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Road, Rail Projects in Pipeline

Some of the big projects and studies proposed by Maryland and Virginia are up for approval on Wednesday before the region's Transportation Planning Board. Approval for inclusion in the regional air quality conformity analysis doesn't guarantee they'll get built, but it's a necessary step in the process and a reminder for the rest of us of what's planned.

Given the time lines for some of these projects, we may look forward to traveling on them in our retirement years.
Take, for example, the Route 301 Waldorf Bypass, with an estimated completion date of 2030. What the board will be asked to approve on Wednesday is a study of alternatives for upgrading and widening the highway through Waldorf or building a controlled access bypass around it, or both. The cost estimate for the project, if it gets built, is listed at $2.78 billion, or about $300 million more than the intercounty connector. You can see more details at the project's Web site.

Two Virginia projects will get a lot of attention because they are proposed for construction rather than study and would have a big impact:

-- I-95-395 High Occupancy or Toll Lanes: The three lanes would run 36 miles from Garrison Road in Stafford County to Eads Street in Arlington. The lanes would be open to carpoolers and buses, as the HOV lanes are now, but they'd also be available to other drivers willing to pay a toll that varies with the level of congestion. They don't call them Lexus Lanes for nothing: A roundtrip could cost non-carpoolers $42. Cost of the public-private project is estimated at $882 million. Completion date is 2010. More information appears on the Virginia Department of Transportation's Web site.

-- I-66 Spot Improvements: These are the three extensions of the acceleration and deceleration ramps on the westbound side intended to ease traffic flow along four miles in this congested commuter corridor. Cost is estimated at $75.6 million, with completion in 2013. More at this Web site.

Contruction of a new interchange in Maryland and a transit line in Virginia are also up for approval:

-- Route 340 (Jefferson National Pike): Construction of a grade separated interchange at Jefferson Technology Park in Frederick because of the development around there. That project, estimated at #11 million, will be funded by the developer and completed in 2009.

-- Potomac Yard Transitway: This is the 2.5-mile Alexandria segment of a transitway from Braddock Road Metro station to Four Mile Run that eventually would run to the Pentagon. Cost estimate is $18.1 million and completion date is 2011.

Besides the Waldorf Bypass, there are two other studies up for approval:

-- Manassas Battlefield Bypass: This project would close Routes 29 and 234 through the Civil War battlefield and build a controlled access bypass of about 9 miles. Like the Waldorf Bypass, the routing of this one has been hotly debated by neighbors and environmentalists. Cost estimate is $133 million, with completion in 2020.

-- VRE Expansion: This project would extend the Manassas train line 11 miles from that city to Gainesville and Haymarket, following the region's development. This is just the preliminary engineering and environmental work on a project estimated at $280 million with a completion date of 2018.

The Transportation Planning Board meets at noon Wednesday in the Council of Governments board room at 777 North Capitol Street NE, Suite 300, Washington. Here's a link to the agenda.


By Robert Thomson  |  April 17, 2007; 7:59 AM ET
Categories:  Transportation Politics  
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Comments

Has anyone considered putting light rail in Reston?

Posted by: Reston | April 17, 2007 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Wait, the DC area never plans for anything in advance. Why would any area make a master plan that they stick to and actually set aside land for infrastructure and build it before or when it is actually necessary, instead of way after it is needed and we are destroying our environment with vehicles wasting fuel and our lives by sitting in traffic?

Posted by: Planner | April 17, 2007 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Because this area has more lawyers and NIMBY activists than any place on Earth. And since everyone here is the metro area is The Most Important Person In The World, well, we just cant help but interject our concerns into the planning and design process. Thats why.

Posted by: ronjaboy | April 17, 2007 11:15 AM | Report abuse

There are no NIMBYs in the DC area.

Instead, we have BANANAs: "Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anybody."

Posted by: Rich | April 17, 2007 1:05 PM | Report abuse

Don't forget the large contingent of CAVEs: "Citizens Against Virtually Everything".

Posted by: TD | April 17, 2007 1:55 PM | Report abuse

I just do not see how they are going to fit 3 lanes of HOT on 95/395. To me it seems like this will be a di$a$ter. Headaches for years of construction and chokepoints still on all ends. Building more roads will not get us out of this problem. Fixing interchanges and adding an extra lane here and there will likely help more than this boondoogle, as will using the money for more mass transit options.

