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I-66 spot widening to start

This project, which has set outside-the-Beltway commuters against inside-the-Beltway communities, is scheduled to begin next week.

Rather than widening all of close-in Interstate 66, as many long-distance drivers would prefer, the Virginia Department of Transportation has picked three spots on the westbound side where it believes the highway can be safely expanded.

The first target, where construction is set to start, is a 1.9-mile zone between Fairfax Drive and Sycamore Street in Arlington County. The work will take 18 months, VDOT said Tuesday.

Planners hope this spot widening will ease the highway's notorious congestion by expanding the highway's footprint. It's a compromise based on the amount of money available for construction and on transportation politics. Many Arlington residents oppose any widening. They say the project will increase pollution without easing congestion.

What to expect
This $10.2 million phase of construction will start with the closing of one of the two westbound lanes from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Sunday through Thursday nights during June and July. Then, periodic lane closings will occur until the project is done in December 2011. All lane closings will be at night. None will occur on weekends or holidays.

During the June-July work, the right lane will be closed nightly while crews rebuild the right shoulder. Traffic will then be switched to the shoulder while concrete traffic barriers are installed and the lanes are temporarily re-striped.

When the first spot improvement is completed, VDOT said, the westbound acceleration and deceleration lane between Fairfax Drive and Sycamore Street will be lengthened to form a continuous auxiliary lane between the two ramps. A new 12-foot shoulder will be constructed with full-strength pavement capable of carrying traffic during emergencies.

The other spot improvements are planned for the westbound lanes between Haycock Road and Westmoreland Street, and between Lee Highway and Glebe Road.

By Robert Thomson  | June 8, 2010; 5:15 PM ET
Categories:  Commuting, Construction, Transportation Politics, Virginia  | Tags:  Dr. Gridlock, I-66  
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Why are they doing this? Arlington and DC are the only places you can find trees and peace of mind and walk safely without mega highway construction these days! Now they want to take that away too!

Posted by: SusanMarie2 | June 8, 2010 6:19 PM | Report abuse

What crazy m-fer wants to walk down I-66??

The NIMBYs cause urban sprawl and then complain about it. How very American of them.

Posted by: fireball72 | June 8, 2010 8:03 PM | Report abuse

Actually fireball, there is a path (Custis Trail) which winds along Rt. 66 and down Rt. 29 to the Key Bridge and beyond. I just walked a short stretch of it today to cross the Key Bridge into Geogetown. Its amazing how the residential areas and ecosystem have adapted to the tightly woven Rt. 66 corridor coming through here. Because of the sound barriers and the way it was designed, you can be yards from it and not even know it is there. You don't even have to ever get on it. Its shocking to imagine how disruptive this road construction so close-in to already established peaceful areas will be.

Posted by: SusanMarie2 | June 8, 2010 10:13 PM | Report abuse

The project is good news for those of us who live and drive in Arlington. It will reduce traffic on our local streets (Lee, Wilson, Washington), as well as reducing congestion on I-66 westbound. And the bike/pedestrian path will be preserved.

Don't be fooled by the anti-auto rhetoric of Arlington elected officials. Many Arlington residents and WELCOME this improvement project. Congrats to Gov. McDonnell for getting it moving!

Posted by: jrmil | June 9, 2010 7:54 AM | Report abuse

Build baby build!

Posted by: bo___stinks | June 9, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Nobody in Arlington should have a yard. In any real city the entire area would be high rises to prevent the rape of rural areas. Why does Arlington prefer to rape rural areas instead of permitting dense, affordable, transit-oriented housing?

Posted by: seraphina21 | June 9, 2010 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Although I've only lived in Arlington for the last few months I have really enjoyed the peace and quiet around the Rt. 29, Clarendon area. I was in Fairfax and Loudoun Counties for 35 years and came in here frequently using I-66. I always assumed that construction on 66 was done and there would be no widening and that people would move forward to address traffic concerns on 66 around Arlington, not backwards. It turns out there was an actual agreement never to expand these lanes - The Coleman Decision. More on this website.

Posted by: SusanMarie2 | June 9, 2010 11:33 AM | Report abuse

Move forward to where, Susan, your yard? Maybe some of the undocumented out in Fairfax County can pitch tents by your precious McMansion.

