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.