Crews have been cutting down trees along I-395 to make room for sound-mitigating walls expected to help buffer noise from expanding the highway’s HOV lanes.
Drivers may notice construction crews clear cutting trees and brush along I-395 where large new concrete wall panels are being set up.
The walls are being built because officials expect more traffic to result from their two-year project extending I-395’s Express Lanes through Alexandria and Arlington to the D.C. border.
The eight-mile, $475 million project converts two HOV lanes to HOT lanes, and adds a third HOT lane, between Turkeycock Run at Edsall Road to Eads Street near the Pentagon and is scheduled to finish later this year. The construction is taking place within the highway’s existing right-of-way.
The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) contracted Australia-based toll company Transurban to build and operate the project. VDOT directed ARLnow’s requests for comment about tree removal to Transurban.
Transurban spokesman Michael McGurk acknowledged residents may be upset about losing the trees, but the company”takes as much care as possible where it comes to tree removal” and is “committed to adding landscaping” along the walls.
McGurk also noted that the company is giving grants to communities for new tree planting or “other beautification projects” and that neighborhood can apply for a grant by March 31. He also said the wall construction is “on time and on budget” with southbound walls scheduled to be completed this summer, and northbound walls expected next spring.
The construction of the walls was preceded by a community outreach. In 2017, wall contractor AECOM polled residents who lived near I-395 in the Fairlington neighborhood if they wanted sound walls built to mitigate noise from the highway. The vote came at the same time the Fairlington Civic Association (FCA) wrote that its residents were concerned that the proposed 25-foot walls required 10 feet of clearance on both sides, likely necessitating tree removal.
The HOT lane expansion has been touted as a way to increase revenue for other local infrastructure upgrades, with Transburan pledging to pay $15 million each year to local jurisdictions for projects like renovating bridges and re-doing the Pentagon’s south parking lot.
Read Transurban’s complete comment below:
The project team takes as much care as possible where it comes to tree removal. We know how much the community cherishes the tree canopy and how important the trees are to our environment. VDOT and the 395 project team has committed to adding landscaping in identified areas along sound walls. And, Transurban, the operator of the 395 Express Lanes, has provided many of the neighborhoods along the corridor a grant to plant trees or to pay for other beautification projects. We invite any neighborhood in the 395 corridor to apply for one of our quarterly grants… The next deadline is March 31st.
New Weapon in Battle Against Opioid Addiction — “Arlington County has taken a proactive measure in the fight against prescription drug abuse by installing three permanent drug-take back boxes. The public can now safely and securely dispose of unused, unwanted or expired prescription medications 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 day a year. This disposal service is free and anonymous with no questions asked.” [Arlington County]
Lack of 5G Could Hurt Amazon Bid — Arlington’s lack of 5G wireless service could hurt it in the eyes of Amazon as the online giant considers the county for its second headquarters, says a letter to the editor writer. The county should have more actively adjusted policy and lobbied carriers for 5G, the writer suggests. [InsideNova]
Woman Arrested After Victoria’s Secret Assault — “A D.C. woman was arrested for attacking two employees at a Victoria’s Secret in Arlington after she says one of them followed her around the store, according to authorities.” [WJLA]
Average I-66 HOV Round Trip Cost — The average round trip cost for single occupant drivers on the I-66 Express Lanes, from their December opening to the end of April, was $12.72, according to new data. Some drivers have faced steeper tolls during “peak of the peak” times. [InsideNova]
Photo courtesy Jeremy Galliani
The contentious I-66 toll rollout only began about three months ago, but it appears that some non-HOV commuters have already found a way around the tolls.
Videos sent to ARLnow.com from a Rosslyn resident show commuters idling along the I-66 shoulder. It’s unclear whether or not the drivers are waiting for the toll to lower or if they are waiting for the tolling period to end all together. The evening tolling period is from 3-7 p.m., and our tipster tells us that this happens frequently just before 7 p.m.
A spokeswoman for Virginia State Police, which is responsible for enforcement on the highway, told ARLnow.com that “this has been an ongoing issue on Interstate 395” as well.
“State police take this issue very seriously and continue to enforce the law, but we are limited due to an ongoing shortage of troopers,” said the spokeswoman. Emergency calls take priority over tolling enforcement, she added.
Virginia law states that drivers cannot stop on the highway except in case of an emergency, accident, or mechanical breakdown.
Tolls as high as $40-50 have been reported on I-66 inside the Beltway since the HOT lane launch, despite initial predictions of tolls closer to the $7-9 range.
