(Updated at 3:45 p.m.) Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) held a special ceremony this morning announcing the construction of equipment that would allow for new high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes on I-66.
McAuliffe hosted the event at Washington-Lee High School — which overlooks the highway — and was joined by Va. Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne and Arlington County Board chair Libby Garvey.
“Since the beginning of our administration, we made it our top transportation priority to improve Virginia’s infrastructure and unclog the bottlenecks on our most congested highways,” McAuliffe said during the ceremony. “This initiative, coupled with Virginia’s new SMARTSCALE transportation prioritization process, will unlock Northern Virginia from the traffic congestion that was strangling this region’s economic potential.”
— Terry McAuliffe (@GovernorVA) August 1, 2016
Workers will soon begin the $60 million project to install tolling equipment along the interstate from the Beltway to the Lee Highway exit in Rosslyn, according to a press release from McAuliffe’s office.
The new equipment will allow drivers to pay a toll of about $5-6 on average to bypass traffic during morning and afternoon rush hours, according to VDOT. Vehicles with two or more occupants, buses and motorcycles will be exempt from paying the toll.
Toll revenues will go toward funding alternative forms of transportation, McAuliffe said.
“The toll revenues will now fund travel options like ridesharing and enhanced commuter bus service, making those choices more attractive and much more user friendly so more people will leave their cars in the garage to get to work,” McAuliffe explained in his remarks. “We are committed to creating a carpool culture for I-66 travelers.”
Additionally, the Commonwealth Transportation Board will commit nearly $10 million toward projects such as improving commuter buses from Loudoun, Prince William County and Fairfax, local buses in Arlington and Fairfax, new carpool incentives and new bikeshare programs, according to McAuliffe’s office.
Along with the new tolling equipment, I-66 will also be partially widened. The plan calls for an extra lane to be built within the existing eastbound right-of-way from the Dulles Connector Road to the Fairfax Drive exit in Ballston.
The new HOT lanes are expected to open some time next summer.
From Monday, May 23 to Monday, June 6 — it’s timed to coincide with the Memorial Day holiday — Arlington County will again be participating in the nationwide Click It or Ticket campaign.
ACPD will be “stepping up enforcement” of the state seatbelt law during that time.
From a press release:
Once again, the Arlington County Police Department is reminding motorists to Click It or Ticket. As part of the national seat belt enforcement campaign, law enforcement agencies around the country will be stepping up enforcement from May 23 to June 6, just ahead of one of the busiest travel weekends of the year.
Every day, unbuckled motorists are losing their lives in motor vehicle crashes. As we approach Memorial Day weekend and the summer vacation season, we want to make sure people are doing the one thing that can save them in a crash, buckling up.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly half of the 21,132 passenger vehicle occupants killed in crashes in 2013 were unrestrained. At night from 6 p.m. to 5:59 a.m., that number soared to 59 percent of those killed. That’s why one focus of the Click It or Ticket campaign is nighttime enforcement. Participating law enforcement agencies will be taking a no-excuses approach to seat belt law enforcement, writing citations day and night.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2014, there was one fatality every 16 minutes, one person injured every 13 seconds, one property damage crash every 7 seconds, and 1 law enforcement-reported crash every 5 seconds.
The company released its annual America’s Best Drivers Report this week and once again, Arlington is near the bottom. The county ranked 10th worst, with drivers going an average of 6.7 years between accidents. That means drivers here are 50 percent more likely to get in an accident than the national average.
Bad driving in the D.C. area isn’t just confined to Arlington, however. Alexandria ranked below Arlington as the 7th worst while Baltimore and the District ranked as No. 2 and 1 worst, respectively.
Arlington’s drivers seem to be getting worse over time, at least according to Allstate’s statistics. Last year, Arlington was ranked as 12th worst, and in 2011 the county was ranked 14th worst. In 2011, Arlington drivers went an average of 6.8 years between accidents.
The safest drivers in the country, meanwhile, reside in Fort Collins, Colo., where motorists go nearly 14 years between accidents on average. The national average is 10 years between accidents, according to Allstate.
Arlington has been feeling the impacts of Tropical Storm Andrea today.
The storm has been dumping rain on the region all day, and even heavier rains and stronger wind gusts are expected during the evening commute.
Tonight’s outdoor showing of “Risky Business” in Rosslyn has been cancelled due to the weather. Meanwhile, the soaking rains and wind might be responsible for knocking down power lines along N. Pershing Drive in the Ashton Heights area. Pershing is currently closed between Lincoln and Monroe Streets while police and firefighters wait for Dominion Power crews to repair the lines.
AAA Mid-Atlantic is warning drivers to be careful on the roads tonight, especially during periods of heavier rain.
