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Board Backs Goals of VDOT’s I-66 Widening Plan, With Some Reservations

by Tim Regan — January 30, 2017 at 11:15 am 0

The Arlington County Board over the weekend voted to endorse the goals of a Virginia Dept. of Transportation plan to widen part of I-66, but it also had a few questions.

The Board unanimously backed a resolution that outlines “areas of support and ongoing concern with [VDOT’s] environmental assessment,” according to a press release.

Under VDOT’s “Transform 66” plan, an extra lane would be built within the existing eastbound right-of-way from the Dulles Connector Road to the Fairfax Drive exit in Ballston. The lane would stretch about four miles.

The plan would also include the replacement and construction of noise walls along the interstate, a new pedestrian bridge on the W&OD Trail at Lee Highway in East Falls Church and a realignment of the Custis Trail at Bon Air Park.

Earlier this year, the Board endorsed VDOT’s plan to add tolls to I-66 inside the Beltway during peak travel times.

Not everyone who lives in Arlington supports the project as proposed, however. Some East Falls Church residents have recently criticized the part of the proposal that would build a new pedestrian and cyclist bridge on the W&OD trail at Lee Highway. (Bicycling advocates, meanwhile, are organizing to support the bridge plan.)

In its resolution, the Board asked transit officials to “ensure a robust community process will be incorporated into the design process to achieve a context sensitive solution for the W&OD Trail changes.”

The Board also called for more cooperation on other areas of concern such as impacts on right of way, increased traffic at local intersections, noise mitigation and possible effects on stormwater infrastructure.

“Arlington supports the broad goals of this plan, including the focus on moving more people versus vehicles through the corridor. We are also committed to ensure that VDOT mitigates any impacts on our residents and neighborhoods that may result from the mandated eastbound widening,” said Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette. “VDOT has been responsive to our concerns as the project has taken shape, and we anticipate working closely with them to monitor the project as it moves forward.”

According to VDOT’s estimates, workers could break ground on the project in “mid 2018” and finish by “mid 2020.”

More from the press release:

In its resolution, the Board says it will work to ensure that the Commonwealth monitors and mitigates the project’s impacts on Arlington streets and on cultural or natural resources.

VDOT released the Environmental Assessment for the eastbound widening of I-66 from the Dulles Connector to Fairfax Drive in November. Based on a review of the technical documentation and public testimony, the Board resolution calls for VDOT to continue working cooperatively with the County on addressing the following:

  1. Impacts on right of way and other resources – VDOT anticipates that the eastbound widening will occur primarily toward the inner portion of the I-66 roadway, but temporary or permanent property easements or acquisitions will be needed along the easternmost portion of the project.
  2. Traffic analysis and impacts to Arlington streets – The Environmental Assessment identified several intersections in Arlington that will experience increased congestion as a result of the widening. Staff is concerned that the traffic analysis used for the Environmental Assessment does not include any multimodal travel, which is a primary goal of the Transform 66 project and the studies supporting it.
  3. Impacts to the regional trail network – VDOT has proposed realigning the Custis Trail at Bon Air Park and grade-separating the crossing of the W&OD Trail at Lee Highway. The Board resolution endorses these improvements and asks that VDOT ensure a robust community process will be incorporated into the design process to achieve a context sensitive solution for the W&OD Trail changes.
  4. Noise mitigation – VDOT will solicit input from property owners and renters who would benefit from noise mitigation as to the desirability of the installation of noise barriers along I-66. County staff will work with VDOT to ensure messaging to the public on the noise barrier selection process is communicated as comprehensively as possible. The Board also encouraged VDOT to work with WMATA, FTA and others to explore options for additional noise mitigation related to Silver Line and new generation of rail cars.
  5. Stormwater Management Infrastructure – In response to public testimony, the Board reinforced the important responsibility that VDOT has to ensure that existing and future stormwater infrastructure by adequately designed and maintained.

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