More than 2,000 local children benefitted from a summer program sponsored by the company that manages highway toll lanes in the region.
Transurban, which manages the high-occupancy toll lanes on the Capital Beltway and will manage the soon-to-be-extended I-395 HOT lanes, donated $18,000 to its Outdoor Kids Fund.
The fund supported outdoor programs and environmental education for kids who attended summer camps at Upton Hill Regional Park in Arlington and Cameron Run Regional Park in Alexandria. Attendees learned about water safety and the environment, then celebrated the end of camp with a day at Upton Hill.
They were joined on their last day by officials from Transurban, as well as representatives from the parks’ managers the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, Arlington’s Department of Parks and Recreation and Arlington County Board vice chair Katie Cristol.
“NOVA Parks is a tremendous regional asset, and kudos to Transurban for providing a grant that will benefit many kids in Arlington and Alexandria,” said County Board chair Jay Fisette in a statement.
More from a press release:
The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NOVA Parks), Arlington Department of Parks and Recreation, Vice Chair of the Arlington County Board Katie Cristol and Transurban – the Virginia Department of Transportation’s partner on the 395 Express Lanes project, today joined area children at Upton Hill Regional Park to celebrate the Outdoor Kids Fund which was supported by Transurban this summer. The program provides enhanced outdoor experiences and environmental education for two thousand children who attend summer camps in Arlington and Alexandria.
In addition to a day at the waterpark at the end of camp, the children learn about water safety, and many of them get to experience hands-on environmental education. The two main waterparks used for the program are Great Waves at Cameron Run Regional Park in Alexandria, and Ocean Dunes at Upton Regional Park in Arlington.
“NOVA Parks is a tremendous regional asset, and kudos to Transurban for providing a grant that will benefit many kids in Arlington and Alexandria,” said Jay Fisette, Chairman of the Arlington County Board.
“At a time of severe budget pressure, having Transurban partner with NOVA Parks to improve the summer experience of our children is invaluable. These types of partnerships create lasting memories,” said Alexandria Vice Mayor Justin Wilson.
“As the Virginia Department of Transportation’s partner on the 395 Express Lanes project, Transurban is committed to the safety and wellbeing of the Arlington and Alexandria communities near the Express Lanes project corridor. Transurban is proud to support NoVA Parks as they continue providing outdoor experiences and environmental education for the community,” said Leigh Petschel, Vice President, Operations, Transurban.
“We hope this program will allow Arlington and Alexandria to serve even more of their youth with these savings,” remarked Stella Koch, Chairman of NOVA Parks. “With need high and budgets tight, this gift from Transurban is wonderful,” she continued.
“Transurban is demonstrating great corporate citizenship by supporting this program that will help some children in need have a wonderful experience,” said Eileen Ellsworth, President of the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia. “I love it when businesses and local and regional leadership come together to provide solutions,” she continued.
Photos via Facebook.
Charlottesville Solidarity Rally Held — Arlington County Board vice chair Katie Cristol was among those who spoke at a “Rally of Solidarity for Charlottesville” in Courthouse yesterday. The rally was intended to “actively condemn bigotry and racial hatred through a series of speeches, songs, actions, and a moment of silence.” [Facebook, WJLA]
Alexandria Considering New Names for Route 1 — An Alexandria group charged with considering new names for Jefferson Davis Highway (Route 1) is soliciting suggestions through an online form and two public hearings. [City of Alexandria]
Flashing Lights on I-66 — If you drove on I-66 this weekend and noticed flashing lights from equipment overhead, don’t worry: you’re not getting a ticket. Instead, VDOT is testing new toll equipment. Non-HOV drivers are expected to begin paying a toll to use I-66 inside the Beltway in December. [VDOT, NBC Washington]
Old Oak Tree Saved — A “mighty” oak tree that pre-dates the Civil War was saved from being removed during the construction of a new home thanks to a petition by neighbors and a developer willing to consider their concerns. The tree, at the corner of N. Nottingham and 27th streets, is 18 feet in circumference and one of Arlington’s 100 designated “champion” trees. [Washington Post]
WeWork Offering Free Space on Mondays — Coworking provider WeWork is offering free workspace at its D.C. and Northern Virginia locations — including its Arlington location in Crystal City — on Mondays as part of a new promotion dubbed “#SummerMondays.” The promotion runs through the end of September. An RSVP is required. [WeWork]
Photo courtesy Peter Golkin
The project to extend the Interstate 395 Express Lanes from Fairfax County through Alexandria and Arlington to the D.C. line celebrated its ground-breaking ceremony this morning.
