’m talking about facts, rather than anecdotal stories about bad traffic. I am pointing out that bad traffic will not shut down a city’s economy, and in fact a city’s economy can thrive with lots of roads and lots of traffic.

          Can you site any specific areas where LA’s economy would be better with less roads?

          • local

            So we shouldn’t worry about DC’s traffic either?

          • Westover

            We should and do worry about it. More roads and better roads are the main component of that solution. Other transit means will help too.

          • local

            Tell Lou, he seems to think traffic is no big deal.

          • Lou

            Exactly. We will keep building roads, and we will keep building new transit. We need to do both. And when Arlington stands in the way of specific new road projects, they are being narrow minded and short sighted.

          • local

            But that doesn’t mean that every single road project that someone suggest is automatically necessary and good.

            Arlington already has lots of access, and our traffic isn’t necessarily much worse than elsewhere. We’re not going to suffer. As the rest of the region is swamped by road-dependent traffic, we’ll keep growing with our Metro.

          • BoredHouseWife

            Actually, If i recall correctly; that every time humans build more roads or make more lanes, immediately there is more traffic than before. If you build it they will come. You have to force it upon the local populace to mass transit because the road conditions will never be up to date.

          • SR

            A quick google search because I was interested myself. Granted its older and the standard “liberal CA institution bent” argument could be had. If you can get beyond that its statistical regression finds efficiently using existing highway stock would be economically more beneficial than expanding highway stock. http://www.uctc.net/papers/292.pdf

      • El Fat Kid

        ***Breaking News***

        LA is the second largest US city.

        Additionally, it’s buffered on both sides between #1 (new york) and #3 (chicago) by at least a million residents. They probably could shift their entire economy to the manufacturing hemp bracelets and still have the 2nd largest economy.

        This has nothing to do with proving/disproving the economic impact of traffic.

      • Burger

        How is economic output defined. That is pure nonsense unless some type of per capita analysis is applied.

  • Bender

    “Environmental justice”?

    Setting aside the political BS that is those buzzwords, Zimmerman is as dishonest as he is disasterously incompetent.

    • local

      Environmental justice is simply a term that describes a very real problem. It may not apply here, but it’s real.

      • Westover

        Please define “Environmental Justice”.

      • Arlwhenever

        Zimmerman and friends sued public officials under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and for violation of the Equal Protection clause of the US Constitution specifically alleging racially discriminatory conduct. Zimmerman’s denial of playing the race card is false. The man is a Charlatan and a liar — a dishonorable political hack.

        • local

          The lawyers were just following every angle the law provides in these kinds of cases.

          It’s possible to say that minorities are disproportionately affected by something without saying it was intentional.

          I’m not saying this suit was a good idea or that this part of the case has merit, I’m just saying it’s not completely out of left field legally.

          • Westover

            They were reaching for straws. It was BS, but they went for it anyhow.

          • local

            Yeah, that’s basically what I meant.

          • Greg

            From the Complaint: “defendants’ actions have been undertaken with the explicit intent of effecting discrimination on a protected class of minority persons.”

            You were saying…

          • Lou

            That’s just straight up ridiculous.

          • Bender

            That is just plain deceitful and totally unethical for any lawyer to make such allegations knowing that they are unfounded. Not only should the lawyers pursuing such claims be sanctioned, Zimmerman himself should be made personally liable to pay the costs and attorneys’ fees of those falsely accused of racism.

          • local

            “That is just plain deceitful and totally unethical for any lawyer to make such allegations knowing that they are unfounded.”

            Have you been in a courtroom lately?

          • Greg

            I think it’s wrong for our County government to take these tactics, particularly against individuals in their non-official capacity, but I agree that it’s not uncommon for lawyers to do so. I thought the County was just doing a bad job of managing the lawyers, but the more interviews I see like this I wonder….

          • Burger

            I bet they eagerly await you funding their lost personal finances spent in defending the law suit against them in a personal capacity not professional.

