WASHINGTON — Virginia’s Department of Transportation apologized to local leaders Wednesday for not letting the public comment on a hot topic — whether to let big rigs use toll lanes to be built outside the Capital Beltway on Interstate 66.
“There was a decision made to consider multi-axle vehicles using the express lanes that did not go through a public process and we, basically, apologize to our Fairfax partners as well as our Prince William partners for that,” said VDOT Deputy District Administrator Renée N. Hamilton.
Fairfax County’s board of supervisors is on the record opposing eighteen-wheeler access to the 25-mile stretch of High Occupancy Toll, or HOT, lanes to be built between the Interstate 495 Beltway and Haymarket, Virginia.
A ruling on big-rig access is expected within the next couple weeks, Hamilton said. But even an approval to consider it won’t be final.
“It’s not a done deal, because even if they are going to introduce that as a part of how we move forward — they would still have to go through a re-evaluation,” Hamilton said referring to a study of potential impact on noise, air and surrounding communities.
“It has the potential to be very disruptive, no question,” said Coalition for Smarter Growth Executive Director Stewart Schwartz. “We want to see the data.”
Potential issues Schwartz would like to have explored include:
- Neighborhood impact where trucks access the lanes such as at the Vienna Metro Station
- Whether trucks would edge out carpoolers and transit users
- Whether the trucks would make driving conditions more dangerous
- Whether trucks would alter current behavior of traveling during nonpeak hours
“Will this bring them back into peak hours and having impact not just on the HOT lanes but all the connecting roads,” Schwartz wondered.
Construction on the Outer Loop project on I-66 is expected to begin in the fall of 2017.