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


Matt McKnight said...

"So why does I66 expansion keep moving forward?"
It keeps moving forward because it is a ridiculously undersized road. The 4->2 lane in bound lane squeeze exaggerates the effect of the evening traffic by forcing more merging. The expansion of Ballston keeps moving forward, while the opportunity to tax developers for the infrastructure requirements they are creating is disappearing. It's time to catch up with the current reality.

"force Arlingtonians to breathe the pollution of vehicles from making their commutes from sprawling developments in Fairfax County, Loudoun County and beyond."
The traffic is terribly backed up not with commuters coming from Loudoun and Fairfax, HOV keeps that flow moving, but with commuters coming from Arlington and DC to Tyson's Corner and other points west. The traffic is terribly backed up on the weekends. It's the not the same problem it used to be. What you are saying is wrong. In reality, by having cars pass through more quickly, the total pollution and gas usage would be reduced.

Allen Muchnick said...

The landmark 1977 Coleman Record of Decision established I-66 inside-the- Beltway as a multimodal transportation corridor with a *managed* urban freeway, Metrorail's Orange Line in the median, and shared-use paths along both sides of the highway. Better traffic management is the optimal--and only viable way--to significantly improve traffic operations on I-66.

Extending the HOV-2 hours, both in the "peak direction", at the "shoulders" of the current 2.5-hour restriction, and for at least a short one-hour period in the "reverse commute" direction would do much to eliminate I-66 congestion and would enable effective express bus operations.
It would cost the taxpayers nothing and could be implemented almost immediately.

If I-66 were built today, it would be managed with 21st Century congestion pricing (variably priced, automated tolls), as VDOT is currently advancing on both the Capital Beltway and Shirley Highway. I-66 should become part of this regional HOT lane network.

The currently proposed westbound "spot improvements" are neither spots nor improvements and will only move the current bottlenecks down the road a bit *and* WORSEN traffic congestion elsewhere, especially along eastbound I-66.

For more current information on the Arlington Coalition for Sensible Transportation, please visit our blog at