Posted by: seraphina21 | June 9, 2010 12:49 PM | Report abuse

Actually seraphin, I don't have a yard. I'm in a tiny rental in an older building and walk, take the bus or ride Metro 95% of the time now.

Posted by: SusanMarie2 | June 9, 2010 2:50 PM | Report abuse

I gave up the McMansion. :)

Posted by: SusanMarie2 | June 9, 2010 3:01 PM | Report abuse

I have little faith that this extra lane will alleviate any of the traffic issues in that specific area. I drive I-66 westbound most mornings. There seems to be no clear reason why traffic backs up in this area - well that was before the left lane closure because of the Dulles Metro expansion past East Falls Church. Why between these two exits, traffic slows to a crawl, just confounds me. I've noticed that there were a series of recent traffic surveys conducted at the onramps to maybe adjust the onramp traffic signals. Little that will do since it seems most drivers just ignore them anyways or it's alreay too late for them to be effective. It seems that Ballston is the source for all the backup issues. Eastbound traffic is well aware of this because that is the typical breakaway point until the Roosevelt Bridge. As for the construction, I think a lot of us were under the impression that under the initial agreement to build I-66 inside the beltway, it could never exceed two lanes in either direction. Maybe since this will be an "extended" interchange lane, that's how that agreement has been side-stepped. Hope it helps but I doubt it will.

Posted by: WetCat | June 9, 2010 5:14 PM | Report abuse

WetCat, all of us who lived here when 66 first opened to DC thought that they wouldn't dare expand these lanes after that initial break-through where the road was squeezed in to begin with and I'm sure it was traumatic for Arlington residents. Now everything has grown in around it and they want to tear it up again! I've since learned that there was an actual legal agreement though that was overridden in order to do this - The Coleman Decision. Frank Wolf pushed it through because most of his constituents commute. But this is like adding more smoking lounges for smokers rather than working on the smoking problem! I hope those same people who are stuck in the traffic now and the worse traffic when the construction starts will consider moving closer to public transportation and living where they can walk most places or just hopping the bus to Metro. Its a great feeling to be able to stay on foot and leave your car behind. I for one would have a very hard time going back to driving to work.

Posted by: SusanMarie2 | June 9, 2010 6:50 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and the opponents of this suggested better bus service which is exactly what is needed. There need to be more express route buses from the suburbs so that someone in say, Herndon, can get the bus at their street corner and come straight in without having to board a bus to a park and ride, then another to Metro, then another bus once you get off Metro, etc. Once you have that one seat bus ride (or can walk to Metro), you can't beat it and you won't want to go back.

Posted by: SusanMarie2 | June 9, 2010 7:03 PM | Report abuse

That's my story and I'm stickin' to it. :)

Posted by: SusanMarie2 | June 9, 2010 7:13 PM | Report abuse

The Coleman Agreement was repealed years ago.

I fail to see the need for the crying and whining. The road is to be expanded within the existing footprint such that the Custis Trail and surrounding neighborhoods will not be disturbed.

The backups on I-66 really don't make a lot of sense, though. Certainly I understand the eastbound snarl every afternoon where the Dulles Access Road Extension joins I-66 because the two lanes from the Access Road have to merge down into the two lanes of I-66 and we know that DC-area drivers fail to understand how to merge. But going westbound it backs up even in places where there are no lane drops (e.g., from the Quincy Street overpass where the planetarium is out past Fairfax Drive). Doesn't make sense. I hate driving on that road anyway because it's impossible to pass. Made the mistake of getting on there today around 14:30 en route from DC to Falls Church and I quickly got off at Glebe and took Washington Boulevard. You Arlington folks like us driving through your neighborhoods?

Posted by: 1995hoo | June 10, 2010 12:13 AM | Report abuse

It's about time. I live in Arlington and it makes no sense to me why I often have to divert off of 66 to drive through the neighborhoods in Falls Church to get where I need to go. People who don't commute will repeat the "take Metro" mantra, but that isn't possible unless your destination is also on Metro. I've always thought the real solution to this issue is to create a 50,000 space parking lot at Vienna that allows overnight parking, but that never seem to be an option.

Posted by: matt_nassr | June 10, 2010 7:49 AM | Report abuse

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