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.