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I-66 Tolling Plan Inside Beltway Wrong

I-66 Tolling Plan Inside Beltway;
Wrong in both Principal and Principle

Email blast to Northern Va. political leaders, prior to the Virginia General Assembly

-- Rob Whitfield, January 12, 2016

Dear Senator Marsden and Delegate Bulova:

The proposed I 66 tolling plan for Inside the Capital Beltway (ITCB) is wrong both as a matter of principle and as a misuse of our principal.

The Governor's revised ITCB plan, announced unilaterally in November 2015, removed planned tolling of "reverse commuters" from DC and Arlington County based on the unsubstantiated claim by unnamed officials at the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce and Loudoun Chamber of Commerce that businesses in the Dulles Corridor are opposed to such tolls. The reality is that the largest congestion problem on I-66 occurs between 4 and 7 pm from Mondays to Fridays and the Governor's plan does absolutely NOTHING to remedy the peak congestion.

No factual explanation or justification for converting peak period lane usage on I-66 ITCB from HOV-2 to HOV-3 minimum vehicle occupancy in the year 2020 has been provided. It appears that this "agreement" was made by unknown VDOT officials with MWCOG Transportation Planning Board officials in a non-public manner -- or at some TPB meeting in Washington, DC. To the best of my knowledge, the Commonwealth Transportation Board did not seek a public hearing or input from Virginians.

If my claims are incorrect, then let Aubrey Layne and/or Nick Donohue provide the relevant facts to justify the action. If I am correct, then Aubrey and Nick should set public meetings in the immediate future to consider the wisdom of the HOV-2 to HOV-3 proposal and any alternatives which can be reasonably considered.

As to the need to widen I-66 eastbound between the West Falls Church merge of I-66 and the Dulles Connector road, only an ostrich with its head buried in the ground could fail to see the immediate need to start work on planning, design and construction of the extra lane eastbound. Given the process requirements of the MWCOG Transportation Planning Board and the HB-2 and HB-599 congestion relief evaluation process, it is likely to be at least three years before final design approvals occur.

Delegate LeMunyon was traveling in December so was unable to attend the Commonwealth Transportation Board meeting in Alexandria. He met with VDOT before Christmas to receive a briefing on the HB-599 analyses. He advises that, it seems that the analyses presented by VDOT do not appear to comply with facts. As with most of its recent work, VDOT has failed to articulate the assumptions and limiting conditions implicit in its analyses. If VDOT provides appropriate data to support its conclusions, I will not oppose the present plan but believe that other measures as outlined below could produce further congestion reduction benefits.

Starting July 1, 2016 a trial one year period with the following changes to I-66 operations ITCB should be implemented:

  1. Unrestricted access to and from the West Falls Church Metrorail station via I-66 in peak travel periods when occupancy of the parking garage at the station is under 95%.

  2. Require HOV-2 operations on reverse commuter lanes (westbound mornings between 6.30 and 9.00 am; eastbound 4.00 to 6.30 pm) between Rosslyn and Washington Boulevard.

I plan to visit Richmond during the next few days to discuss these and other I-66 related issues.

Best Wishes for a successful General Assembly session.

-- Rob Whitfield, Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance

Here is the statement of Delegate Bulova and Senator Marsden on I-66 Tolls Inside the Beltway on Oct 18, 2015:

"Having both been raised here in Northern Virginia, we have seen first-hand how the chronic congestion problems on I-66 have affected our economy and quality of life. Like most people in our area, this is personal. Traffic on I-66 has stolen countless hours that could have been spent with family or at work. That is why we were proud to support the bipartisan transportation package passed by the Virginia General Assembly in 2013 that is now generating billions for infrastructure improvements in our region. However, the way revenue is generated does matter, which is why we feel compelled to express our current opposition to the Virginia Department of Transportation's plan to toll I-66 inside the Beltway.

"While legitimate concern has been raised with regard to the cost to commuters, there is a much deeper principal at stake. No one likes the idea of tolls. But like water and sewer service, there should at least be a strong link between who pays and the services delivered. The idea of tolling I-66 inside the Beltway without a solid plan for creating new infrastructure that directly benefits the toll payers simply fails to meet this basic test. Likewise, we are concerned that this project violates the concept of first-do-no-harm.

"A recent study by Fairfax County found that while those using parallel roads won't be affected in the direction of rush hour traffic, those who go the opposite direction will see significant increases in traffic. Even if this can be absorbed in the short-term, we have serious doubts about whether this is sustainable in the long-term. The days of one-way rush hour traffic are quickly going the way of the dinosaur, as areas like Tysons, Herndon, Chantilly, Reston, and Centreville continue to develop. VDOT's actions mean that those who are using these local roads will see their commutes lengthened. This will include neighborhoods both inside and outside of the Beltway.

"We applaud VDOT for coming up with some promising and creative solutions -- including the active traffic management system recently implemented outside of the Beltway. But the current plan to toll I-66 inside the Beltway without increased capacity is the wrong way to go. It is a matter of principal."

-- Senator David Marsden, 37th District
-- Delegate David Bulova, 37th District