Va. announces final chance to sound off about I-66 toll lanes

FAIRFAX, Va. — Final public hearings on toll lane plans for Interstate 66 outside the Beltway are now scheduled for mid-November.

The design public hearings Nov. 13 in Vienna, Nov. 14 in Centreville and Nov. 16 in Bristow were quietly posted on the project’s website recently.

The designs that will be the focus of those meetings are still being finalized, and have not yet been posted. The private company that is designing, building and will operate the lanes said the designs need to be much more detailed than those presented in the past so they are still putting the finishing touches on the plans.

That includes work on potential changes to a bike path that potential users have complained would have issues with safety, access and pollution if it is put between the sound walls and the highway. Some neighbors prefer the path stay on the highway side of the sound wall for increased privacy.

The construction will include a conversion of the Stringfellow Road and Monument Drive ramps to two-way, 24/7 access to the toll lanes to and from the east, and a new diverging diamond interchange at Nutley Street among other things.

“We are working towards beginning early construction activities later this year, in December, after our public hearings,” Virginia Department of Transportation Megaprojects Director Susan Shaw said.

The 22.5 miles with two toll lanes in each direction, along with three regular lanes and a shoulder, will look similar to the layout of the Beltway’s 495 Express Lanes when they open in 2022. To ride free in the lanes, drivers will need a total of at least three people in the car and an E-ZPass Flex switched to HOV mode. Motorcycles and emergency vehicles also use the lanes for free. Motorcycles will not need an E-ZPass.

At the previous public hearings in June, the 1,157 written and oral comments included complaints that trucks would be allowed in the I-66 lanes between the Beltway and Gainesville, but that decision was made last year.

Other comments challenged the overall project, the threat of very high tolls for drivers with one or two people in the car, and the lack of new regular travel lanes.

The tolls are designed to rise as more vehicles enter the lanes to discourage enough people from using the toll lanes that traffic keeps moving. Project leaders believe that when including new commuter bus options and a hoped-for increase in carpooling and slugging from new commuter lots, I-66 will move more people after the lanes open than it does today.

Nearly five years of construction is expected to have impacts on people who live near the road, as well as drivers who use I-66 when lanes will be closed for construction outside of rush hour.

“Lane closure hours on I-66 are limited to off-peak hours in order to keep traffic moving. Nighttime construction activities are anticipated throughout the construction period,” project leaders wrote in response to concerns from the June public meetings

“Wherever possible, noise barriers will be built prior to demolishing existing noise barriers. In locations where that is not possible, construction of a new barrier will begin within 60 days of the start of demolition of the existing barrier or tree clearing, whichever comes first. Construction of new barriers that are replacing existing barriers are to be completed within 240 days from the start of demolition of the existing barriers,” the response said.

During construction, there are plans to lower certain commuter bus fares and add additional service in hopes of getting some cars off the road.

“Back in the 90s, we started improvements on 66 starting from the inside all the way out to Prince William, and this is the final project on that list, so we’ve done a wave of projects over many years … Now we’re starting a new wave on 66 and we’re really making sure that we’re looking at multimodal as a key to this being successful,” said VDOT Northern Virginia District Engineer Helen Cuervo. “We can’t pave America, so we really have to get more people into carpools, van pools, buses, alternatives.”

The project includes new park-and-ride lots too. A public hearing on the first park-and-ride to be built, at U.S. 29 and University Boulevard in Gainesville, is scheduled Oct. 10.

The separate November public hearings on the entire project are scheduled from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., with a formal presentation starting at 7 p.m. each day.

Monday, Nov. 13, 2017
(6:00-8:30 p.m.)
Oakton High School Cafeteria
2900 Sutton Road
Vienna, VA 22181

Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017
(6:00-8:30 p.m.)
Stone Middle School Cafeteria
5500 Sully Park Drive
Centreville, VA 20120

Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017
(6:00-8:30 p.m.)
Piney Branch Elementary School Cafeteria/Gym
8301 Linton Hall Road
Bristow, VA 20136

VDOT and other private partners are separately working on toll lane conversions and extensions along Interstate 95 and Interstate 395. VDOT-operated rush-hour-only tolling on Interstate 66 inside the Beltway is scheduled to begin in December.

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