Major Orange and Silver Line Issues — Orange and Silver line Metro service has been restored but significant delays remain from an earlier disabled train at the Ballston station. [Washington Post, Twitter, Twitter]
Legislature Considering Expanding I-66 Tolls — Del. Tim Hugo (R), the state lawmaker who proposed a bill that would slash Arlington’s tax revenue from country clubs, is now also proposing legislation that would require I-66 to be tolled in both directions. “If you live in Arlington, D.C. or Maryland, and you are going to Tysons Corner or west, you pay no toll in the morning and you get a free ride home,” Hugo said. “We will even it out by getting some people in Arlington to pick up the freight.” [Washington Post]
County Board Members Lobby Against Country Club Bill — Both Libby Garvey (D) and John Vihstadt (I) were in Richmond yesterday to lobby against HB 1204, the bill that would provide a “windfall tax cut” for Arlington’s two country clubs. [Twitter]
Vegas Bunnies Arrive in Arlington — “Six furry, floppy-eared cottontails dubbed the ‘Las Vegas bunnies’ have arrived at an animal rescue center in Arlington after many others were poisoned in Nevada.” [Washington Post]
Arlington School Board Bill Passes — A state bill that would ensure that Arlington County has the legal standing to have an elected School Board, after questions arose about the School Board’s legality, has passed the state legislature and is now heading to Gov. Ralph Northam (D) for his signature. [InsideNova]
Arlington Gets New Emergency Management Director — Arlington County has named Aaron Miller as its new Director of the Department of Public Safety Communications and Emergency Management. He is currently the Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness for the City of New Orleans. [Arlington County]
Gunston Students Win Anti-Bullying Video Competition — Two eighth-grade girls from Gunston Middle School have won a second-place prize from the AT&T Film Awards for their cyberbullying prevention video. The duo will receive $2,000 in camera equipment and a one-day workshop at Gunston with professional filmmakers. [WJLA]
Vihstadt Could Face Tough Reelection — Democrats are energized by their opposition to President Donald Trump, and that could mean an especially challenging reelection for independent County Board member John Vihstadt. A blue wave in the 2018 midterms may make Vihstadt more vulnerable to his eventual Democratic challenger, one local political blogger suggests. [Blue Virginia]
Expensive Morning Commute on I-66 — “The toll to travel along eastbound Interstate 66 in Northern Virginia hit $46.75 Wednesday morning, about a week after it notched a record high.” [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
Arlington Ready for Possible Snow — The chances of “meaningful accumulation” have since gone down, but Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services crews started applying brine to county roads Monday night in anticipation a “potential snow/ice this Wednesday evening/Thursday.” [Twitter, Washington Post]
VDOT Pleased With I-66 HOT Lane Data — NBC 4’s Adam Tuss tweets: “Doesn’t look like @VaDOTNOVA plans to change anything about the I-66 toll lanes. They say their data shows commutes were faster and more reliable.” [Twitter]
Dems Want Satellite-Voting Centers — “The Arlington County Democratic Committee could again be at loggerheads with the county’s elections office over whether to provide satellite locations for absentee voting in non-presidential-election years.” [InsideNova]
ARLnow T-Shirt Now Available — Need a gift for the ARLnow.com fan in your life? Show your Arlington pride with this long-sleeved t-shirt from the county’s No. 1 local news source. [Amazon]
ACPD Officers Helping in Puerto Rico — The Arlington County Police Department is among the departments nationwide sending officers to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico to provide emergency assistance. The third ACPD team to rotate in is working on the island through Dec. 18. Officers who’ve gone say many challenges remain but there are hopeful signs as well. [Arlington Connection]
Westover Townhouse Battle Continues — Arlington County is weighing both a historic district and a “Housing Conservation District” for Westover, to protect aging but affordable garden apartments from being redeveloped into $800,000 townhomes. [Falls Church News-Press]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
ACFD Responds to Overturned Truck — Rescue crews responded to the intersection of George Mason Drive and 27th Street N., in the Yorktown neighborhood, just before 6:30 last night for a crash involving an overturned vehicle. At least two vehicles, including a minivan, and a pickup truck that overturned, were involved. [Twitter]
Apartment Fire in Ashton Heights — Firefighters quickly extinguished a small fire in the storage room of an apartment building in Ashton Heights yesterday afternoon. The fire happened on the 500 block of N. Piedmont Street and was “kept small by sprinklers.” [Twitter]
I-66 Tolls Not as Bad as You Might Think — According to VDOT, tolls on the first day of HOT lanes on I-66 were, on average, not too bad: “The average round-trip toll price was $14.50, with the average morning toll paid of $10.70 and average afternoon toll paid of $3.80. This average toll rate is lower than the estimated average toll rate of $17.00 round-trip discussed in 2015.” Also, Friday morning’s tolls were lower than those of previous days. [VDOT, Washington Post]
Kaspersky Closes Arlington Office — Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Labs has closed its government sales office in Arlington as a result of the government banning use of Kaspersky antivirus software on federal computers. The company “came under tough US scrutiny after US officials became concerned about the company’s links to the Russian government.” [Buzzfeed]
Flickr pool photo by Michael Coffman
Tolls higher than $30 — for the trip from I-495 to D.C. — have been reported since the HOT lanes launched on Monday. The new system replaces the former HOV-only rush hour regime with one that also allows solo drivers to pay, while eliminating exemptions for fuel efficient vehicles and those heading to Dulles airport.