The toll lanes will be extended for eight miles north from Turkeycock Run near Edsall Road to the vicinity of Eads Street in Arlington, near the Pentagon.
The Virginia Department of Transportation partnered with toll road manager Transurban and contractors AECOM Engineering Company and Lane Construction to deliver the project. Construction is now underway and scheduled for completion in fall 2019.
The project will add a third reversible HOT lane on I-395, accessible for free by vehicles with three or more occupants and an E-ZPass Flex transponder, or for a toll by all others.
The lanes will generate funding for other transportation options in the region. Using toll money, Transurban will pay $15 million each year to local jurisdictions to help them pay for improvements. Among other projects, the south parking lot at the Pentagon is set for an overhaul, as are several nearby bridges.
The ceremony, atop a Pentagon City parking garage, marked the official start of construction. Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) was joined by Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne and elected officials from across the area, including Arlington County Board chair Jay Fisette and fellow Board member Libby Garvey.
Layne said such partnerships between state government, local agencies and federal stakeholders have been crucial to move the project along, heralded as the largest in the United States.
“We knew what the construction was going to be, but it took collaboration and trust to get this project underway,” Layne said.
McAuliffe hailed the project for solving a “major headache for so many commuters going into and out of the District, and going to and from our great Pentagon.”
He added that as Virginia’s population continues to grow — with people attracted by its low taxes, strong business environment and other amenities like breweries and wineries, McAuliffe said — projects to improve congestion on the Commonwealth’s roads are vital.
“This is finally going to be solved, and this is going to be a game-changer for residents of Northern Virginia,” McAuliffe said.
For its part, Transurban promised to be good partners throughout construction and beyond.
Jennifer Aument, Transurban’s group general manager for North America, said workers are committed to the safety of all road users during work, and urged drivers in the area to avoid distractions, wear their seatbelt and watch their speed around the construction zone.
Aument also said Transurban would be a “good neighbor” and work with nearby neighborhoods to minimize any other disruptions.
“Now, we’ll get to work,” she said.
Work has already got underway in the existing I-395 high-occupancy toll lanes. On Monday, August 7, VDOT announced full night-time closures of the lanes in both directions from the southbound HOV exit ramp near Boundary Channel Drive to the northbound exit ramp from the 95 Express Lanes near Edsall Road.
And weather-permitting, some southbound regular lanes of I-395 will be closed overnight this week between Duke Street and Edsall Road. VDOT advised drivers to travel safely and pay attention to signs posted on the road.
Arlington Woman Invented ‘Monopoly’ Precursor — An Arlington woman may have been the “real” inventor of the board game Monopoly. Lizzie Magie, who died in Arlington in 1948, created a board game very similar to Monopoly. Three decades later, Charles Darrow, taking inspiration from Magie’s game, created Monopoly and sold it to Parker Brothers. [Arlington Magazine]
I-66 Tolls Expected to Start in December — New tolls on single-occupancy vehicles on I-66 are now expected to take effect in December. Electronic toll signs have started going up near I-66 on-ramps. [Twitter, NBC Washington]
Krupicka Having Fun Running Donut Stores — Former member of the Virginia House of Delegates Rob Krupicka is enjoying his second act: owning Sugar Shack donut stores in Arlington, Alexandria and now D.C. [Washington City Paper]
Wages Drop in Arlington — Mirroring regional and national trends, average weekly wages in Arlington dropped 1.4 percent, to $1,677, in the last three months of 2016. Arlington ranked as the seventh-highest average weekly wage in the country. [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Bekah Richards
Arcing Insulator at Rosslyn Metro — An electrical issue on the Metrorail tracks outside of the Rosslyn station caused delays on the Blue, Orange and Silver lines during this morning’s rush hour. The arcing insulator prompted single-tracking and a large fire department response. [WJLA]
Beyer to Shadow DCA Worker — Today, from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) is expected to “accompany contracted wheelchair agents to learn first-hand their role helping passengers with disabilities at Reagan National Airport.” The workers and their union, 32BJ SEIU, are fighting for a $15 per hour wage. Currently, they receive as little as $6 per hour plus “unreliable tips.”
