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Morning Notes

Road Closures for Bike Races — As a reminders, there will be significant road closures in Clarendon and Crystal City on Saturday and Sunday, respectively, for the Armed Forces Cycling Classic.

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

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Morning Notes

Pedestrian crossing the street in Clarendon in front of traffic

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]

Interview with Poet Laureate — Northern Virginia Magazine recently interviewed Arlington’s new poet laureate, Katherine Young. [Northern Virginia Magazine]

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Gov. McAuliffe Holds Groundbreaking Ceremony for I-66 HOT Lanes

(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.”

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.

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Morning Notes

Summer ride (Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley)

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

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Morning Notes

Blooming in Barcroft (Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick)

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

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VDOT to Hold I-395 Express Lane Meeting on Monday

395 Express Lanes logoVDOT 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.

I-395 Express Lanes map“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.

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Morning Notes

Opening the gates at the Ballston Metro station (Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick)

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]

Lee Highway Plan Comments Extended — The public comment period for the Lee Highway Visioning Study has been extended to March 31. [Arlington County]

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

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BREAKING: McAuliffe Announces Deal to Widen Eastbound I-66

Multimodal transportation along I-66Eastbound I-66 will be widened to three lanes inside the Beltway to Ballston, under a compromise agreement announced by Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) this morning.

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.

Governor Terry McAuliffe and members from both parties and both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly announced today a bipartisan agreement to move forward on a plan to reduce congestion on I-66 inside the beltway by widening a four mile stretch from the Dulles Connector Road to Ballston, improving transit, and adding new options for single drivers.

The agreement will be reflected in the House amendments to Governor McAuliffe’s budget proposal after extensive negotiations between the Governor’s office, Delegate Jim LeMunyon and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Chris Jones. Republicans in the House of Delegates have also agreed to table legislation that would have precluded an optional toll for single drivers on I-66 inside the beltway, a key revenue source for planned transit improvements.

“This agreement is a big win for Virginia’s economy and for the commuters who spend too much time on the most congested road in the most congested region in the country,” said Governor McAuliffe. “After a spirited political debate last fall, and a series of productive discussions after the General Assembly convened, we are proud to announce a compromise that will move our plan to transform I-66 inside and outside the beltway forward. This multi-pronged strategy will increase options and reduce commute times through improved transit, smarter management of the lanes we already have and a new agreement for a wider roadway both inside and outside the beltway. I want to thank the bipartisan group of leaders who worked together to advance this important project so that we can unlock I-66, grow our economy and improve the quality of life of the commuters who use this road every day.”

“This agreement is another example of how the General Assembly and the Governor are working together to provide real solutions to the transportation challenges Virginians face every day,” said Chairman Jones (R-Suffolk). “After major investments in 2013  and innovative reforms in 2014 and 2015, we worked closely with Secretary Layne and his staff to find a practical solution to not only move the Transform 66 project forward, but to make it better for citizens throughout the congested I-66 corridor. The House budget will contain language and funding to immediately begin work on adding new lane capacity inside the beltway, a key concern from members of both parties. We appreciate the Governor’s willingness to discuss this important issue, and are grateful for the time and efforts of Secretary Layne and his staff.”

Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne added, “This plan will significantly improve the I-66 corridor by moving more people with fewer vehicles, giving solo drivers the option to stay on the road and pay a toll during the peak travel times and increasing carpools, buses and transit in the corridor.  We will also begin the process to widen the road at a key bottleneck inside the beltway that will add further capacity without requiring the loss of any existing homes or businesses. This is a comprehensive plan that will ease congestion, support smart growth and advance the Governor’s goal of building a new Virginia economy.

“This bipartisan agreement will ease congestion and stimulate economic growth that will benefit the entire Commonwealth,” said Senator Hanger (R-Augusta). “I am proud of the way in which leaders of both parties and both branches of government were able to sit down and find a way forward on this important project.”

