Arlington County supports I-66 widening — just not soon

ARLINGTON, Va. – Arlington County doesn’t want to see an often-gridlocked Interstate 66 widened anytime soon.

In a vote Thursday, the county affirmed its support of the state’s plan to transform I-66 inside the Beltway, though it came with a call not to widen the interstate before 2025.

Concerns over widening the road include the increase in traffic in the region, as well as additional noise and pollution. The county wants the state to wait and see what impact the tolls and high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes will have on congestion in the area. In 2020, HOV requirements will go from requiring two people in the car to three.

But the timing of when the county thinks the roads should be widened has put it at odds with the neighboring counties of Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William, which want to see an eastbound lane added when toll collection begins in 2017. That lane would run from the Dulles Connector Road to Ballston.

As the Virginia Department of Transportation finalizes its plan for I-66, it is asking for input from northern Virginia counties which are home to the freeway. Transform 66, a plan backed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, will expand the HOV restriction hours on the interstate and allow solo drivers to use the road — by paying a toll — during the morning and afternoon rush hours.

John Vihstadt was one of two board members to vote against the plan. He said it had too many “unresolved issues.”

Board member Jay Fisette said the project was a “true compromise” among counties in the area. Arlington, Fisette said, should be concerned about what might happen in the counties don’t take advantage of this opportunity to weigh in on a road, which is under state control.

“What is likely to happen is, no multimodal improvement funds and the widening of I-66,” Fisette said. Before the vote, board chairwoman Mary Hynes the county had two choices: “Either we take a position, or we have no position,” Hynes said.

Hynes said the money made through toll revenue could help the county beef up mass transit and take more cars off the road.

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