Public meetings scheduled for I-66 widening plans

WASHINGTON — Starting Monday, public meetings will be held for a project to widen Interstate 66, from the Capital Beltway to U.S. Route 15 in Haymarket, Virginia.

The Virginia Department of Transportation unveiled a plan that would implement three general-purpose free lanes and two toll lanes, an effort meant to ease traffic congestion in the region. Construction would begin in 2017 and would be completed in 2022. Republicans have criticized the VDOT plan for I-66 inside the Beltway because it doesn’t widen the interstate, but so far they have not organized a similar opposition for outside the Beltway.

Transit officials will use the public meetings to present plans for the project and to solicit public feedback. The three public meetings are scheduled for 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the following locations:

  • Monday
    Oakton High School
    2900 Sutton Road, Vienna
  • Tuesday
    Virginia Department of Transportation, Northern Virginia District Office
    4975 Alliance Drive, Fairfax,
  • Wednesday
    Piney Branch Elementary School
    8301 Linton Hall Road, Bristow

Read more about the project here.

Officials say VDOT plans to build several new commuter lots along the I-66 corridor, in an attempt to replicate the carpool and slugging culture on Interstate 95 in Northern Virginia. There will be direct access from commuter lots to the I-66 Express Lanes outside the Beltway.

The transit agency also wants to provide high-frequency bus service with predictable travel times along the corridor. Travel times could be more predictable because the tolling, in theory, would manage traffic and keep vehicles moving at highway speeds at all times of the day. While some are hopeful that this will happen, others are skeptical because similar promises made for I-495 and I-95 Express Lanes did not come to fruition.

Vehicles with three or more people would be able to ride the I-66 Express Lanes for free, but all others would have to pay the toll. Currently the I-66 corridor is HOV-2, but it will be converted to HOV-3 under the region’s Constrained Long Range Plan ( before the end of 2020.

The project will also leave space in the median to extend Metro from Vienna-Fairfax to Centreville. But such an extension would take decades to complete.

It is not yet clear how the multi-billion dollar project will be funded. One option would be to publicly finance it with tax dollars. Virginia Department of Transportation would be able to keep the toll revenue under such a plan. A second option could be to form a public-private partnership, similar to the deal for the I-495 and I-95 Express Lanes, in which a private company would pay to build the new lanes and keep the toll revenue. A third option could be some mixture of the two.

The Commonwealth Transportation Board is expected to make some key decisions on the project’s financing in coming months.

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