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Three Arlington legislators urge compromise on I-395/95 HOT lane lawsuit

Rosalind Helderman

Three members of the General Assembly from Arlington are defending the Arlington County Board's lawsuit challenging the construction of high occupancy toll lanes on I-395/95.

Their letter is a response to a bipartisan missive from House Speaker Bill Howell (R) and Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Colgan (D-Prince William) earlier this week, which blasted Arlington for trying to use the civil rights act to block the project and asking for monetary damages from individual public officials who had been involved with pushing the project.

"We believe the Arlington County Board has the responsibility to take all appropriate steps to defend its constituents' interests when it feels those interests are not adequately addressed in the transportation process," write Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple (D) and Dels. Bob Brink and Patrick Hope.

The three write that they've discussed the issue with the Arlington board and are confident that the board is not "pursuing litigation for its own sake."

But the letter is measured in tone and suggests that the lawmakers use their influence to try to convince Arlington County and the state to come to terms over the project.

They note that the massive construction project has been on hold anyway and ask that negotiations proceed over a series of technical complaints with the project that have been raised jointly by Arlington, Fairfax and Alexandria.

"We hope you will use your good offices to urge the Governor and VDOT to come to the table and negotiate in good faith; we will do the same at the local level," write the legislators to Colgan and Howell.

The suit accuses state and federal officials of failing to consider the possible consequences of increased air pollution from cars on the road on low-income and minority residents who live nearby. Arlington contends that building the toll roads would mean more cars would exit the highway and drive through residential neighborhoods, adding to local congestion.

The I-395/95 HOT lanes would extend south from the Pentagon to Massaponax in Spotsylvania County, intersecting with the Beltway at the Springfield interchange. Construction was to have begun by this summer, but the project was delayed in August 2009 by state leaders due to concerns about financing the project and reservations by local leaders.

By Rosalind Helderman  |  September 16, 2010; 3:55 PM ET
Categories:  Rosalind Helderman , Transportation  
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Good for Arlington! The plan is for these tolls 24/7 AND for the money to go to a private contractor! Who's greasing whose palms to get this done?

Posted by: AdventurerVA | September 16, 2010 11:17 PM | Report abuse

Arlington's lawsuit is an outrage. As an Arlington resident, I am truly embarrassed by the actions of our County Board.

And unfortunately, the letter from the three Arlington legislators accomplishes little. It fails to mention the County's absurd "HOT lanes are racist" claim. It fails to mention the County's abusive legal action against individuals (including a mid-level career federal employee). And it fails to mention that the County Board is paying a private law firm over $1 million for this frivolous action.

Speaker Howell and Sen. Colgan were exactly right in their letter. And the Arlington legislators are trying to divert attention away from the Arlington County Board, which continues to be the obstacle here.

Arlington should drop its abusive lawsuit NOW. And if the County won't do so, the courts should come down hard against the County Board and its out-of-control lawyers.

Posted by: jrmil | September 17, 2010 11:07 AM | Report abuse

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