Today, lower tolls — peaking around $23.50 — were reported, though that is still well above the $7-9 tolls originally predicted by VDOT. Meanwhile, traffic on alternative east-west arteries, like Route 50, has increased since the tolls went into effect.
VDOT says Route 50 has seen 8-percent increase in traffic since 66 toll began. Here's what traffic looks like on 50 inside Beltway. pic.twitter.com/ISaenPuolT
— Neal Augenstein (@AugensteinWTOP) December 6, 2017
VDOT says the toll prices are demand-based, which presumably means that some drivers are choosing to pay upwards of $30 for a one-way trip to the Roosevelt Bridge.
For those of means, along with bus riders and carpoolers, the change has at least resulted in a breeze of a commute on I-66 — higher average speeds during peak times than before the change. The average speed during Monday and Tuesday’s commutes was 57 miles per hour, according to VDOT.
Should VDOT decide to lower toll prices, it might result in slowdowns and congestion, some fear.
So what would be the price most people would be willing to pay? Let’s find out.
The rollout of the I-66 Express Lanes began this morning (Monday) with tolls already on the high side for solo drivers, and high prices could be the norm depending on traffic.
Tolls as high as $25-30 were reported this morning for non-HOV drivers heading from the Capital Beltway to Washington, D.C. on eastbound I-66.
— Julie Wright (@thejuliewright) December 4, 2017
And when an ARLnow reporter logged onto the 66 Express Lanes app just before 8:30 a.m., solo drivers could still expect to be hit in their wallets, even just traveling eastbound on I-66 within Arlington.
At that time, a trip from Sycamore Street in East Falls Church to Rosslyn would cost a solo rider $11.50, while a separate journey from the Glebe Road exit to the Pentagon would cost $7. A trip from the Beltway to Washington on I-66 cost $21 at the time.
A fact sheet on the Virginia Department of Transportation’s website said tolling “will be dynamic and will fluctuate depending on the amount of traffic on the Express Lanes.”
“As with other Express Lanes facilities, dynamic pricing will manage demand for the lanes to provide users a reliable trip,” VDOT continued. “When traffic volumes increase, tolls will rise, and when traffic volumes decrease, toll rates will fall.”
⚠️ Reminder: 66 inside the Beltway is now E-ZPass only during rush hours. If you want to travel for free, you need to be HOV-2 with an E-ZPass Flex in HOV mode. Otherwise, you can pay a toll with your E-ZPass. pic.twitter.com/UJywT6MKhX
— VDOT Northern VA (@VaDOTNOVA) December 4, 2017
Eastbound I-66 inside the Beltway is free for carpoolers with at least two people in the car and an E-ZPass Flex device set to HOV. Solo drivers can take I-66 towards D.C. in the morning, as long as they’re willing to pay a toll that will vary with demand.
The High Occupancy Toll restrictions and charges will apply only to the peak demand direction during rush hour — 5:30-9:30 a.m. in the morning and 3-7 p.m. in the evening.
Traffic appeared to be flowing relatively freely on I-66 this morning from the overpass by Washington-Lee High School, where Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) broke ground on the HOT Lanes last year.
Virginia State Police had warned drivers to plan ahead and recognize the change in traffic patterns at the Express Lanes, and to not stop or back up.
And VSP spokeswoman Corinne Geller said there were “[no] significant crashes or traffic problems to report with this morning’s rush hour.” Based on social media accounts, eastbound I-66 inside the Beltway experienced delays on the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge heading into D.C. — a fairly typical occurrence for the morning rush.
“State police thanks all the motorists who put the extra effort into planning ahead and being prepared for the I-66 changes,” Geller said.
Update: Delay: EB on I-66 at T. Roosevelt Bridge in Arlington Co. No lanes closed. Minor Delays.8:54AM
— 511 Northern VA (@511northernva) December 4, 2017
Image No. 1: screenshot via 66 Express Lanes app
After more than a year of work, the switchover from HOV to HOT lanes on I-66 is upon us, and Virginia State Police are asking commuters to be prepared for changes to their routines.
