Rachel Beatrice | Capital News Service
RICHMOND – State officials announced a bipartisan agreement Wednesday to reduce traffic congestion on Interstate 66 in Northern Virginia.
The Transform 66 project includes widening I-66 eastbound on a four-mile stretch from the Dulles Connector Road to Ballston, improving public transit and adding options for single drivers.
“This multipronged strategy will increase options and reduce commute times through improved transit, smarter management of the lanes we already have and a new agreement for a wider roadway both inside and outside the Beltway,” Gov. Terry McAuliffe said.
The agreement emerged from negotiations involving the governor’s office; Del. Jim LeMunyon, a Republican representing Fairfax and Loudoun counties; and Del. Chris Jones, R-Suffolk, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee. It will be reflected in the House amendments to McAuliffe’s budget proposal.
“This agreement is a big win for Virginia’s economy and for the commuters who spend too much time on the most congested road in the most congested region in the country,” McAuliffe said. “After a spirited political debate last fall, and a series of productive discussions after the General Assembly convened, we are proud to announce a compromise that will move our plan to transform I-66 inside and outside the Beltway forward.”
Republicans in the House of Delegates agreed to table legislation that would have prohibited an optional toll for single drivers on I-66 inside the Beltway, a key revenue source for planned transit improvements.
“The House budget will contain language and funding to immediately begin work on adding new lane capacity inside the Beltway, a key concern from members of both parties,” Jones said.
Virginia Free Citizen covers issues your local news doesn’t
We’ll respect your inbox and keep you informed. Our goal is a free, prosperous and secure Virginia.
Under the project:
· I-66 inside the Beltway will be converted to express lanes during rush hours.
· I-66 eastbound from the Dulles Connector Road will be widened, and transit service will be improved throughout the corridor.
· Solo drivers will be able to ride in carpool lanes in exchange for paying a variable toll based on the distance they travel. The average toll is expected to be $6 a trip.
· By 2020, lanes will be free to vehicles with three or more people (carpoolers, vanpools and buses) during rush hours and to motorcycles per adopted regional policy. All others will pay a variable toll.
· Lanes will remain free to all traffic during off-peak periods. There will be no tolling in the reverse commute.
McAuliffe’s announcement said the plan eventually would move more than 40,000 additional people through the I-66 corridor a day and provide reliable travel speeds of at least 45 mph during rush hours in the peak direction.
Democratic Sens. J. Chapman Petersen of Fairfax, Jennifer Wexton of Leesburg and Jeremy McPike of Woodbridge issued a joint statement supporting the agreement.
“This is a win-win for Northern Virginia. For years, our constituents have faced an impenetrable wall of traffic where I-66 meets the Dulles Toll Road and then drops down to two travel lanes. This area is a tangible barrier that has historically inhibited outside-the-Beltway drivers from traveling to Arlington or the District of Columbia.”
All of the revenues raised from the tolls will be used by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission for improvements such as new transit service and carpooling incentives. The estimated toll revenue would be $18 million by 2018.
The estimated cost of construction is up to $140 million and will be funded with revenues from a new federal law called the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act.
“This is a step forward in our efforts to address the gridlock on I-66 within the limits of current budget resources,” LeMunyon said. “I look forward to taking additional steps to reduce congestion in this key corridor.”