PRESS RELEASE: I-395 HOT Lanes Extension: An Accident Waiting to Happen

The I-395 Express Lanes North Extension Environmental Assessment (EA) lists roadway safety as one of four principal objectives in extending I-395 toll lanes north to Eads Street (p. 6). It cites the fact that over half of all roadway crashes occur during peak travel periods to demonstrate that congestion not only increases travel time, it also jeopardizes traffic safety (p.14). 

VDOT’s concern with roadway safety is well placed. However, it is by no means clear that HOT lanes will enhance travel safety even if they reduce congestion, since the Build Alternative all but eliminates the western shoulder of the express lane corridor by reducing it from 10 feet to 2. Continue reading

Comments to NVTC on Widening I-66 Inside the Beltway

Comments to Northern Virginia Transportation Commission  (NVTC) on Widening I-66 Inside the Beltway on May 5, 2016.

First I want to express my regret that a deal worked out between NVTC and Governor McAuliffe last year to toll I-66 inside the Beltway first and widen it later only if necessary was scuttled in favor a plan to widen I-66 as soon as the tolls are in place. Continue reading

VDOT Put the Cart Before the Horse Heading Westbound on I-66 in the A.M.

On October 2, 2015 months after Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) announced its decision to toll I-66 inside the Beltway, it published the results of a modeling study entitled: “I66 Multimodal Improvements: Future Conditions Traffic Technical Memorandum”, which assesses the impacts of tolling on I-66 and parallel arteries.

Based on the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) TDM Version 2.3, Build 57 regional model, the report indicates that while traffic volume in the a.m. and p.m. peak [traditional] direction will not change much either on I-66 or parallel arteries, non-peak [reverse commute] direction traffic will divert onto parallel roadways. Traffic operations at key locations along Routes 50 and 29 will be degraded as a result. Continue reading

VDOT Must Sway Opponents of Tolling I-66

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. Continue reading

Keep the Bus and Toll the Road

I am delighted at VDOT’s decision to toll I-66 inside the Beltway and to investigate the impact of tolling and other Transportation Demand Management (TDM) measures to mitigate congestion before undertaking any further widening of the roadway. This makes good sense from both a traffic engineering and financial standpoint. If improved mass transit options together with tolling reduce congestion what’s the point of spending millions of dollars that VDOT could use better elsewhere in Northern Virginia?
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Silver Line Alternative to Parking on I-66

Last December during morning rush hour I shuttled with my bike from the Wiehle Reston Metro Station to Herndon Park and Ride, where I then boarded a standing room only 5A bus to L’Enfant Plaza.

I commented to the 5A bus driver that he must be very popular with commuters to attract such a crowd. No, retorted an irate middle aged passenger. She said it takes more than an hour to get into town via the slow moving Silver Line, whereas it takes only 45 minutes via the 5A bus, which stops at Rosslyn Metro en route to L’Enfant Plaza.

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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.
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Debt Service on Trolleys Not Included in County Debt Ratios

The County’s proposed ten year capital budget (CIP) allocates over half a billion dollars for the Crystal City and Columbia Pike trolleys. This represents more than half the transportation capital budget and 19 percent of the total capital budget of $2.7 billion. Yet according to the Underlying Assumptions section of the Debt Capacity Analysis (B-15), the debt ratios utilized to determine the County’s bond rating do “not include revenue bonds anticipated to be issued for transportation projects [including the trolleys] and supported by the commercial real estate tax or the Crystal City TIF.”

In effect the debt service on $137 million worth of bonds to be issued to finance the Crystal City and Pike trolleys is off budget. Why? Continue reading

Bus on Shoulder on I-66 Inside the Beltway Might Work

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:

“If you don’t want us to widen the road, then we’re going to have to figure out a way to get more capacity out of the road, and I think express lanes are a way to do it.” Continue reading