Friday, February 19, 2016

Audrey Clement's Statement at Feb. 2016 TPB Meeting



Audrey Clement, Ph.D.
Member, Arlington Coalition for Sensible Transportation
February 20, 2016

As you know, a plan recently approved by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) that would have tolled I-66 inside the Beltway in 2017 and widen it later only if necessary was scuttled in a deal worked out between Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and tolling opponents in the Virginia General Assembly.

Under the new plan VDOT will widen eastbound I-66 between the Dulles Toll Road and Exit 71 at Fairfax Drive in exchange for federal highway funds to pay for the added lane--at a cost of $140 million--and tolls to pay for more transit. The Governor bills the deal as a compromise and says he’s happy with it. Another official who is happy with it is Delegate Jim LeMunyon of Centreville, who led the opposition to tolling I-66.

Even as he whipped up anti-tolling hysteria along the I-66 corridor, LeMunyon didn’t oppose tolling himself. He just opposed tolling without widening. Yet a cost benefit analysis mandated by HB 599, legislation that LeMunyon himself sponsored in 2012, shows tolling alone as the most cost effective solution to congestion on I-66 on every object metric reported.


Nevertheless Governor McAuliffe thinks he’s dodged a bullet, because tolling opponents could have insisted on widening I-66 all the way to Rosslyn.

In fact that is precisely what Delegate LeMunyon wants to do. He is the principal patron of HJR 110, which requires the Virginia Secretary Transportation to study:

  •  adding “one, two, and three new lanes and multi-modal capacity to Interstate 66 in each direction between the Capital Beltway and Washington, D.C.”; 
  • combining Route 29 and I66 in Arlington into a limited access, double deck highway;
  • buying up land for additional lanes; and
  • selling air rights to pay for it.


My principal objection to the “compromise” is not that it will dump induced traffic at a key intersection in Ballston where plans for 1,000 new units of hi-rise housing with parking are also in the works—thus making Ballston a dangerous place to walk or ride a bike. Think Tysons Corner. My objection to the deal is that it is just the first leg in a plan that will ultimately pave over Arlington with an eight to ten lane super highway as per HJR 110 and dump the induced traffic at the terminus of I-66 on Constitution Avenue in DC.

ACST Statement at Feb. 2016 TPB Meeting



Arlington Coalition for Sensible Transportation
Statement to the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board
by Allen Muchnick, president, February 17, 2016

I’m Allen Muchnick with the Arlington Coalition for Sensible Transportation (or ACST).  Since 1999, ACST has advocated "wiser, not wider" management and multimodal improvements to I-66 inside the Beltway, to most effectively move people and minimize highway congestion and travel times.

One year ago, VDOT proposed the I-66 inside the Beltway Multimodal Project for addition to the CLRP.  Since then, this project was substantially modified in several ways, in response to feedback and pushback from the public and some of their elected officials.  In particular, the restoration of HOV-3 was delayed until after 2020, HOV requirements and tolling in the reverse-commute direction were dropped entirely, and the completion of a four-mile eastbound widening of I-66 to Ballston was advanced from approximately 2025 to 2019.  The new CLRP project description form for this project, dated February 10, needs to be updated already to incorporate VDOT’s upcoming environmental assessment study for the four-mile eastbound widening.

Ever since the landmark 1977 Coleman Decision was nullified by Congress in 1999, our region has suffered from the lack of an adopted long-term management plan for this key multimodal corridor.  While VDOT’s 2011-2013 I-66 Multimodal Study pointed in the right direction, the changes to the Multimodal Project over the past year were partly a step backward.

VDOT’s upcoming NEPA study for the four-mile eastbound widening is a critical opportunity for our region to develop and adopt a new long-term management plan for this entire corridor between I-495 and Rosslyn.  Besides evaluating, avoiding, minimizing, and fully mitigating the adverse impacts of the wider highway on adjacent communities and the natural and built environment, the upcoming NEPA study should develop and establish an accepted ongoing process to determine: 1) how and when HOV requirements and tolls should be expanded in the reverse-commute direction and even during peak weekend hours and 2) how and when HOV-3 should be restored.

The NEPA study should also carefully ascertain that the proposed four-mile eastbound widening does not create new eastbound bottlenecks where travel lanes are dropped at the East Falls Church and/or Ballston exits.

To best evaluate the merits of the proposed widening, the No Build Alternative for this NEPA study should include the peak-direction HOT operations that are scheduled for implementation by summer 2017, and at least one Build Alternative should include HOT operations in both directions without the widening.   

