Friday, November 14, 2008

Beating an Undead Trojan Horse

The state can't afford it. Arlington doesn't want it. So why does I66 expansion keep moving forward?

The Arlington Civic Federation, by a two-thirds margin, said no again this week to a wider I66. That's after a public hearing at Washington-Lee High School a couple of weeks back at which nearly everyone opposed expansion plans.

Pushed by Rep. Frank Wolf and Rep. Tom Davis, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) wants to make "spot improvements" to the westbound lanes of I66 in three spots in Arlington. "What’s proposed here is a gross waste of money," Arlington County Board Member Chris Zimmerman (D) said. "All you’re doing is moving the bottlenecks around."

Of course, the "spot improvements" are just a trojan horse to fully expand I66 through Arlington to three lanes. And that pesky media, not clued into the charade, keeps giving it away. One story back in October called plans to expand the road finalized. All this public comment is apparently just a charade.

With money for transportation projects so tight, funding for the $75 million "spot improvements" is being pieced together. Meanwhile, the federal government is reluctant to step in to help Metro with its current financing mess. Where are the priorities?

Wolf and Davis claim the widenings will help evacuations of DC in case of emergency. But if I66 is packed for a simple morning rush, how will a few extra stretches of pavement enable tens of thousands of cars to pile on at the same time? After all, even a full lane of highway moving at top speed can only handle something like 1,500 cars an hour.

But what do they care? The evacuation route argument is just another gimmick. The real goal is the same as it was when the road was first proposed in 1956 -- force the road on Arlington, and force Arlingtonians to breathe the pollution of vehicles from making their commutes from sprawling developments in Fairfax County, Loudoun County and beyond.

To learn more about the history of I66 and how to get involved, visit the Arlington Coalition for Sensible Transportation.

Cross-posted from RK

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