“My colleagues and I made the case for widening I-66 inside the beltway,” said Delegate LeMunyon (R-Fairfax). “I’m glad there is now consensus on the need to do this as soon as possible. This is a step forward in our efforts to address the gridlock on I-66 within the limits of current budget resources. I look forward to taking additional steps to reduce congestion in this key corridor.”

Senator Barbara Favola (D-Arlington) added, “I appreciate the bipartisan commitment to find a compromise that preserves the I-66 transformation, including the multimodal improvements​ such as commuter bus services and facilitating carpooling options​ that are so critical to reducing commuting times for the people of this region.”

The work to start widening of eastbound I-66 from the Dulles Connector Road to Ballston will commence this year with an environmental assessment.  Construction work will start in 2017 and the new lane will be open to traffic in 2019. This construction will take place within the existing right-of-way, will not take any homes and will be designed in a context sensitive manner.

Project description:

  • Converts I-66 inside the beltway to Express Lanes during rush hours in the peak directions, widens I-66 eastbound from the Dulles Connector Road and improves transit service throughout the corridor.
  • If you carpool today (two or more people in a vehicle), you will continue to ride the lanes for free when dynamic tolling is scheduled to begin in 2017 during morning and evening rush-hours (5:30 am to 9:30 am eastbound and 3 pm to 7 pm westbound).  Solo drivers can ride the lanes in exchange for paying a variable toll based on the distance they travel. Average toll is expected to be $6 a trip.
  • In 2020, lanes will be free to vehicles with three or more people during rush-hours (carpoolers, vanpools and buses) and motorcycles per adopted regional policy.  All others will pay a variable toll.
  • The lanes will remain free to all traffic during off-peak periods.  There will be no tolling in the reverse commute.
  • All of the revenues raised from the tolls will be used by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission for improvements in the corridor such as new transit service and carpooling incentives.  Estimated toll revenue in 2018 is $18 million.
  • Toll revenues will finance the environmental work and construction to widen I-66 eastbound from the Dulles Connector Road to Ballston – eliminating the current bottleneck inside the beltway.
  • Estimated cost of construction is up to $140 million and will be funded with increased revenues from the recently passed FAST Act and improved state revenues. No revenues will be taken from the HB2 recommended projects released in January.

The expected benefits of the project include the following:

  • Reduce more than 26,000 person hours of delay a day in the future.
  • Move more than 40,000 additional people through the I-66 corridor a day in the future.
  • Provide reliable travel speeds of at least 45 mph during rush hours in the peak direction.
  • Provide increased travel choices for single-occupant drivers and better transit service.

Extensive studies performed over the past several administrations in Virginia show a combination of dynamic tolling and multi-modal improvements will provide a faster and more reliable trip on I-66 inside the beltway during peak travel times, providing a minimum reliable speed of at least 45 miles per hour.

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Morning Notes

Colorful sunset, as seen from the Costco parking lot in Pentagon City (Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick)

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

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Morning Notes

Waiting for the bus in Buckingham (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

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VDOT Plans I-395 HOT Lanes as Arlington Endorses I-66 Tolling Plan

Heavy traffic on I-395 (file photo)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.

Traffic on I-66Last 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.

The Arlington County Board today endorsed in concept the Virginia Department of Transportation’s (VDOT) I-66 Multimodal Improvement Project: Inside the Beltway.

The goals of the Commonwealth’s Transform66: Inside the Beltway project are to move more people; enhance transportation connectivity; improve transit service; reduce congestion; and increase transportation options.

In a resolution  adopted by a vote of 3 to 2, the Board said it endorses “in concept” the implementation of weekday, peak-period, peak-direction, dynamic tolling on I-66 inside the Beltway. It also endorsed in concept the Memorandum of Agreement between the Commonwealth and the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission to use toll revenues to fund crucial multimodal improvements around I-66 inside the Beltway.

