I-66 toll lane proposal drives interest among private sector

GAINESVILLE, Va. – “Several” companies are interested in joining Virginia in building and running proposed toll lanes along Interstate 66 between Haymarket and the Capitol Beltway, the commonwealth’s transportation secretary tells WTOP.

Secretary Aubrey Layne says he is hopeful the state ends up with a partner for the project even though he initiated a review this spring looking into whether the project would be more financially viable if the state built the toll lanes independently.

VDOT’s plans call for three regular travel lanes and express lanes in each direction from Haymarket to the Beltway. A separate but related plan calls for changes inside the Beltway that would tighten the high occupancy restrictions from HOV-2 to HOV-3 during the rush hour but allow other vehicles to use the lanes by paying a toll.

Residents who live along stretches of I-66 have complained at a series of public meetings that widening the interstate will not help with congestion.

Layne says the robust discussion about the plan is understandable, because of the large scale and impact.

“We’re open to ideas, but if you don’t like what we’re doing, give us a suggestion. The current situation cannot go on,” Layne says.

He expects more details about the project will be nailed down by the end of summer, with other issues resolved by the end of the year.

“Everybody has parochial needs, but the real issue is what are we doing for the region and the commonwealth to open this up?” Layne says.

“The key is for us first to get what’s the right transportation solution, and then once that (is set), how is the best way to finance it,” he adds.

The 95 Express Lanes were built and are operated by Transurban under a public-private partnership agreement that has been criticized for, among other things, leaving out strict requirements for public transit.

Current state leaders say that Transurban negotiated a deal that was beneficial to the international consortium’s interests, and that lessons learned would guide any future public-private partnerships.

Va. Gov. Terry McAuliffe has negotiated changes for several transportation deals that did not work out well for the state, including negotiations to wrap up the failed U.S. 460 toll road project in Southeastern Virginia.

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