“Tropical Storm Andrea passes through the Washington Metro area today and will continue north along the I-95 corridor,” the organization said in a press release. “Motorists will face hazardous driving conditions during the evening commute due to heavy winds, torrential rains, and flooding… The auto club is advising motorists to exercise caution if they must take to the roads during the squally driving conditions.”
AAA issued the following list of wet weather driving tips.
- Slow down and increase following distances. Speed limits are set for ideal road conditions. When it rains, visibility is reduced and braking distances increase. On dry pavement, a safe following distance permits two to three seconds for stopping; that should be increased to eight seconds on slippery roads. Train your eyes farther down the road than normal, so you can anticipate changes and adjust your course gradually.
- Do not attempt to drive through standing water. Try to avoid bridges and roads that are known to flood. Cross them only if there is little standing or streaming water. When driving on pothole-filled roads, hold the steering wheel firmly to avoid losing control. Just a few inches of water can turn your vehicle into a boat, and could put your life, and the lives of those around you, at great risk. Turn around; find another way to get to your destination.
- Watch out for hydroplaning. No car is immune from hydroplaning on wet surfaces, including four-wheel drive vehicles. Just because brakes work under normal conditions doesn’t mean they will react the same on slippery roads where tires roll with far less traction.
- Alert drivers behind you that you’re slowing with your brake lights. Without anti-lock brakes, squeeze the brakes until they are about to lock up and then release. With anti-lock brakes, use the same move – but don’t pump the brakes, which would work against the operation of the ABS system. Slow down as you approach a pothole. However, do not brake when your vehicle is directly over a pothole.
- Use the central lanes. When driving during heavy rain, use center lanes of the road (without straddling the yellow line). Avoid outside lanes where the water collects at curbside.
- Use low-beam headlights to help other drivers see your car and increase visibility. Remember many states legally require drivers to use their headlights during inclement weather. In our neck of the woods Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey have wipers on, lights on laws, according to the AAA Digest of Motor Laws.
- Use your defroster with your air conditioning to keep the air dry and prevent windows from fogging.
- Do not drive around barricades. Many lives have been lost when drivers disregard official orders and find themselves trapped in rising waters.
- Turn off the cruise control in wet weather driving. The use of cruise control on wet roads can cause hydroplaning.
- If conditions worsen to the point where there is any doubt about your safety, take the nearest exit and find a safe location. Don’t just stop on the shoulder or under a bridge where you may feel less anxiety. If your visibility is compromised, other drivers may be struggling too.
- Fumes and oil leaks that build up on dry pavement rise to the surface of the road when it rains, making the road far slicker than it may seem.
Arlington is currently under a Flash Flood Watch.
The plates were installed near the intersection of Wilson Boulevard and N. Randolph Street early last year after residents of the nearby Archstone Ballston Square apartments complained about noise coming from a Dominion Virginia Power vault cover, underneath which sits electrical equipment for their building, according to the Arlington County Department of Environmental Services (DES). The vault cover (located in the left-hand westbound travel lane) was broken and causing loud noises when cars drove over it.
The plates were to be installed over the vault cover as a temporary measure until it could be fixed. However, as of last month, the cover still wasn’t fixed and the plates were causing problems for drivers. In addition to producing a bumpy ride, one driver says the plates damaged his car.
“Recently I hit the corner of the grate with my vehicle and it knocked the alignment off my car,” resident Frank Murphy claimed in a Feb. 27 email to county officials. “I am sure each person listed on this email has traveled west on Wilson Boulevard and noticed these dangerous grates. The corner of one grate sticks up 4 inches.”
Murphy said the county refused to reimburse him for the alleged damage, saying the plates actually belong to Archstone. Archstone and Dominion, meanwhile, are finally planning to repair the vault covers and remove the steel plates, as soon as this month, according to the county.
“Dominion Power has approved the new vault designs, a contractor has been paid to do the installations,” according to DES spokeswoman Laura Smith. “Vault work should hopefully be completed before the end of March 2013.”
That’s little consolation for Murphy and his repair bill.
“I have to pay the money out of my pocket,” he told ARLnow.com. “It’s bulls–t!”
Photo courtesy Frank Murphy
Allstate released its annual “America’s Best Drivers Report,” which ranks the country’s 200 largest cities in terms of frequency of car collisions. The report is based on Allstate claims data.
Arlington ranked 12th on the worst drivers side, coming in at 53% more likely than the national average to be involved in a collision. That’s up from 14th worst in 2011 and 20th in 2010.
Some surrounding areas fared even worse, with Washington, D.C. topping the worst drivers list, Baltimore coming in second and Alexandria ranking at number seven.
The full “worst drivers” list can be found on Forbes.