“Changes are coming to I-66 inside the beltway, and it is important that Arlington be at the table to ensure that those changes work for our community,” said Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes. “The Board today is endorsing the concept of the Commonwealth’s plan for the corridor – and spells out clearly what Arlington believes it will take to ensure a successful implementation.”

The Board set several goals it wants to achieve for implementing the project. Among those are:

  • VDOT shall not pursue any widening of I-66 inside the Beltway until after a meaningful evaluation of the effectiveness of the project’s tolling, HOV-3 and multimodal components – no sooner than 2025.
  • VDOT will work with affected communities to monitor and mitigate the effects of traffic diversion onto local roads, and to plan and implement a comprehensive multi-year transportation demand management strategy for residents living near and workers using the corridor.
  • Toll revenues shall not supplant existing VDOT funds for the maintenance of I-66 or other facilities in the corridor
  • The project should provide a predictable source of funding to NVTC for multimodal investments, and that the agreement facilitates NVTC’s use of the funding for issuing bonds for larger scale multimodal improvements, including Metrorail.

To read the staff report adopted by the County Board, visit the County website. Scroll down to Item #36 on the Agenda for the Thurs., Nov. 19, 2015 Recessed County Board Meeting. Also see the final resolution adopted by the Board.

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Arlington Residents Voice Criticism of VDOT Plan for I-66 Tolls

(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.”

Money from the tolls would go into a fund that would pay for improvements to I-66 as well as the roads, like Wilson and Washington Blvds, that would possibly handle an increase in traffic from people diverting off of I-66, Coyner said.

The fund would pay for multimodal projects that would provide benefits to toll payers and move more people on the corridor, Coyner said, but she could not give additional specifics.

People also raised concerns about pushing traffic off on I-66 and onto Arlington roads like Washington and Wilson Blvds and Fairfax Drive.

“It’s already congested. Hearing all these meetings and being at all of them, I still do not see nor do I feel confident that we are properly addressing that, and for the community leaders, it is a huge issue. It already is. It’s going to get worse,” said Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association President Nia Bagley.

While few Arlington residents at the meeting supported the I-66 proposal, County Board member John Vihstadt said that some do support the I-66 plans. Vihstadt and County Board member Jay Fisette attended last night’s meeting.

“We’ve received letters from people all across the spectrum,” Vihstadt said, while noting that the majority has been against the proposal.

The County Board will hold a public hearing on I-66 and will vote on whether or not to support the plan in November, he said.

“I’m not sold on this plan yet,” Vihstadt said. “I’m looking forward to hearing more data and more information to help me make this decision.”

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Morning Notes

Runners lined up for the 9/11 Memorial 5K Run on Saturday (courtesy photo)

Suspicious Vehicle Investigation at Pentagon — An SUV hopped a curb and ran into a pole at the Pentagon’s south parking lot Sunday morning. All three occupants of the vehicle were reportedly sleeping when police arrived, but then tried to drive away. Arlington’s bomb squad helped to check out the vehicle, which was deemed suspicious due to loose wires seen hanging out of it. [MyFoxDC, ABC News]

Va. Advances Potential I-395 Express Lane Plan — Virginia transportation officials are getting closer to announcing a plan to extend the I-95 Express Lanes up through I-395. Arlington officials previously filed suit to block a similar state plan to convert the I-395 HOV lanes to High Occupancy Toll lanes. [WTOP]

APS Students Named National Merit Semifinalists — Ten Arlington Public Schools students have been named semifinalists in the National Merit Scholarship Competition. [Arlington Public Schools]

Arlington to Seek Route 1 Name Change — Arlington County plans to seek permission from the state to change the name of Jefferson Davis Highway in Arlington, according to County Board Chair Mary Hynes. However, one local state lawmaker says it’s highly unlikely that the Republican-controlled state legislature would okay the removal of Confederate leaders from local road names. [Washington Post]

