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Regional Board Punts on Va. Road Projects

The region's Transportation Planning Board did not feel comfortable enough with plans for the new I-95/395 carpool/toll lanes or the widening of I-66 sections westbound inside the Beltway to advance those highway projects today. On an extremely close vote, the panel finally decided to wait another month to clarify some issues concerning the safety of the projects, their impact on the environment and the protections afforded carpoolers.

The 13-12 vote, on a show of hands, was so close that one member called for a weighted vote on the postponement. That complex process, involving the various jurisdictions that make up the regional panel and the populations of the jurisdictions yielded this result: 7.81 for postponement and 7.19 against. Bottom line was the same as the show of hands. The board members will review the answers that the Virginia Department of Transportation supplied to their questions about the projects, go over the amendments to their resolutions and vote at the board's May meeting.

The issue before the board sounds like a technicality but is actually important to whether the two Virginia highway projects get built: The board must approve their inclusion for an air quality impact analysis under the region's financially constrained long range plan. The review would take until around the end of the year, and the projects cannot proceed to construction without it.

Before the vote, many citizens and board members raised questions about the project. These were among their concerns:

-- Will I-95/395 carpoolers, especially those who form the very successful slugging system that puts at least three people per car on the HOV-3 lanes, be protected when the two HOV lanes are replaced with three lanes open to carpoolers or anyone willing to pay a toll for a faster trip?

-- Will the shoulders on the new high occupancy/toll (HOT) lanes and on the widened portions of I-66 be wide enough for safety?

-- Will the widening of I-66 extend past VDOT's right of way and damage the Custis Trail?

-- Will the widening of I-66 (actually an extension of the acceleration and deceleration lanes in three spots) increase auto pollution?

Judging from the comments made by the board members today, the chances for approval next month are pretty good. Many, including some who voted for the delay, spoke favorably about the answers provided by VDOT, but wanted more time to consider them. By contrast, Michael May of the Prince William Board of Supervisors said he would vote against the HOT lane proposal, which his county board resolved to oppose in February.

By Robert Thomson  |  April 18, 2007; 3:57 PM ET
Categories:  Transportation Politics  
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A related question:

Does this Board have the power influence VA into letting the HOV-exemption for hybrids finally expire on I-66 inside the Beltway? I drive to work every morning in an ever slower moving traffic jam of Priuses driven by single occupants. (and yes, I see at least a dozen of these vehicles every morning on my commute from the DTR to downtown, and no I am not exaggerating)

Posted by: nocando | April 19, 2007 8:51 AM | Report abuse

From Dr. Gridlock: Powers of the regional board are limited. Hybrid use in HOV lanes is not part of a project that the regional panel would be required to review. I'm interested in hearing from HOV travelers about how they feel regarding the hybrid exemption, which was just extended until July 1, 2008. My e-mail is

Posted by: Robert Thomson | April 19, 2007 9:06 AM | Report abuse

THe result of gutlessness, plain and simple. They can fast-track the $4 billion UNNECESSARY Dulles rail project, consequences be damned, to butt-kiss developers and rail-babies, but they don't have the cajones to go forward with 2 badly-needed road projects.

Posted by: CEEAF | April 19, 2007 11:06 AM | Report abuse

What happened at the meeting regarding the proposed VRE expansion or was that issue deferred as well?

Posted by: VRE'd | April 19, 2007 11:38 AM | Report abuse

To CEEAF: I would say the Dulles rail plan has been ANYTHING but "fast-tracked."

Make I-66 HOV both ways during both rush hours, vigorously enforce it, and leave UNNECESSARY road building out of it.

Posted by: Dan | April 19, 2007 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Same old uninformed Dan.

Dulles rail won't do anything to alleviate traffic congestion - studies by its most ardent supporters have shown that. And its unrealistic, in fact naive, to think enough will people will ride it to the airport to make it viable. Dulles rail is a boondoggle for rail advocates and developers, plain and simple. The most costly transportation prohject ever built in the region and the most expensive currently planned in the US. It's an unnecessary waste of money, plain and simple. Cute remarks from you won't change that.

And it definiteltly IS being fast-tracked. dulles rail hasn't received anything near the scrutinty in the form of repeated studies and hearings as has the Intercounty Connector(ICC) which will cost a fraction of what is bieng spent on Dulles rail. Cute remarks from you won't change that, either.

Frankly, if you work for a living and pay taxes, you're a SUCKER if you want Dulles rail. Your grandschildren's grandchildren will be subsidizing the cost to run this developers' bonanza and Gerry Connelly ego trip. If you had any cajones and any sense of stewardship of your assets, you would bt livid about this instead of trying to be cute.

As for I-66, your "make driving rougher"
is straight out of the transit-freak/enviro-nut/car-hater's handbook. Formulate an original thought instead of reciting a slogan. I-66 was built with too small a foot print to begin with, for no other reason than placating silly NIMBY'ds and car-haters like yourself.

The agreement with Coleman to shrink 66 never should have been made, and thank Goodness we now have officials with the guts to scrap that arrangement, which was contradictory to the greater good.

As for the red herring about the trail and pollution, the trail won't be touched; there is more than suffient room to expand the road one lane on both sides without disturbing the trail, most of which is either fenced/walled off 100 feet way or on overpasses.

The other red herring, pollution, is a no-brainer. The pollution is being caused by the vehicles stuck in slow traffic. Stopped vehicles idling on an inadequate road, pollute, duh!

Try something else, Dan. Silly assertions with no basis of truth or logic don't cut it. Neither do slogans.

Posted by: CEEAF | April 19, 2007 7:15 PM | Report abuse

Hey know-it-all, foul-mouthed CEEAF:

The fact that I-66 IS in our backyards does not make those who oppose its unnecessary, counterproductive, and unwarranted widening NIMBYS. You have no inherent right to drive and park your global-warming living-room-on-wheels everywhere at anytime for everything without paying tolls or to pave over urban communities for this suicidal privilege. Not driving alone at all is far more effective at preventing air pollution than any dubious--and certainly very temporary--improvements to traffic flow that would occur from widening I-66.

Even knee-jerk highway proponents should realize that VDOT's current "spot improvements" project would only make traffic congestion and safety worse by reducing safety shoulders and travel lane widths and by creating two new bottlenecks in Arlington where three westbound lanes narrow to two.

Posted by: Allen Muchnick | April 19, 2007 11:08 PM | Report abuse

Allen Muchnick, the road was built too small. It was done to placate unreasonable NIMBY's who cared nothing for the greater good. Now that officials have FINALLY seen the error of catering to your selfishness, you're crying and whining like the spoiled child you and your friends emulate so well.

The road is inadequate. It's going to be widened, no mater how "unnecessary, counterproductive, and unwarranted" you think it is. Namecalling and trying to chastize someone with an opinion contrary to your selfish, childish, myopic views will not change that.

You want to talk about a project that's "unnecessary, counterproductive, and unwarranted"? Try bringing up Dulles rail.

Posted by: CEEAF | April 20, 2007 12:38 PM | Report abuse

Anyone who thinks Dulles rail will alleviate congestion in Tysons and the Duller Corridor need only look at the situation on I-66 where the Orange Line runs contigously. Thanks, Dan and Allen for reminding us.

Posted by: CEEAF | April 20, 2007 12:44 PM | Report abuse

What role of the Internet in the modern world?
[url=]We shall talk about [/url]

Posted by: WriglyB | April 23, 2007 6:23 PM | Report abuse

Arlingtonians whine like little girls. I should know. I live there.

Posted by: Hank Cat | April 24, 2007 7:49 AM | Report abuse

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