Virginia will pursue managed toll lanes on I-66 outside the Beltway

Virginia transportation leaders will pursue toll lanes on Interstate 66 outside the Beltway, in addition to possibly rail or bus rapid transit along the 25-mile corridor between Haymarket and Vienna.

The Commonwealth Transportation Board was briefed Wednesday on the status of the I-66 improvements project, which to this point has consisted of a first-tier Environmental Impact Statement and a request for information on potential solutions for the congested highway.

Given that Virginia has endorsed and implemented high-occupancy toll lanes on the Beltway and I-95, it should come as little surprise that it is looking most closely at the same option for I-66. The vast majority of the 19 firms that responded last December to the RFI (including Fluor Corp., the firm behind the Beltway and I-95 Express Lanes) suggested some form of managed toll system on I-66.

Managed lanes on I-66, according to the CTB briefing presentation, would provide new travel choices and congestion relief, become part of a “seamless network” of lanes serving Tysons and other employment centers, ensure consistent and predictable travel times, allow for “robust bus transit service” and, as a public-private partnership, allow the private partner to move quickly with private financing.

It’s virtually a carbon copy of what was said about the Beltway and I-95 lanes.

The I-66 corridor faces steady population and employment growth, safety concerns and a lack of coordinated transit service, according to the CTB presentation. Ten improvement concepts emerged during the first phase of the EIS process, not one of which was a silver bullet.

Instead, Virginia officials developed the five “highest performing scenarios,” led by the addition of two managed lanes plus Metro, and two managed lanes plus Metro and Virginia Railway Express. The three remaining scenarios involve managed lanes, one or two new free lanes and some combination of Metro, BRT and VRE.

A preliminary estimate for the cost of the full project, depending on the scope, ranges from $2 to $3 billion. The Virginia Department of Transportation expects to issue an RFQ in late 2014, nail down a short list of teams in mid 2015, issue an RFP in late 2015 and begin construction by 2017.

Virginia Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne, among other state highway and transit leaders, is scheduled to brief the media on the I-66 improvement projects Thursday.


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