The Failure of Spot Improvements Have Made My Case

There’s a widespread misperception among elected officials in Northern Virginia that Arlington County is obstructionist, because it opposes widening of I-66 inside the Beltway. Nothing could be further from the truth. You are looking at the only Arlington resident who publicly opposed the ill fated Spot Improvement project–which has widened I-66 piecemeal–by suing VDOT in federal district court.

I lost the court battle but not the war. Rush hour bottlenecks on westbound I-66 persist at the locus of Spot 1, because most outbound traffic is forced back on the I-66 main line at the Sycamore Street exit. In fact the only drivers who benefit from Spot 1 are local motorists who use the added merge lane as an alternative to parallel arteries between Ballston and Falls Church.

VDOT is using the inadequacy of spot improvements not to scuttle the project, but to provide the impetus for a new one. This time it plans to widen I-66 eastbound even as it installs HOT lanes in both directions. This fix makes about as much sense as shooting up with methadone and heroin at the same time. If the HOT lanes operate to constrain traffic, then there should be no need to further widen I-66.

Widening eastbound I-66 will require additional right of way between EFC and Ballston, which will likely require elimination of the portion of the W&OD bike trail that runs along that stretch of road. This has implications for both bikers and the Chesapeake Bay watershed, since Four Mile Run is directly adjacent to the trail.

So I applaud County Board member Jay Fisette for lobbying the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board on February 18 to adopt a resolution that requires VDOT to assess the impact of HOT lanes and other multimodal improvements to I-66 before resorting to additional road widening. This was a good compromise that gives the lie to those who would paint the county obstructionist.

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