The Washington Examiner recently reported that Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton is promoting tolled express lanes as the solution to congestion on I-66 from the Beltway to Gainesville. He wants to link them to the Beltway’s toll lanes to provide those who can pay with a seamless ride through much of northern Virginia. According to the Examiner, Connaughton isn’t currently planning to install express lanes on I-66 inside the Beltway right now because of political opposition. But it quotes him saying:
Arlington County Board Member Chris Zimmerman said the other day that he has a way to get more capacity out of I-66 that will cost a lot less than the $100 million needed to widen I-66 inside the Beltway, and it’s called Bus On Shoulder (BOS). The advantage of Bus On Shoulder is that it would enable buses to make headway during rush hour under current conditions without additional HOV restrictions. In the reverse commute direction, buses could deadhead faster on the shoulder back to town to pick up more passengers, requiring fewer buses to transport more people at lower cost.
Zimmerman said he got hooked on bus on shoulder on a trip to Minneapolis about ten years ago when he was able to make his flight, because the airport bus made headway on the shoulder despite a traffic jam. Contrast that with the 5A bus to Dulles, which while very popular, gets stuck in traffic between Rosslyn and the Dulles Toll Road, causing passengers a lot of heartburn and missed flights.
In April VDOT issued a plan to implement a twelve month BOS pilot project. The cost—only $2.1 million, which is a bargain considering the cost to widen the road. Given the political opposition to HOV3 and implementation of HOT lanes on the existing roadway, as well as the enormous cost of building new lanes, Zimmerman believes that BOS is the only feasible way to reduce congestion on I-66 inside the Beltway in the near term. I’m inclined to agree with him.