Samsung Collecting Note 7 at DCA — Electronics manufacturer Samsung has set up a booth at Reagan National Airport to collect their now recalled and discontinued Galaxy Note 7 phones, which are banned from flights due to a propensity to randomly go up in flames. [Twitter]
I-395 HOT Lane Update — VDOT updated the Arlington County Board yesterday on its “managed HOV/toll lanes” project slated for I-395. County staff is currently studying traffic and noise impacts to Arlington and the project’s allocation of at least $15 million per year to transit along the corridor, which the county believes is insufficient. [Arlington County]
Tech Incubator Founder Moves to Arlington — Evan Burfield, the founder of D.C.-based tech incubator 1776, has moved to Arlington with his wife and one-year-old daughter. Burfield chose a $1.6 million home in the Aurora Highlands neighborhood outside of Crystal City, calling it “a great buy on an up-and-coming area.” 1776 has a location in Crystal City that Burfield said is performing well. [Washington Business Journal]
Police: Arlington Man Called Reporter the N-Word — An Arlington man, 21-year-old Brian Eybers, has been arrested in Charleston, South Carolina on disorderly conduct and drug-related charges. A local TV reporter in Charleston says Eybers called him the N-word and then stood in front of his news van, blocking it from leaving. [The State]
(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.
Minor Charges for Man Who Ran from Cops — The man who ran from police Tuesday in Ballston did so, apparently, to avoid being charged with driving on a suspended license and improper registration. He’s now also facing eluding and failure to I.D. charges. The passenger in the car did not flee and is being charged with identity theft and possession of drug paraphernalia. [Arlington County]
I-395 HOT Lanes ‘Pretty Close to a Done Deal’ — A plan to convert the I-395 HOV lanes to High Occupancy Toll lanes appears to be proceeding. Thanks to promises to use toll revenue to enhance carpooling and express bus service, Arlington officials have been generally supportive of the plan so far. That, after the county sued to block a previous I-395 HOT lane plan. [Washington Post]
Arlington Names New Zoning Administrator — Arlova Vonhm, the county’s Acting Zoning Administrator, has been appointed to the position on a permanent basis. “Vonhm, who joined the County in 2012 as a principal planner, leads a team of 30 Zoning staff. Her team collaborates with Inspection Services and other County staff to process and approve building permits, while actively enforcing the County’s Zoning Ordinance,” notes a press release. In the past few years, Arlington’s zoning administrators have drawn the ire of many in the business community for a heavy-handed approach to enforcing Arlington’s zoning rules. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
VDOT Holds HOT Lane Meeting — Last night VDOT gave the first formal public presentation of its plan to expand the I-395 HOV lanes and convert them to High Occupancy Toll lanes. The meeting was held at Wakefield High School and addressed issues from toll pricing to transit improvements to sound walls. [WTOP, Fox 5]
Bike-on-Bike Crashes Problematic for the Law — A new article asserts that Arlington County Police normally do not file reports for bike-on-bike crashes. “This is a bike accident. Life happens,” an officer reportedly told a victim after one recent incident. Incomplete or nonexistent police reports have frustrated victims and attorneys seeking legal redress — and led to the hiring of private investigators who try to gather evidence and find witnesses. [Washingtonian]
Disability Advocates Protest in Arlington — Disability rights advocates made their frustrations personal yesterday by protesting in front of the Arlington home of Vanita Gupta, head of the U.S. Justice Department Civil Rights Division. [Disability Scoop]
Proposal: Allow Older Cabs in Arlington — The Arlington County Board on Saturday is expected to consider a policy change that would allow older cabs on the road, among other changes. Currently, cabs entering service may be no older than two years old and then must be retired after reaching seven years old or 350,000 miles. Recognizing advances in vehicle reliability, the new policy would do away with the two year provision and set the maximum age of cabs at 10 years old. [Arlington County]
Free Donuts for Lawyers Today — It’s Be Kind to Lawyers Day and to mark the occasion Sugar Shack Donuts on Columbia Pike is offering a free “house donut” to lawyers today. Sugar Shack is also beginning a promotion that will give select customers free donuts to distribute to their favorite local teachers. “To participate, folks just need to use the hashtag #Treats4Teach to tell us on Facebook or Twitter why they should be picked to deliver donuts to their local school teachers and to which school,” said a press release.
Nice Weather at Last — After this morning’s rain, expect clearing skies and pleasant weather that should stretch into next week. [Twitter]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
VDOT is holding a community meeting next week to discuss plans to extend the I-395 Express Lanes north through Arlington.