Woman Dies in GW Parkway Wreck — A woman died early Sunday morning in a single-vehicle crash on the GW Parkway. The crash happened after the woman drove off the southbound side of the parkway, between Route 123 and Spout Run, and struck a tree. [WJLA]

Candlelight Vigil for Wakefield Student — A candlelight vigil is planned tonight for Lucas Guajardo, the Wakefield High School student who died Friday. The vigil is being organized by students and is planned to take place at 7:30 p.m. on the George Mason Drive side of the school. A GoFundMe account has been set up to help Guajardo’s family with funeral expenses. The junior, who was a running back on the Warriors’ football team, was found dead by his older brother Friday afternoon after an apparent suicide. [TwitterGoFundMe]

Suicide’s Lasting Impact on SurvivorsBryan Price, a former Arlington Sheriff’s Deputy, shot and killed himself on May 17. His wife found Bryan’s body and says his decision to end his own life has torn her family apart. “If he had any clue what this would put us through… I honestly don’t think he could have done it,” Tara Price told a local TV station. [WHSV]

Courtesy photo

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Public Meeting Scheduled on I-66 HOV Lanes, Tolls

Traffic on I-66

(Updated on 7/31/15) The Virginia Department of Transportation is going back to Arlington residents to hear their concerns about its planned Transform 66 project.

Del. Patrick Hope organized a public meeting featuring representatives from VDOT on Saturday at Arlington Central Library auditorium (1015 N. Quincy Street) from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. to discuss the proposed changes to the highway inside the Beltway.

The planned features include turning the HOV lanes on I-66 between Rosslyn and I-495 into to High Occupancy Travel (HOT) lanes during weekday peak periods. These lanes would be open for anyone with three or more passengers or those who are willing to pay a toll. The new lanes would also not accept Clean Fuel license plates issued before 2006 as a way to avoid the toll.

The idea is to “deliver free-flowing and more reliable travel,” according to VDOT, but some Arlington residents have spoken out against the changes. Arlington residents packed into the library’s auditorium in June to hear from VDOT staff about changes. A lengthy Q&A period followed with many residents expressing their displeasure toward the proposed changes. County Board member John Vihstadt was also in attendance.

Attendees raised concerns about the amount of traffic that would be redirected to Arlington streets as a result of the lane changes. Others proposed that VDOT allow Arlington residents to use the HOT lanes for free since they were supposedly paying for the changes without getting any benefits.

An Arlington resident has also started a group to oppose the changes. The 66 Alliance had 350 members as of June 17.

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Morning Notes

Soldiers from The Old Guard in the snow  (photo via @The_Old_Guard)

Another Early Morning Fire — Arlington County firefighters rescued a man from an early morning house fire on the 2100 block of S. Randolph Street. This is the second day in a row that Arlington firefighters rescued someone from a house fire. [WJLA]

Association Moves from Alexandria to Arlington — The American Diabetes Association is moving from Alexandria to Arlington. The association has signed a 78,000 square foot lease for a building in Crystal City. The building, owned by Vornado, has been vacant since the previous military moved out due to the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Act. [Washington Business Journal]

Snow Total for Arlington — Yesterday’s afternoon snowfall resulted in an accumulation of 0.4 inches in Arlington, according to a measurement at Reagan National Airport. In the Great Falls section of Fairfax County, 1.8 inches was recorded. [National Weather Service]

Va. Considering All-HOT Lanes I-66 — Virginia is considering a plan to convert I-66 to HOT lanes only during peak periods. That would mean that transit and carpools of three or more people are allowed to use the highway for free during rush hours, but anyone else has to pay tolls. Construction could begin as soon as next year, with the goal of starting HOT lane service by 2017. [Washington Post]

Opening Date for Kapnos in BallstonKapnos Taverna, the new 165-seat Greek restaurant from chef Mike Isabella, has set an official opening date of Tuesday, Jan. 27. The restaurant is located at 4000 Wilson Blvd in Ballston.

Photo via @The_Old_Guard

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