In conclusion, we ask the TPB to ensure that the upcoming NEPA study for the four-mile eastbound widening of I-66 is carefully scoped and crafted to develop and establish a new and robust long-term plan for wisely managing the I-66 inside the Beltway Multimodal Corridor for many years to come, to best move more people and minimize highway congestion and travel times.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

ACST Talking Points for Anti-Tolling Bills



      SUPPORT THE CURRENT PLAN FOR 
I-66 INSIDE THE BELTWAY

Oppose HB 1 (LeMunyon), HB 631 (J. Bell),
HB 916 (Bulova), SB 234 (Petersen), SB 516 (McPike)

The Legislation

HB 1, HB 631, HB 916, SB 234 and SB 516 would prohibit tolls from being imposed on I-66 in Northern Virginia inside the Capital Beltway.

Reasons to Oppose HB 1, HB 631, HB 916, SB 234, SB516

  1. These bills would kill the comprehensive proposal (Transform66) to improve I-66 inside the Beltway developed by VDOT and the Secretary of Transportation’s Office. This proposal is the result of years of study and negotiation and has been approved by the Commonwealth Transportation Board.
  2. The plan these bills would kill would turn the current part-time, peak-direction-only high-occupancy-vehicle-only facility (2.5 hours/weekday) into a high-occupancy-vehicle/toll facility (4 hours/weekday), provides for widening a segment of the highway, and uses a competitive process to dedicate all excess toll revenue (beyond the costs to build, operate, and maintain the toll facility) to cost-effective multimodal improvements within the corridor that will move an estimated 40,000 more people each day, faster and more reliably.
  3. The bill patrons suggest widening more of I-66 instead. This would be far more costly and less effective and would likely not be accomplished for many years, if ever. Using the congestion-reduction and cost-effectiveness analyses developed for Northern Virginia pursuant to HB 599 (2012), VDOT has shown that the proposed HOT conversion is six times more cost effective than widening at reducing congestion. It would cost an estimated $100 million to add one more eastbound lane for only four miles, and perhaps as much as $1 billion to widen all the way to DC.
  4. The current plan does not prohibit widening. It provides for widening one segment, after making more cost-effective improvements first.
  5. The project does include tolling – but only during peak weekday hours and only for solo drivers (who cannot legally use the facility today). Thus, it provides new (and reliably fast) access to I-66 inside the Beltway for motorists driving alone. And it will improve toll-free travel options for corridor commuters: carpools and bus commuters will see faster and more reliable trips and funding will go to expanding commuter bus and ridesharing services.
  6. The project is self-financing. It would be built, operated, and maintained without any federal, state, or regional transportation funds (other than a loan that would be paid back by toll revenues), leaving scarce transportation dollars for other needed projects throughout the Commonwealth.
  7. Killing the current plan would likely lead to another decade or more of political and traffic gridlock.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

ACST Dec. 8, 2015 Statement to Commonwealth Transportation Board



I’m Allen Muchnick with the Arlington Coalition for Sensible Transportation (or ACST).  Since 1999, ACST has advocated "wiser, not wider" traffic management and multimodal improvements to I-66 inside the Beltway, to most effectively move more people, increase ridesharing and transit use, expand travel choices, and minimize highway congestion and travel times.

We commend Governor McAuliffe and Secretary Layne for moving forward with both Transform I-66 projects.  While we oppose expanding I-66 highway capacity as generally counterproductive, we acknowledge the current federal mandate against tolling existing general-purpose highway capacity outside the Beltway and the need for compromises to achieve regional consensus.

That said, both I-66 projects were necessitated by the Commonwealth’s decades-long failure to effectively manage I-66 as a multimodal corridor with Metrorail.  Inside the Beltway, the HOV occupancy requirements were progressively reduced from 4 to 2, while the HOV hours stayed constant and an HOV exemption for single-occupant clean-fuel vehicles was added.  Outside the Beltway, an inherently flawed unseparated HOV lane was built.

More recently, VDOT’s development of the inside the Beltway project has been a public relations disaster, needlessly generating strong fears, controversy, and objections throughout Northern Virginia.  When VDOT’s I-66 Multimodal sketch-planning Study concluded in 2012, VDOT failed to initiate a follow-up public process, to further refine the study’s recommendations in advance of a specific implementation project.  Instead, VDOT was silent until late 2014, when an implementation project was suddenly announced without details or information on potential adverse impacts, and the proposal had to be modified repeatedly in response to widespread public opposition.

We offer the following recommendations going forward:

1)    Since the tolls inside the Beltway are primarily to prevent congestion, set the toll price at each gantry to zero whenever current traffic volumes are below the highway’s capacity. 

2)    Establish a public process for adjusting the inside-the-Beltway hours and directions of tolls and HOV restrictions as well as any restoration of HOV-3.  The objectives should be to keep I-66 perpetually uncongested during peak travel times while moving the most people by ridesharing and transit.  As area motorists become accustomed to tolled express lanes and EZ pass transponders are widely used, there may be considerable public support in the future to expand the hours of congestion management on I-66.

3)    Phase the reconstruction of I-66 outside the Beltway to avoid any need for a private financing partner, to maximize the use of toll revenue for multimodal improvements and avoid any penalties for competing transit improvements. 

Thank you for this opportunity to comment on these vital regional projects.