          • local

            As I understand it, those people had government lawyers and didn’t have to pay. However, I agree that they shouldn’t have been sued personally. That was completely wrong.

        • BoredHouseWife

          What are you going to pay top dollar for, a House nestled amongst some trees or a house right next to the highway? So those houses are usually bought by those humans that have lesser means. A good majority of those with lesser means In Arlington are African-American, Hispanic, or Vietnamese. When you want to sacrifice the health and well being of one group of people for the convenience of the another, that is morally wrong.

  • Runaway Train

    Zimmerman couldn’t put on a suit and tie for the interview?

    • shirley

      or do something with his hair. yikes. and i’m not one to talk.
      but please, you are an elected official going on television (not radio). even the TBD reporter is better dressed.
      Respect.

  • Chad

    I love all this hate on Zimmerman on this board. The guy can’t please everyone with the decisions he makes, but clearly he is pleasing enough Arlingtonians and we are his constituents. Last time I checked Zimmerman won his re-election campaign in 2010 by 21% – a wide margin. Clearly the majority of Arlingtonians approve of what he is doing. It really seems like a lot of the hate for Zimmerman on this board comes from people who live in Fairfax or the outlying areas. If the Fairfax board and citizens don’t like what Arlington is doing, I think it’s safe to say we’re doing something right.

    • Lou

      Right, because the job of Arlington’s county board is to piss off Fairfax.

    • Arlwhenever

      If angering Fairfax County is your standard Chad have fun living with the fact that Fairfax County has five times as much representation (even more so if Loudon and Prince William Counties are included) in the state legislature in a Dillon Rule state where all authority resides with the State except for that which is delegated to local jurisdictions. Being selfish and smart are mutually exclusive under these circumstances.

      • Chad

        I didn’t say it is the standard, I am just saying that it appears disagreeing with Fairfax County when it comes to transportation seems to correlate to Arlington’s best interest. I’m sorry that Arlington won’t roll over and play dead for Fairfax and the outlying areas. Take your McMansions and SUVs and commute through someone else’s neighborhood.

        “Being selfish and smart are mutually exclusive under these circumstances.” One might say the same thing about Fairfax and their board. Goes both ways.

        And since you seem to have such a firm grasp on the area, it’s actually spelled Loudoun. But I guess you only drive through Arlington County to get to DC and not Loudoun.

        • Arlwhenever

          Actually, I haven’t lived in Fairfax County for more than a decade — had spelling challenges going back years, long before that time. Never lived in a McMansion, and had a 4-cylinder, high gas mileage SUV for a small part of my stay in FC, and rode Metro and Fairfax Connector buses and MetroRail literally thousands of times when I was a Fairfax County resident and in my younger days rode a bike most everywhere.

          I was represented FC’s County Board by a well-liked and highly respected fellow named Joe Alexander who didn’t go around suing when he didn’t exactly get his way. He was one of the founders and pioneers of the MetroRail system — a low-key, reasonable fellow who was honest as the day is long, who didn’t play bully or deal the race card and who had a regional perspective — sad to say I haven’t observed the same qualities in Arlington politicians.

          Forgive me for having broad experience and perspective.

      • BoredHouseWife

        Arlington is selfish? Seems like Fairfaxites have a serious case of entitlement. Sorry, you are not entitled to get to work faster.

    • Burger

      Go look at Zimmerman’s voting percentage v. the other county board members his winning percentage is always the lowest.

      • local

        If you don’t like what the Board does most of the time, it seems this would be a point in his favor.

  • Robert
  • BoredHouseWife

    Question: If traffic is such an issue; why don’t they just build more bridges across the Potomac?

  • Mark

    Why isn’t anyone talking about the technology for the HOT lanes? They still haven’t come up with anything that will identify whether you have 1 person in the car (which means you pay) or if you have 4 people in the car (which means it’s free). The company is not allowed to put up toll plaza’s so how are they going to do this? When this was originally announced everyone involved said that technology would figure it out by the time the lanes were ready to open.

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