Arlington Coalition for Sensible Transportation
Statement to the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board
by Allen Muchnick, president, January 21, 2015
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.
VDOT’s proposal to convert I-66 inside the Beltway into a High-Occupancy/Toll (HOT-3) facility, in both directions, during peak periods only, is the sort of smart, cost-effective, and permanent solution to I-66 traffic congestion that ACST has advocated for the past 15 years. We thank the TPB for repeatedly pushing VDOT to conduct a full, fair, and transparent study leading to a long-term strategic plan for effectively managing the I-66 multimodal corridor, which includes two Metrorail lines, several parallel arterial roadways, two regional bikeways, and serves many commuter buses and carpools. While not perfect or complete, VDOT’s one-year I-66 inside the Beltway Multimodal Study was a commendable beginning, especially considering its time and financial constraints, and VDOT wisely directed the project team to refine the study’s recommendations into a Supplemental Final Report dated August 2013. We also applaud Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne for boldly directing VDOT to implement the study’s recommended integrated multimodal packages and, in particular, to expeditiously initiate peak-period congestion pricing on I-66 in both directions.
Public opposition to HOT lanes, especially lanes that were previously toll-free, will require VDOT to conduct rigorous analyses and effective public outreach to demonstrate the wisdom of the proposed HOV-2 to HOT-3 conversion. To be truly effective, the new HOT hours should at least equal the current eight daily hours of HOV restrictions on I-66 outside the Beltway, and the toll revenue must pay the capital and operating costs of the many recommended, but still unfunded, multimodal corridor improvements. Notably, VDOT should promptly develop and promote a detailed implementation schedule for the associated multimodal improvements.
We appreciate that VDOT does not currently propose any new widening of I-66 east of Ballston, and that most or all of its proposed I-66 widening may remain within the existing I-66 footprint. Nevertheless, other than to eliminate short bottlenecks and facilitate merging, VDOT’s newly proposed I-66 widening would directly undermine the regional objectives of reduced traffic congestion, reduced VMT and carbon emissions, and increased use of public transit and other SOV alternatives, by increasing daily VMT in the regional core by what could exceed 30,000 added daily trips (1,500 vehicles/lane/hour added capacity x 2 lanes x 10). Also, widening I-66 between I-495 and the Dulles Connector Road seems completely unnecessary and could worsen the already awful eastbound merge of I-66 and the Connector Road.
Since the HOT conversion with multimodal improvements and the newly proposed I-66 widening are at cross purposes and have divergent impacts and implementation schedules, VDOT should divide its new proposal for I-66 inside the Beltway into two distinct CLRP amendments. In addition, VDOT’s proposed NEPA study should include a range of alternatives to further widening I-66, including multimodal and operating upgrades to Route 50.