Posted by: NM | April 17, 2007 3:05 PM | Report abuse

Along the lines of the 2 previous posts: "Activism" is used so that liberals can defend their own self-interests and not be labelled conservatives. A conservative will tell you that the government ought to back off building a train line through his back yard becuase private property and private interests are paramount. A liberal will say that building train lines through people's back yards serves the public interest, but just not train lines through his back yard. If need be, he will become an "activist"--quality of life, environmental, I-am-smarter-than-urban-planners, anti-noise, etc--to prove that this is an ethical, not self-centered, position. Both types of people are deplorable, but I think the hypocrite is more so . . .

Posted by: bkp | April 17, 2007 3:09 PM | Report abuse

why wait so long? 25 years for the Waldorf bypass? Why bother? What could possibly be the reason to wait? We went down 301 Fri evening and we might as well have taken 95.

We have lived here for 5 years and the traffic is driving us away - we are seriously considering leaving for that reason alone. Its unbearable. The 95 corridor between DC and Richmond is completely ridiculous. '

Posted by: Anonymous | April 17, 2007 3:18 PM | Report abuse

I am the 3:18 poster.

we spent the weekend in Raleigh - came from there 5 years ago. They just did a major project on I85 in Durham and another on I40 between Durham Raleigh. There wasn't any studying - they just did it. They also did a major ring project - I540 - around Raleigh. Why spend the time and money studying? These things need to be done. We don't understand the need for study and approval and why everyone here fights this so hard. It is a shame - we really like it here, but not the fact that it takes 4 hours to make a 2 hour trip to Richmond. We don't even like to leave on weekends because we know what we will have to deal with on the road.
Yes - there is traffic in Raleigh - but it is much more predictable and the timeframe is constrained much more so than here.
I never have seen state and local governments so afraid of their constituents. Just do it - make life more bearable on the road.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 17, 2007 3:24 PM | Report abuse

same 3:18 poster -

I generally fall more in the liberal camp - but really - I never have seen so much inertia. The crazy thing is that they study and study and study and study and then make some really dumb decisions, i e., the inter-county connector location. It was clear that the further out route made much more sense and was more popular - and
yet. . .yes - I think that roads should be only be built with mass transportation features, but the roads meed to be built, too.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 17, 2007 3:28 PM | Report abuse

"The crazy thing is that they study and study and study and study "

The repeated studies are demanded by road opponents. It's a delaying tactic. The goal is for a study to finally produce "findings" to support their resons for obstructionist opposition. When the studies fail to meet the opponents' objectives, they run to the courthouse.

Posted by: CEEAF | April 17, 2007 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Plus the hope to run out the clock on the money or or delay enough so that cost estimstes increase enough to kill the project.

Posted by: Stick | April 17, 2007 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Responding to CEEAF's comment that "The repeated studies are demanded by road opponents."

CEEAF could stand to do some homework. The studies are required by the funding agencies with the state and federal governments to ensure our tax dollars won't be wasted on unneeded projects, or worse, on projects that do more harm than good.

Posted by: Chris | April 17, 2007 4:09 PM | Report abuse

I-540 near Raleigh had been on the books for a long time before they started construction. I remember the day the first stretch opened. It only ran from I-40 to US-70 and thus didn't get much traffic, since the exit for Aviation Parkway wasn't even open. It was a good place to go if you wanted to drive fast (much as Shirley Highway, what is now I-95/I-395, was once upon a time in the DC area). But anyway, North Carolina has had a stated policy for many years to improve their highway system such that every resident of the state would live within 10 miles of a four-lane highway. (I shudder at the thought of ramming such roads through the scenic areas of the Nantahala Forest.) One might validly suggest that they ought to spend some of that effort repairing the roads they already have.....


Anyway, I agree with the poster who notes that converting the I-95/I-395 express lanes to have three lanes will be problematic. The room isn't there unless you take away the shoulder for much of the road until you're south of Occoquan. The room doesn't exist for the "emergency pull-offs" that exist on the part of I-66 that has a shoulder lane. I tend to think that anything that causes the loss of a shoulder is problematic.

Posted by: Rich | April 17, 2007 5:16 PM | Report abuse

Chris, I suggest you do your OWN "homework".

Speaking of the ICC as an example, The REQUIRED studies were done long ago. The repeated studies were done as a result of protests, demands, and under threats of lawsuits from implacable opponents.

One notetable opponent, the Sierra Club even commissioned its own study, paying $40,000 to an "urban planning consulting firm" from VERMONT of all places, to produce "findings" more to their liking when the repeated studied they demanded of the state and Feds didn't support their nonsensical claims.

