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Posted at 8:09 PM ET, 02/ 2/2011

Va. cancels plans for I-395 HOT lanes

By Rosalind S. Helderman

Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton will announce Thursday that the state no longer plans to build High Occupancy Toll lanes on a six-mile stretch of I-395 inside the Capital Beltway, the planned construction of which has been the subject of a contentious lawsuit filed by Arlington County against the state.

Instead, the state will embark on a series of other projects designed to ease traffic in the I-95/I-395 corridor, including launching an environmental review process to build HOV/HOT lanes on I-95 from Garrisonville Road in Stafford County to Edsall Road in Fairfax, and link those lanes directly to new I-495 high occupancy toll lanes already under construction.

The state will also accelerate plans to build a ramp connecting the existing HOV lanes on I395 to Seminary Road, where the massive Mark Center for defense workers is being built.

The plans are outlined in a letter Connaughton sent Wednesday to county leaders in Northern Virginia. In the letter, he writes that he hopes construction will begin on the projects in 2012 and promises to work closely with local jurisdictions to lessen impact of construction and solicit citizen input.

"The new project will create a seamless, regional network of managed lanes connecting the I-95 and Capital Beltway corridors and serve Virginia's growing employment centers and military sites, including Tysons Corner, Ft. Belvoir and Quantico," Connaughton wrote. "The network will create a free-flowing path for transit and provide the region's travlers new options, including first-time opportunities for carpooling and transit in many locations."

The decision could resolve of the state's nastiest fights between Richmond and a locality. Arlington sued the state 18 months ago, arguing that the state had not adequately studied the environmental impacts of increased traffic inside the Beltway on residents who live the near the highway.

The county had angered some in Richmond with the suit in part because the suit named current and state transportation officials personally, requiring the public officials to hire their own lawyers to defend themselves.

In the letter, Connaughton acknowledged that the state and county have been unable to come to terms over the issue. He said the state's plans for the corridor no longer include HOT lanes in Alexandria and Arlington or planned upgrades to interchanges at Shirlington and Eads Street in Arlington.

The lawsuit had already delayed the start of the project, which was originally scheduled to be begin last summer.

Connaughton has scheduled a news conference on the issue on Thursday morning, after which we expect to hear significant local reaction.

By Rosalind S. Helderman  | February 2, 2011; 8:09 PM ET
Categories:  Traffic and Transportation, Virginia  
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