Public Seeks VDOT Committment to Non-Driving Options in I-66 Express Lanes Proposals

Mar 2, 2015

NOTE: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that a majority of public comments received on the I-66 proposal sought more details and greater commitments from VDOT related to the multimodal aspects of the proposed projects. Many, though not a majority, of the comments expressed such sentiments.

One of the main thrusts of recent public comments on a set of proposals to add express toll lanes to I-66 in Northern Virginia was to seek assurances from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), the sponsoring agency, that the projects would include robust efforts to support more transit use, carpooling, and vanpooling in the corridor, as well as enhanced options for bicycling and walking.

The comments were submitted ahead of a February 18 vote by the Transportation Planning Board to include the projects in a federally required air quality analysis this summer before being added to the region's Constrained Long-Range Transportation Plan (CLRP) in October.

Together, the VDOT proposals call for new express toll lanes along 35 miles of I-66, from Haymarket in Prince William County to just shy of the Potomac River in Arlington.

I-66 Express Lanes Proposal

 

The lanes would be similar to those that opened on the Virginia portion of the Capital Beltway in 2012 and on I-95 in Virginia in late 2014 in that buses and vehicles with three or more occupants would be able to travel on the tolled lanes for free. Vehicles with fewer than three occupants would pay a toll that varies based on traffic levels in order to ensure free-flow travel conditions.

In addition to express toll lanes, VDOT's proposals also call for a number of multimodal improvements in the corridor, including new rapid bus services, enhancements to existing commuter and local bus routes, expanded park-and-ride lots to support more carpooling and vanpooling, and improvements to nearby bicycle and pedestrian trails and facilities.

The TPB received nearly 200 comments on the proposed projects in a recent 30-day comment period that ended February 14. Many of the comments sought more details and greater commitments from VDOT that the multimodal aspects of the proposals, especially the new commuter and rapid bus services, would indeed be implemented.

In particular, commenters sought details about the planned frequency of the new bus services, what areas they would serve, when they would be implemented, and how they would be paid for. Behind some of the comments was a concern that similar plans for new bus services on the 495 and 95 Express Lanes in recent years had not been realized.

Commenters also wanted to know more about the planned park-and-ride expansions, anticipated bicycle and pedestrian improvements, and other efforts to manage travel demand and improve traffic operations in the corridor.

In response to the comments, VDOT revised its official project descriptions to include several new details, and also outlined plans to develop further project details in coming months.

For the planned bus services, the agency provided new schematics detailing the new bus routes and types of services it envisions being implemented in the corridor between now and 2040. Several of the routes would be new commuter-oriented services to complement ones already in operation. Others would be part of a new rapid bus service providing all-day and even weekend service between major Activity Centers and Metro stations in the corridor.

 

VDOT also envisions improvements to more than a dozen Metrobus and Arlington County Transit routes serving the corridor, especially inside the Beltway. The possible improvements include increased frequencies and more off-peak service, though the specifics of the changes have yet to be finalized. A stakeholder advisory group made up of technical staff from a variety of local, state, regional, and federal agencies with interests in the corridor is currently evaluating different options.

As for other planned multimodal improvements, including enhancements to key bicycle and pedestrian facilities both inside and outside the Beltway, the agency will soon form another stakeholder advisory group to develop the details of those improvements. The group will examine a range of potential improvements and recommend specific ones to make both in the short-term and in the long-term. VDOT will engage with elected officials and the general public to solicit additional feedback before moving forward with the improvements.

At the February 18 TPB meeting, VDOT also responded to individual TPB members who, like the public, were seeking assurances pertaining to the I-66 proposals. The agency agreed to language requiring that toll revenues collected on the new lanes inside the Beltway be used to fund multimodal improvements directly serving the corridor. The agency also agreed to study the effectiveness of nearer-term transit and other multimodal improvements before moving forward with widening a portion of I-66 inside the Beltway, which was also included in the tolling proposal as an additional improvement to be made by 2040.

During its recent comment period, the TPB invited comment on a total of six major additions or changes proposed for inclusion in the 2015 CLRP update, including a proposal by the District of Columbia Department of Transportation to remove about 10 lane-miles of roadway capacity in the city to make room for new bike lanes.

For more information about the projects slated for inclusion in the 2015 CLRP, and to view all comments received during the recent comment period, go to www.mwcog.org/CLRP2015.

NOTE: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that a majority of public comments received on the I-66 proposal sought more details and greater commitments from VDOT related to the multimodal aspects of the proposed projects. Many, though not a majority, of the comments expressed such sentiments.

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