I-395 HOT lanes debated

ARLINGTON, Va. — As plans move forward to add high-occupancy toll lanes to Interstate 395 from Turkeycock Run to the D.C. line, residents in Arlington turned out Monday night to hear an update on the project from state officials.

The project would involve using the two existing HOV lanes, creating a third lane, and turning them into reversible High Occupancy Toll lanes. The lanes would charge drivers tolls based on current traffic conditions, though they’d be free for vehicles carrying three or more people.

“There will be incentives now for everyone to continue carpooling, even after those peak periods,” said Susan Shaw, director of the Northern Virginia Megaprojects Office of the Virginia Department of Transportation.

At the meeting at Wakefield High School, attendees were able to express their thoughts about the project. Some who live near the road expressed concerns about it.

Arlington resident Suzanne Harchik said she is upset that city residents will have endure construction to make the commute easier for people who choose to live far from the District.

“All in all, it’s not fair to us; it’s not fair to the people who aren’t gonna (sic) be able to afford it, and I think you’re overreaching how many people will use it,” Harchik said.

“It’s kind of interesting how tonight we had a lot of preplanned speeches by people in support from counties outside of this area, that aren’t really directly impacted by the traffic,” said Chris Dvorak, of Arlington.

Others, like David Allison, of Ashburn, applauded the state for the project, which he says will create construction jobs and will help alleviate traffic.

“Anything you can do to alleviate the time that people who use the roads on a daily basis have to spend in their cars wasting gasoline and adding to air pollution is greatly appreciated,” Allison said.

During a presentation, project managers outlined a plan to begin construction on the lanes next spring with the goal of having them in operation in the summer of 2019. The state expects the lanes to reduce congestion by 15 percent in general travel lanes, which will result in a travel time reduction of 6 to 8 minutes. The design plans also call for new bus and slug drop-off lanes at the Pentagon.

The state is proposing to build 8.1 miles of sound walls to lessen the noise from the road for residents near the interstate.

Arlington resident Rick Carter said if sound walls go up, he wants residents to be a part of that conversation.

“There is really no such thing as a good-looking wall: Most of them are ugly; some of them are less than ugly, so we definitely want to go with the less-than-ugly,” Carter said.

The sound walls are in the design phase, and VDOT says residents near the road will vote on whether walls should be used and which design they would like to see.

The state currently has a tentative deal giving Transurban, the private firm which operates other toll roads in the area, the right to operate the lanes. The state would receive at least $15 million a year from Transurban.

Two more public hearings on the project’s design plans will be held in the coming days: On Wednesday from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Francis C. Hammond Middle School in Alexandria, and Nov. 30 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Bren Mar Park Elementary School in Alexandria.

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