Arlington Coalition for Sensible Transportation
Statement to the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board
by Allen Muchnick, president, February 18, 2015
I’m Allen Muchnick with the Arlington Coalition for Sensible Transportation. While VDOT’s proposal for I-66 inside the Beltway offers great potential, we have three major concerns. First, VDOT has not yet committed to a robust and expedient implementation of the many non-roadway multimodal improvements that previous studies have shown are essential to effectively move people in the corridor. Second, VDOT has not yet committed to fully, fairly, and openly evaluate the purpose and need--and all reasonable alternatives--for any additional widening of I-66 and to adequately avoid, minimize, and mitigate the negative impacts of that widening. Third, VDOT has not yet committed to daily durations of congestion pricing and HOV restrictions that would largely or completely eliminate weekday congestion on I-66.
Because VDOT is subject to external political pressures, the agency has long failed to effectively manage its HOV facilities and thereby incentivize public transportation and ridesharing. Indeed, VDOT’s chronic failure to increase the HOV hours and occupancy requirements and to prevent rampant HOV cheating on I-66 is the impetus for both new I-66 projects. The I-495 and I-95 Express Lane projects were both originally promised to include robust bus transit improvements that have not materialized, and the Washington Post just reported that HOV vehicles account for only one-third of the daily traffic on the new I-95 Express Lanes, a facility that was originally built as an exclusive busway. Consistent with this pattern, VDOT’s revised CLRP Project Description Forms for both I-66 projects lack the Congestion Management Documentation Forms, directed under Item 32c.
Except 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, increased use of public transit and other SOV alternatives, and the greater vitality of regional activity centers, by increasing vehicular travel 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). By contrast, modest I-66 corridor transit improvements, such as running all eight-car Metrorail trains and adding just 30 commuter buses per hour, would move many more people than two more I-66 vehicle lanes, and there seems to be no way to widen I-66 eastbound without creating new bottlenecks.
Thus, we ask that VDOT’s CLRP amendment for I-66 inside the Beltway provide three clear assurances: 1) VDOT will commit to a robust and expedient implementation schedule for the non-roadway multimodal improvements by September 2015; 2) VDOT will fully, fairly, and openly evaluate the purpose and need--and all reasonable alternatives--for any yet-unbuilt I-66 widening and will adequately avoid, minimize, and mitigate the negative impacts of that widening, including on noise, water quality, parkland, wetlands, and trails; and 3) VDOT will establish daily durations of congestion pricing and HOV restrictions that largely or completely eliminate weekday congestion on I-66.