The meeting is being held at Wakefield High School’s cafeteria (1325 S. Dinwiddie Street) from 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Monday, April 11.
The project will extend the 395 Express Lanes ” for eight miles north from Turkeycock Run near Edsall Road to the vicinity of Eads Street in Arlington,” according to VDOT.
“The improvements primarily will be built within the existing footprint of the I-395 HOV lanes,” the agency said on its website. “The two existing HOV lanes (or High Occupancy Toll) lanes will be converted to express lanes and a third lane will be added, providing three reversible express lanes.”
Among the promised benefits of the project, besides the additional lane and faster travel for single-occupant drivers willing to pay a toll, are:
- “An active traffic management system to keep traffic moving”
- “Sound walls for nearby neighborhoods”
- “Improving connections between the I-395 Express Lanes and Eads Street”
- “Providing dedicated annual funding for transit”
Following a multimodal study and a public hearing this fall, construction is expected to begin in the spring of 2017 and wrap up by the summer of 2019.
Widening Critics Still Questioning I-66 Deal — “Widening the highway for four miles from Beltway to Ballston will not relieve traffic congestion, according to every expert I’ve spoken to,” writes WAMU transportation reporter Martin Di Caro, regarding the I-66 deal struck by Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D). Arlington County Board member Jay Fisette, meanwhile, says the overall plan for tolling I-66 is worth the compromise. [Twitter, WAMU]
Arlington Probably Won’t Sue Over I-395 HOT Lanes — After mounting an expensive legal battle over a plan by Gov. Bob McDonnell’s (R) administration to convert the HOV lanes on I-395 to High Occupancy Toll lanes, Arlington appears poised to accept a similar HOT lane plan by VDOT and the McAuliffe administration. There are some key differences between the two proposals, observers say. [Greater Greater Washington]
Arlington Man Arrested in D.C. Cold Case — Arlington resident Benito Valdez, 45, has been arrested and charged with an alleged accomplice in a 1991 triple homicide cold case in the District. [Associated Press]
Chamber Concert in Lyon Park This Weekend — On Saturday, IBIS Chamber Music will hold a free concert of chamber music in the newly-renovated Lyon Park Community Center (414 N. Fillmore Street). The concert will start at 7:30 p.m. and feature music by Schubert, Beethoven and Debussy. [ARLnow]
Local Resident’s Cat Story Appears in Book — A story by Arlington resident April Riser is featured in the new book, “Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Very Good, Very Bad Cat,” according to a PR rep for the publisher.
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
The compromise is intended to appease lawmakers from outside the Beltway, many of whom opposed the idea of tolling I-66 without adding capacity to the often clogged highway. It’s likely to rankle some residents in Arlington, where in the 1970s a citizens group formed to oppose the construction of I-66 in the first place. That group now advocates for a “wiser, not wider” I-66.
According to various news reports, the compromise calls for eastbound I-66 to be widened to three through lanes between the Dulles Connector Road the Fairfax Drive/Glebe Road exit, within the existing highway right-of-way.
Outside-the-Beltway lawmakers, both Democrats and Republicans, were calling for I-66 to be widened before being tolled. The McAuliffe administration’s plan for converting I-66 to high-occupancy toll lanes inside the Beltway during rush hour — tolls for vehicles with 1-2 occupants, free to those with 3 or more occupants — was in danger of being blocked in the Virginia General Assembly without the compromise. The plan originally called for widening to be considered as a last resort, after studying the efficacy of the HOT lanes in improving traffic congestion.
“If we don’t take this deal now, it’s not going to happen for a generation,” state Sen. Barbara Favola said, as quoted by NBC 4.
The deal will allow tolling on I-66 to begin in 2017 and the new lane to be in place by 2020, at a construction cost of $140 million, according to WTOP.
Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey released a statement on the plan shortly after it was announced, expressing disappointment.
We are disappointed with the news of the amended plan for I-66, which will immediately widen I-66. We respect that Governor McAuliffe and his administration worked hard to protect the earlier plan, which delayed the widening of I-66 until we had several years’ worth of experience with multimodal solutions. We appreciate that — aside from the decision to widen immediately — many of the original elements remain intact:
- Toll revenue is dedicated to multimodal improvements;
- NVTC (our region’s transit agency) receives the toll revenue;
- Local governments retain the authority to spend these funds on local projects; and
- Any widening occurs within existing right-of-way.
