I’m persuaded that Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is genuinely interested in addressing concerns about the traffic impact of tolling I-66, which I support. Nevertheless I’m concerned that VDOT has not responded effectively to the concerns raised. For example, Delegate Jim LeMunyon recently trashed VDOT’s plans to toll I-66 inside the Beltway.
LeMunyon’s principal concern is that since tolling I-495 and I-95 was accompanied by near term road widening, I-66 also needs road widening now. VDOT should address this concern by pointing out that whereas many I-95 and I-495 commuters have no transportation alternative, I-66 has two Metrorail lines running down the median.
Another concern raised by LeMunyon is that the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) rather than the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) will manage the toll lanes. VDOT and/or NVTC must do a better job of explaining the division of labor. Otherwise LeMunyon may use his position as an NVTC board member to scuttle the project.
VDOT must address concerns raised by Arlington residents that tolling I-66 will displace traffic onto parallel arteries. The only effective response is to point out that tolling will pay for transit alternatives that will reduce traffic not divert it.
In this connection VDOT must offer a concession to reverse commuters who do not have transit alternatives in the outlying jurisdictions to which they travel. Allen Muchnick, President of the Arlington Coalition for Sensible Transportation, recommends reduced tolls in the reverse direction and/or elimination of tolls when traffic is flowing freely in the reverse direction.
Finally NVTC and VDOT must collaborate with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) to conduct a highly visible and innovative advertising campaign to promote transit over SOV use on I-66 and elsewhere in Northern Virginia.