Remember when Parris Glendening reneged on a campaign promise and pulled the plug on the ICC when his own study refuted his and the Sierra Club's claims that the ICC would cause potentially irreversable environmental damage? If you had done YOUR "homework", you would know that.

We're talking about the people who brought in folks from all over the country to pack ICC community input hearings and lie about being "concerned Maryland residents" who opposed a road that had nothing to do with them. We're talking about the people from everywhere but Maryland who knocked on doors and told us Maryland residents that the ICC would damage our childrens' health. We're talking about people with no vested interest in the ICC other than to stop it. We're taling about people who expect us in Maryland to help pay for Dulles rail in Virginia, giving IAD an even greater advantage over BWI, while we do without the wanted and needed ICC and take the unnecessary Purple Line as a consolation prize. We're talking about the people who are now going to court because their delaying gambits and scare tactics have failed to stop the ICC .

We're talking about people who act like spoiled brats, don't play fair, abuse the system, lie to the public, and refuse to accept facts and submit to the better good. I need to "do my homework"? Give me a break!

Posted by: CEEAF | April 17, 2007 6:52 PM | Report abuse

Again Chris, you obviously need an education.

You think roads are "projects that do more harm than good"?

Are you aware that the construction of the Orange Line through North Arlington and NE DC, the Green Line through the Shaw and Columbia Heights sections of DC, and the Red LIne through NE DC wasmore disruptive and environmentally harmful than ANY highway ever planned or costructed in the region, inculding the ICC and the cancelled sections of the DC freeway system?

Why is always OK to "divide neighborhoods", etc. to build rail transit, but never roads?

Here's a homework assignment since you clearly don't know the history of this region's transportation planning and policy. Go to www.highwaysandcommunities.com for a start. You might learn something.

Posted by: CEEAF | April 17, 2007 7:08 PM | Report abuse

"Plus the hope to run out the clock on the money or or delay enough so that cost estimstes increase enough to kill the project."

That, too. And keep in mind that the Metrorail extension to Dulles, a dubiuosly-beneficial project that won't alleviate traffic congestion and also happens to be the most expensive transportation project in this region's history and the most expensive being built in the US today, hasn't received anywhere near the amount of study and scrutiny that's been given the ICC.

Dulles rail is being bum-rushed, while we're still indulging ICC opponents after 50 years of planning and study. And we have folks who have the nerve to talk about "wasting money on projects that do more harm than good"

There is definitely a double standard concerning roads vs. transit.

Posted by: CEEAF | April 17, 2007 7:46 PM | Report abuse

Thank goodness for that double standard, because roads and cars have been given the benefit of the doubt for decades without any proper accounting for the negative externalities they create.

Posted by: bkp | April 17, 2007 8:39 PM | Report abuse

We truely need more and better roads in the washington metro area, but opposition is unfortunately too easy. A true accounting of the time lost, pollution, health impact, and opportunity cost (trips not even attempted) of gridlock would be shocking: that's WHY the HOT lanes will command such ridiculous fees --- those fees will be LESS than the costs commuters would otherwise pay.

Road opponents such as the Sierra Club (they will never get another of my dollars) will even admit that they wish to limit growth via transportation strangulation.

How ironic: by wrecking the quality of life of surbanites within a built region, they ensure further sprawl outwards in the countryside, or to other regions.

Congratulations road opponents!

Posted by: Lee | April 17, 2007 8:57 PM | Report abuse

Charles County in Southern Maryland needs transit help NOW, not 30 years from now. It doesn't take an expert to see we need local, State and Federal funding to implement some or all of the following:

'1'.Look at plans for a light rail extension from Branch Avenue, or via new Wilson Bridge to Waldorf or beyond.

'2'.Finish Route-5 (Branch Avenue) overpasses and bottlenecks at Southern Maryland Hospital and at TB Junction.

'3'.Prioritize Waldorf bypass. 30 years???

'4'.Upgrade exisiting commuter bus service (and make current contractor Keller adhere to its contracts, maintain their busses safely, provide buses with minimum seat distances for knees, and label their busses with proper signage)

'5'. Add back a Metrobus shuttle to the Branch Avenue station from Waldorf.

'6'. Fastrack additional lane on US-301 Potomac River Bridge (Harry Nice Bridge).

'7'. Review stoplight timing between La Plata and Clinton to improve flow.

'8'. Consider adding cheap/fast bus lanes to Rt-210 (Indian Head Hwy) and Rt-301/5 (Branch Avenue).