As the new plan moves forward, Arlington will be vigilant, working to ensure that appropriate environmental analyses are completed efficiently and comprehensively. We will do all we can to mitigate harm from the widening, and we will explore possible improvements to accompany the widening. As always. Arlington will be working to promote improved regional transit. We need frequent, reliable, and comfortable transit systems along the east-west corridor that get people quickly to where they want to go.
Update at 3:00 p.m. — Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) has weighed in with an interesting statement, suggesting that Arlington County’s opposition to a partial I-66 widening, as proposed, may not be too strong.
Arlington County had a longstanding agreement that I-66 would not be widened inside the Beltway. Today’s announcement by Governor McAuliffe changes that understanding, and with no public input so far.
My initial reaction is one of concern for Northern Virginians who have worked – many of them for decades – for an alternative approach to big highways. But I continue to learn details of the proposal and to listen to constituents on all sides of this issue.
Early conversations with elected officials who represent Arlington County indicate that Arlington is more open to this partial I-66 widening than in the past, and that the potential benefits from I-66 tolls will bring important transit and multi-modal benefits to the surrounding corridor. I remain dubious about additional asphalt, and await input from my Arlington and other constituents about today’s proposal.
Update at 11:55 a.m. — After the jump, the press release from Gov. McAuliffe’s office.
State Lawmaker: Add Lanes to I-66 — State Sen. Chap Petersen (D), who represents part of Fairfax County, doesn’t much care for Arlington’s efforts to dissuade VDOT from adding an extra lane to I-66. “When I was a little boy, we put a man on the moon. We can figure out how to put six lanes through Arlington County,” Petersen said in an interview. [WTOP]
Del. Levine Proposes Minimum Wage Increase — For his first piece of state legislation, freshman Del. Mark Levine (D) has proposed a bill that would allow localities in Virginia to raise the minimum wage up to $10. The maximum amount would then rise every year with the consumer price index. The likelihood of the bill passing is slim. [InsideNova]
Highway Project Giving Away Grant Money — Transurban, the private company behind the newly-revived I-395 HOT lanes project, is trying to endear itself to the communities along the I-395 corridor. For one, the company recently joined the Arlington Chamber of Commerce. It’s also giving away grants of $1,000 to $5,000 “to respond to the needs of local organizations and direct impact neighborhoods located within the I-395 corridor.” Applications for the Community Grant Program are currently being accepted. [395 Express Lanes]
AFCYRs to Host MLK Event — The Arlington-Falls Church Young Republicans will “celebrate and honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and recommit ourselves to living out Dr. King’s dream” at the group’s meeting on Monday. Speaking at the event will be Elroy Sailor, CEO of the J.C. Watts Companies and current senior advisor to Rand Paul’s presidential campaign. [Facebook]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
Transport Panel Approves of I-66 HOT Lanes — The Commonwealth Transportation Board voted yesterday to approve the creation of high occupancy toll lanes on I-66 inside the Beltway. It’s estimated that by 2040, almost twice as many users of eastbound I-66 inside the Beltway will be headed to Arlington compared to those heading to D.C. Meanwhile, two Democratic state lawmakers from Fairfax and Loudoun counties want to force the state to start planning to widen I-66 sooner rather than later. [Washington Post, InsideNova]
County Responds to I-395 HOT Lane Plan — Arlington officials say they hope to reach a “mutually beneficial outcome” to a state proposal to extend the I-395 Express lanes north to the D.C. line. The proposal calls for expanding the HOV lanes from two to three lanes while converting them to high occupancy toll lanes. The County says any proposal should “not undermine Arlington’s successful investment in congestion-reducing transit-oriented development in Pentagon City, Crystal City, or Shirlington.” [Arlington County]
APS Wants Historic Designation for Stratford on Its Terms — Arlington Public Schools says it will pursue a local historic designation for the Stratford building, current home to H-B Woodlawn and a future neighborhood middle school. However, APS wants to cut the Historic Affairs and Landmark Review Board out of the process, to ensure the middle school project can move forward without delays. [Arlington Public Schools, InsideNova]
Marine Corps Treats Students to Holiday Celebration — The Marine Corps treated students at Barcroft Elementary to a special Christmas celebration at Henderson Hall on Monday. Students were greeted by Marines, participated in various holiday-themed arts and crafts and got a chance to talk with Santa himself. [DIVIDS]
WERA Now Broadcasting — As of Monday, Arlington’s own low-power radio station, WERA 96.7 FM, was on the air and broadcasting for the community. The station is still looking for volunteers to help with programming. [Twitter, WERA]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
VDOT has a new plan for High Occupancy Toll lanes on I-395, the Washington Post reported late Friday.
