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Arlington Co. willing to consider 395 express lanes extension

In this file photo, traffic heads south in the HOV lanes on Interstate 395 in Arlington County. (WTOP/Dave Dildine)

WASHINGTON — Arlington County is interested in Virginia’s latest pitch to bring tolled, express lanes through the county along Interstate 395, but officials in the urban community still have concerns about the impact to transit and traffic on neighboring, local streets.

The county’s board Chair Mary Hynes sent a letter to state transportation leaders last week outlining six concerns the board wants the state to address before any changes would be made to the commuter lanes on I-395.

“We’re at the very early stages. There’s a lot more to learn,” Hynes said.

The county sued to stop the original 95 Express Lanes project, effectively halting the now-operating tolled commuter lanes at the county line where they revert to traditional HOV lanes.

“We feel like this proposal has three key difference that make us open to at least considering it as it moves forward,” Hynes said.

The new version, announced by the McAuliffe administration in November, would review what impact extending the express lanes and adding a third commuter lane would have on local traffic within a mile to the north and south of the interstate.

The plan would also set aside some of the toll revenue to make improvements to the corridor and surrounding roads to ensure they adequately handle the traffic volume. The funding would also support additional transit service in the area.

The state also has agreed to study the demand for more transit options along the 395 corridor, including access for bicycles, Hynes said.

“You need to give the people who live closer relievable, regular transit options too so they won’t get in their cars,” Hynes said. She wants to give those who live inside the Capitol Beltway a “reason not to get on 395.”

According to the letter, Arlington officials are worried about disrupting existing transit and the size of the interstate’s footprint.

Arlington also wants state transportation officials to talk to D.C. about extending the tolled lanes all the way across the Potomac River.

D.C. currently does not toll any roads or bridges but has suggested that it might consider adding tolls to curb congestion in the future.

During a visit to WTOP in November, Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced that the state would extend the 95 Express Lanes deeper into Stafford County on the southern end and to the north, the lanes would be extended through Arlington to the D.C. line.

Arlington is home to some of the most congested stretches of interstate in the region. And the state has also been working with the county to treat Interstate 66 like express lanes during the rush hour. The county prefers tolling solo drivers to travel the interstate over widening the road.

But revenue from the tolls could eventually pay to expand the narrow highway, which is hemmed in by houses, office buildings and local roads.

Hynes said the county board is expected to discuss the revamped 395 express lanes proposal during its meeting Tuesday afternoon.

“We hope people in our community stay tuned.”

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