Posted by: rpike | April 18, 2007 12:33 AM | Report abuse

When the HOT lanes are in use, how will the Smart Tag receiver know not to charge when there are three people in the car?

Posted by: passenger | April 18, 2007 12:59 PM | Report abuse

"When the HOT lanes are in use, how will the Smart Tag receiver know not to charge when there are three people in the car?"

I don't think anyone knows yet. Dr. Gridlock (both the current one and the founder of the column) has noted many times that this is one kink in the system that remains to be resolved.

Posted by: Rich | April 18, 2007 5:30 PM | Report abuse

"When the HOT lanes are in use, how will the Smart Tag receiver know not to charge when there are three people in the car?"

There are two possible ways to do this:

1) The system in use in Denver. There is a single toll collection point where carpool vehicles and tolled vehicles use seperate lanes. If a carpool vehicle wishes to pay the toll, then thats their own fault for using the weong lane. If a non-carpool vehicle wishes to use the carpool lane, the cops can see and will get the driver. Vehicles in the toll lanes who do not pay are photographed just like in a standard E-ZPass lane.

2) The system in use in San Diego. If you are a non-carpool, your tag is mounted and you pay the toll at the single toll collection point. If you are in a carpool, you are supposed to "bag the tag"...place the tag in the special plastic bag you received with the tag which prevents it from being read. While this system is great from a traffic flow perspective (no sorting and merging necessary", this system is more difficult to enforce. Cops have to first look for 3 people, and in the absense of that, have to see the green light signaling a valid toll transaction. There can be no automated enforcement, as carpool vehicles are supposed to be driving under a tag reader without a valid tag!

Posted by: Woodley Park | April 18, 2007 5:55 PM | Report abuse

"Thank goodness for that double standard, because roads and cars have been given the benefit of the doubt for decades without any proper accounting for the negative externalities they create."

This is the biggest load of nonsense I've seen on this blog to date; it's straight out of the environmentalists', road-hater's and rail advocates' handbook and has no basis in fact.

First of all, roads aren't getting built in this region, thanks mainly to the lopsided overemphasis on transit and the false notion that rail transit makes roads unnecessary.

Next, cars pollute less than ever before. Less, in fact, than the coal-fired power plants in Appalachia and the Ohio Valley that fuel Metro rail. As a thinly-veiled environmentalist, that should concern you more than the effect of building a few roads.

What DOES make cars pollute, is being stuck in traffic, idling, and doing a stop-and-go on an inadequate road network. Vehicles travelling at a constant rate of speed pollute less, duh!

That is what shows the environmentalists up for the hypocrites and phonies that they are and that's exactly why I don't respect them. Environmentalists aren't concerned with pollution. If they were, they wouldn't be against every new road that's planned. THey aren't interested in reducing pollution, their aim is forcing others to live as THEY think people should live.

Finally, as for "negative extranalities", I defy you to name ONE road, planned or built in the DC region, that was as disruptive and polluting as Metro rail construction, especially in the lower-income areas of DC and PG County. Name just ONE.

Phony, thy name is environmentalist and rail advocate.

Posted by: CEEAF | April 19, 2007 2:07 PM | Report abuse

"Thank goodness for that double standard, because roads and cars have been given the benefit of the doubt for decades without any proper accounting for the negative externalities they create.'

See my previous post.

A word to the wise: if you plan on debating knowledgable people about transportation priorities, you'll have to do better than reciting slogans.

Posted by: CEEAF | April 19, 2007 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Dear CEEAF,

I could not agree more!

Thank you for your posts.

To everyone on the forum, if you are interested in urban transportation patterns, history, and how decisions actually get made, check out "Sprawl: a compact history" by Robert Bruegmann. It is perhaps a bit unorthodox, which suits me fine BTW.

I'm not a transportation expert but I've spent so much time stuck in traffic that this book was a fascinating read.

Posted by: Lee | April 20, 2007 7:26 PM | Report abuse

Lee,

Thanks for the compliment.

I ordered the book, ""Sprawl: a compact history" by Robert Bruegmann", from Amazon. While there, I looked at the reviews. Pro and con, they state what I've alays believed: the anti-suburb, anti-highway, pro-transit, smart-growth sentiments are elitist.

Posted by: CEEAF | April 26, 2007 4:14 PM | Report abuse

CEEAF,

You're very welcome! I hope you like the book as much as I did.

Posted by: Lee | May 4, 2007 5:10 PM | Report abuse

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