The news comes nearly five years after the state scrapped plans to build HOT lanes on I-395, following a legal battle with Arlington County. In a lawsuit, the county argued that HOT lanes, as then planned, would exacerbate pollution from and congestion on I-395, negatively impacting Arlington residents.
Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Lane told the Post that the new plan comes with guaranteed funding for carpooling and transit from private partner Transurban. Construction could start as soon as 2017 and would involve adding a third lanes to the existing HOV lanes while keeping the highway’s overall footprint mostly the same, the Post reports.
No word yet on a reaction from local officials.
Meanwhile, Arlington County has given its endorsement to a controversial plan for adding tolls to I-66 inside the Beltway during peak travel times. By a vote of 3-2 — John Vihstadt and Libby Garvey voted against it — the County Board adopted a resolution supporting the “Transform 66” project.
Last month Fairfax County offered conditional support for the plan, while calling for the widening of I-66. Loudoun County officials oppose the plan, which has faced heavy criticism from suburban commuters.
The plan calls for changing HOV rules on I-66 from requiring at least two people per vehicle during rush hour (HOV-2) to giving drivers the option of either having three people in a car (HOV-3) or paying a toll during peak hours.
In their endorsement, County Board members said they hoped that the changes would prevent the possible widening of I-66 inside the Beltway. The county wants VDOT to at least commit to not considering widening from two to three lanes in each direction through Arlington until 2025 at the earliest.
Lane has previously been quoted as saying the widening of I-66 through Arlington is inevitable.
After the jump, the press release from Arlington County on the I-66 project endorsement.
(Updated at 2:50 p.m.) At a public forum last night, Arlington residents spoke out against the Virginia Department of Transportation’s plan to turn I-66 into a toll road during rush hour.
VDOT officials met residents at Washington-Lee High School (1301 N. Stafford Street) to discuss the I-66 Inside the Beltway project, which would convert the highway into a toll road during rush hour by 2017 and increase the HOV requirement to three people by 2020.
While some Arlington residents have spoken out in the past about the HOV changes, the audience’s attention was on the dynamically priced tolls proposed by the transportation authority. Members of the audience — who mostly identified themselves as Arlington residents — had a chance to comment on or ask about the plan.
Not one person supported the tolls, even though the biggest impact is likely to be felt by commuters from the outer suburbs.
“The public isn’t benefiting from the HOT lanes, only the wealthy and the privileged,” said one person.
Under VDOT’s plan for I-66, during rush hour both directions of I-66 would be tolled, with the cost depending on the level of demand for the road. During the presentation last night, Amanda Baxter, a VDOT official, said tolls could be as high as $9 for the eastbound morning commute.
I-66 would be tolled for four hours during each rush hour period, possibly from 5:30-9:30 a.m. and 3-7 p.m., Baxter said.
The idea behind the I-66 project is to reduce the amount of congestion on the road, allowing people to move more quickly during rush hour, said VDOT official Rene’e Hamilton.
“Time is money, and basically we are giving people a reliable trip that they can calculate how much time it would actually take them to go through the corridor and to their destination,” she said.
The project aims to improve mass transit, as well, since buses get caught up in the rush hour traffic too, causing daily bus riders to be late to work at least once a week, said Kelley Coyner with Northern Virginia Transportation Commission.
“The same things that hold you up in a car, hold you up in a bus,” Coyner said.
Using the tolls and converting to HOV 3 likely means fewer cars will use I-66 during rush hour. The goal is to have cars and buses consistently traveling at 45 miles per hour during rush hour, Hamilton said.
Currently, speeds can be as low as five miles per hour during evening commutes and 25 miles per hour in the morning. Other times, speeds are as high as 55 or 60 miles per hour, leaving people with an unreliable way of measuring how long their daily commute will be, she said.
“Tolling the facility will help to manage the congestion along the facility and create a reliable trip,” Hamilton said. “That 45 miles per hour that HOV facilities are required to meet.”
The audience mainly took issue with the price of the dynamic tolling, saying it would hurt people who can’t afford to pay $9 every morning.
“These tolls are for a reliable trip for the wealthy,” a resident said.
Another compared paying to use a road to paying to send a child to a public school.
“I’m opposed to tolls,” she said. “I feel roads, like our schools, should be paid for by our taxes.”