Sunday, June 10, 2007

ACST Remarks to Transportation Planning Board, May 16, 2007

Statement to the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board
by Allen Muchnick, President, May 16, 2007
I’m Allen Muchnick with the Arlington Coalition for Sensible Transportation (ACST). Please deny or significantly modify VDOT’s I-66 "Spot Improvements" project for its failure to honor TPB objectives, for its rejection of superior and more cost effective traffic-management alternatives, for its sham and ridiculous public process, for its grossly inadequate analyses of traffic and environmental impacts, and because it would worsen, not improve, regional traffic congestion, highway safety, incident management, emergency evacuation, transit ridership, and ridesharing.

The I-66 project involves neither "spots" nor "improvements", and changes of this nature were not even mentioned in the March 2005 final report of VDOT’s Idea-66 Feasibility Study. Rather, this project was concocted in mid-2005 as a scheme to construct major segments of a third westbound I-66 travel lane, using Frank Wolf’s federal earmarks, without considering any alternatives or any of the many adverse environmental or traffic impacts of this particular project.

Do not allow VDOT to continue misrepresenting this project as involving only operational improvements, and please require VDOT to conduct at least a proper Environmental Assessment for its proposed action. The true purpose of this unnecessary, counterproductive, and unwarranted project is to expand I-66 capacity for untolled, single-occupant vehicles. It would worsen traffic congestion on connected westbound highways, along eastbound I-66, and at nearby Arlington and Fairfax County intersections, but VDOT is purposefully evading meaningful traffic analyses. Moreover, this project would create two new westbound bottlenecks at the low-volume Glebe Road and Sycamore St exits, where three westbound lanes would drop down to two. Please at least require VDOT to report back to the TPB in early 2008 with fair and objective analyses of the impacts of this project on regional traffic and on the environmental mitigations, required under the Coleman Decision, to provide wetlands, wildlife habitat, and public open space within VDOT’s right-of-way for I-66.
Claims that "spot improvements" would facilitate emergency evacuations are bogus; the added lanes and wide outside shoulders would be mandatory exits at Glebe Rd and at Sycamore St, and their construction would fail to provide a continuous wide inside shoulder and would likely narrow the existing inside shoulder. VDOT should be required to report to the TPB on a spot improvement alternative that would simply provide a continuous 12-foot wide inside shoulder along I-66 inside the Beltway.
Please require VDOT to report back to the TPB in early 2008 on the results of its current "spot improvements" study. At that time, the TPB should revisit the issue of whether the I-66 "Spot Improvements" project should remain in the CLRP and TIP.

ACST Remarks to Commonwealth Transportation Board, May 23, 2007

Commonwealth Transportation Board
Northern Virginia Hearing for VDOT Six-Year Improvement Program
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Remarks of Allen Muchnick, President
Arlington Coalition for Sensible Transportation

Since 1999, ACST has advocated expedient and permanent solutions to traffic congestion on I-66 inside the Beltway via better traffic demand management and public transportation options. We commend Secretary Homer for committing to fund a comprehensive alternatives study for the I-66 multimodal corridor, with the active involvement of the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, WMATA, and the District of Columbia. We ask that this multimodal study and stakeholder involvement be initiated immediately and include meaningful external oversight of VDOT’s current "spot improvements" study.

VDOT’s current Idea-66 spot widening project is unnecessary, counterproductive, and not warranted by any fair and transparent study. Virginia still can’t afford to waste highway expansion dollars on a project that will create new I-66 bottlenecks, narrow safety shoulders or travel lanes, worsen traffic congestion overall, reduce carpooling and Metrorail ridership on both the Orange Line and Dulles Rail, and desecrate the landmark USDOT Record of Decision that established the I-66 multimodal corridor.

Since the proposed "spot improvements" have been rationalized as relieving traffic congestion and facilitating emergency evacuations, we ask VDOT to conduct full, fair, and peer-reviewed traffic modeling to ensure that this project won’t worsen traffic congestion on eastbound I-66, on freeways linked to westbound I-66, and at nearby Arlington and Fairfax County intersections, as well as on westbound I-66, both during months of construction and at two new westbound bottlenecks at Glebe Rd and Sycamore St. We also ask VDOT to study and report on a "spot improvement" alternative of providing a continuous wide inside shoulder on I-66 for emergency evacuations; for improved police enforcement, incident management, and motorist safety; and for potential use as a busway when the I-66 travel lanes are congested.