Starting with Monday’s morning commute, the inbound lanes of I-66 inside the Beltway will be free for carpoolers with at least two people in the car — and, now, an E-ZPass Flex device set to HOV. All other drivers will be able to take I-66 towards D.C. in the morning, as long as they’re willing to pay a toll that will vary with demand (as announced by electronic signs).
The High Occupancy Toll restrictions and charges will apply only to the peak demand direction during rush hour — 5:30-9:30 a.m. in the morning and 3-7 p.m. in the evening. During the evening commute, lone drivers heading outbound (westbound) on I-66 will be charged, even if they’re heading to Dulles airport.
Another change: drivers of hybrid vehicles who were previously able to use I-66 during HOV-only times will now have to pay.
In a press release, below, Virginia State Police said Sunday night that drivers should get ready for changes to the morning commute and a stepped-up police presence along I-66.
With the opening of the new 66 Express Lanes, Virginia State Police are encouraging all drivers to plan in advance if needing to travel I-66, especially during the Monday morning commute on Dec. 4, 2017. State police will have additional troopers on I-66 to help ease the flow of traffic, especially as motorists become accustomed to the new Express Lane changes.
“If you will be traveling I-66 on Monday morning and/or afternoon, then please plan ahead and before your trip research your options with the new Express Lanes,” said 1st Sgt. Steve Mittendorff, Virginia State Police Area 45 Office Commander. “Your morning and afternoon drives on I-66 inside the Beltway are going to look much different from what you are used to, so take advantage of the maps and detailed information provided at http://www.66expresslanes.org. Familiarize yourself with where the traffic lanes change to decide if you want or can use the Express Lanes on I-66 inside the Beltway during the designated hours.”
Plan Ahead. Recognizing and being prepared in advance of the change in traffic patterns at the Express Lanes entrance will help keep traffic moving safely and smoothly along I-66 during the morning and afternoon rush hours.
Don’t stop or back up. Drivers should never stop or back up in an attempt to avoid the Express Lanes. If you accidentally find yourself in the Express Lanes, then just keep going in the Express Lanes and get off at the first exit. Go to http://www.66expresslanes.org and follow the directions on how to pay the toll online. Backing up or stopping puts you at risk of causing a crash and being seriously injured or killed.
Hot Item for the Holidays: E-ZPass — With tolling set to begin on what are now the I-66 HOT lanes, stores in Arlington and elsewhere in Northern Virginia are having trouble keeping E-ZPass transponders in stock, particularly the E-ZPass Flex devices that will allow carpoolers to continue to use I-66 for free. [WJLA]
W&OD Trail Changes Discussed — Officials are considering options for separating cyclists from those on foot on the W&OD Trail. “I love the potential separation,” Arlington County Board member John Vihstadt is quoted as saying. “I think that will be well-received by both sets of users.” [InsideNova]
Dad Speaks Out After W-L Grad Son ODs — “As an admiral I helped run the most powerful military on Earth, but I couldn’t save my son from the scourge of opioid addiction,” writes retired Adm. James Winnefeld, in an Atlantic article entitled “No Family Is Safe From This Epidemic.” Jonathan Winnefeld, a Washington-Lee High School grad, died in Denver this past September “after a long and honorable battle with addiction.” [The Atlantic, Legacy, Denver Post]
More on Accessory Dwelling Vote — A GGW writer argues that while the Arlington County Board is to be commended for allowing the creation of basement apartments that can be rented out, it punted on the issue of backyard cottages at its Tuesday meeting. The Board’s action on so-called Accessory Dwelling Units included instructing the County Manager to study setbacks from the property line for detached accessory structures before any are approved under new rules. [Greater Greater Washington]
New Incentive for Sustainable Buildings — “Arlington County will pioneer Virginia’s first Commercial-Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) program–a public-private partnership to provide affordable, long-term financing for projects to improve the energy or water efficiency of commercial buildings in the county.” [Arlington County]
DCA Tweets at Teigen — Model and social media personality Chrissy Teigen told followers yesterday that she left “a very large mom bra” under her seat on a flight that arrived at a D.C. area airport. Reagan National Airport’s official Twitter account responded by recommending that Teigen stop by the Spanx store in the airport for a replacement. [Twitter]
‘Age in Place’ Tax Deferral Questioned — Mortgage and title companies are reportedly not big fans of Arlington’s Real Estate Tax Relief Program, which allows older residents who meet certain income requirements to defer property tax payments until the home is sold. The system has sometimes sprung large tax bills on unsuspecting heirs, real estate agents and mortgage settlement officers. [Falls Church News-Press]
Flickr pool photo by Michael Coffman