WASHINGTON — Some parts of the plan to expand Interstate 66 outside the Capital Beltway will have to wait a few more years, but construction on 22 miles of new lanes and tolls is scheduled to start by 2017.
The Virginia Department of Transportation’s preferred design, presented to the Commonwealth Transportation Board Tuesday, will expand the highway to two toll lanes and three regular lanes in each direction between University Boulevard in Gainesville and the Capital Beltway. An expansion between Gainesville and Haymarket has been delayed indefinitely until “funding becomes available and demand warrants.”
On Wednesday, the Commonwealth Transportation Board will take up the question of how to pay for the project. The board is set to vote to advance procurement under a public-private partnership concession. The vote will move that option along, but does not commit the Commonwealth to abandoning a publicly financed option. The board is expected to take a more firm vote on the issue in December after the firms interested in the project provide more details.
The toll lanes will be free for vehicles with three or more people in them, and, like the existing 95 and 495 Express Lanes, will operate with tolls that rise and fall based on the number of vehicles in the lanes.
The project is separate from, but related to, plans for I-66 inside the Beltway, where VDOT plans to institute a high occupancy or toll plan during rush hours only by 2017. In that stretch of the road, vehicles with two people inside are expected to travel for free until the lanes switch to an HOV-3 model around 2020.
Outside the Beltway, VDOT says, some interchanges for existing HOV lanes will remain in place under the first phase of changes, including at Monument Drive and Stringfellow Road. VDOT says those interchanges would be rebuilt if and when the second phase of the project is done.
In addition to the changes on the highway, VDOT promises increased commuter bus service from new park and rides, some improvements for pedestrians, and a bike trail.
The plan leaves space in the middle of the highway for potential expansion of Metro or other transit in the future.
VDOT plans three more public information meetings on the updated design and construction plans for Interstate 66 outside the Beltway in late October, the week before the Commonwealth Transportation Board votes on whether to approve the preferred alternative:
- Monday, Oct. 19: Oakton High School, 2900 Sutton Rd., Vienna
- Tuesday, Oct. 20: VDOT Northern Virginia District Office, 4975 Alliance Drive, Fairfax
- Wednesday, Oct. 21: Piney Branch Elementary School, 8301 Linton Hall Rd., Bristow
The meetings will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Final environmental documentation is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
Construction on the project is expected to begin in 2017, which would allow the new lanes to open in 2021.
Watch VDOT’s video on the plans: