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VDOT: Construction should help commute on I-66

Sunday - 6/5/2011, 7:29am  ET

Hank Silverberg, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - With billions in transportation dollars finally available, Virginia's Department of Transportation is highlighting some improvements designed to ease congestion on I-66.

I-66 is one of the region's major arteries. Congestion on the east-west roadway has been political fodder in every political campaign for the last decade.

During the morning and afternoon rush the stretch of I-66 between Washington and Haymarket is 35 miles of gridlock. The trip that can take you more than two hours.

But VDOT says improvements already underway and those planned will help ease the delays.

The most visible is the intersection with the Beltway where two new ramps will mean you won't merge in the faster moving left lane. Those ramps are scheduled to open next year.

Some spot improvements are also under construction, like lengthening on and off lanes to make merging easier westbound.

That includes a bus only ramp from the HOV lanes to Vaden Street near the Vienna Metro station, where there are major backups every day.

Next year, some technology will be added, electronic signs every half-mile to give motorist warnings about mergers and closures.

There is also design work on widening the highway from Gainesville to Haymarket.

Critics have charged that much of this is too little to late. But there are studies underway about widening 25 miles of the highway outside the beltway sometime after 2013.

But a separate study to look at transit, bike, and pedestrian options inside the beltway has some critics who think the money would be better spent on pavement.

There are informational meetings on those studies coming up later this week:

  • Wednesday, June 8, between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., Four Points by Sheraton, 10800 Vandor Lane, Manassas, VA 20109.
  • Thursday, June 9, between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. Virginia Department of Transportation, Northern Virginia District Office, 4975 Alliance Drive, Fairfax, VA 22030

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(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)