Greater Greater Washington

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Will VDOT be creative with the I-66 corridor?

The Virginia Department of Transportation is currently studying transportation in the I-66 corridor inside the Beltway. A public hearing in Arlington on Wednesday will be a critical chance to weigh in on the smartest investments.


Photo by M.V. Jantzen on Flickr.

This study could lead to just about any mobility improvement: light rail on Route 50, tolls, bus lanes, changes to the HOV structure, or more Capital Bikeshare stations.

But especially given Governor McDonnell's heavy emphasis on in new and wider roads, smart growth advocates should be keeping a particularly close eye on the results, as it could set the stage for a new push to widen I-66 through Arlington.

The whole reason VDOT is doing this study comes from a battle in early 2009. VDOT wanted to widen I-66 in some places, but advocates argued they needed to analyze other options instead of just assuming widening was the answer. Arlington and Fairfax members of the TPB briefly blocked the project, and agreed to let it proceed on the condition VDOT do this study.

Will they truly be open to more creative multimodal options, or simply got through the motions only to reach a predetermined conclusion that more road capacity is the only answer?


Map from VDOT defining the I-66 corridor inside the Beltway.

The study's mission is to "identify a range of multimodal and corridor management solutions (operational, transit, bike, pedestrian, and highway) that can be implemented to reduce highway and transit congestion and improve overall mobility within the I-66 corridor, between I-495 and the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge."

One thing that jumps out on the map is that while the corridor has three major east-west roadways, it has just one dedicated bike trail. VDOT doesn't step outside its of its roads-first mentality too often, so Wednesday's meeting will be a good opportunity to send them a message.

I-66 Multimodal Study Open House & Presentation
Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2011
6-8 pm (presentation begins at 6:30 pm)
Arlington County Board Room
2100 Clarendon Blvd, Arlington
If you can't make the meeting, you can still read about the study and send comments to info@I66multimodalstudy.com.
Miles Grant grew up in Boston riding the Green Line, and has lived in Northern Virginia riding the Orange Line since 2002. Also blogging at The Green Miles, he believes enhancing smart growth makes the DC area not just more environmentally sustainable, but a healthier and more vibrant place to live, work and play. 

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I'd like to see the new Fairfax Drive on-ramp to I-66 west extended all the way to EXIT 67. The same idea for the other direction too. That and the Silver Line would be helpful without altering the I-66 footprint much.

Another bike corridor would also be welcome, especially if it is flatter than the Custis Trail.

by WFY on Dec 9, 2011 12:55 pm • linkreport

I-66 should be changed to be an extension of the the Dulles Toll with Dynamic Pricing. (I-66 end at the Beltway) Proceeds should go to Metro Operations/Debt Payment, Rosslyn Tunnel Changes and a massive expansion of the Capital Bikeshare Program.

by mcs on Dec 9, 2011 12:56 pm • linkreport

I think I-66 east and west bound ought to be widened to no more than 3 lanes inside the beltway. It doesn't make sense to have such an important highway w/ only 2 lanes in relatively dense areas. I'd also like to see an HOV/bus lane on westbound I-66.

by Vik on Dec 9, 2011 1:20 pm • linkreport

@WFY


Another bike corridor would also be welcome, especially if it is flatter than the Custis Trail.

Personally I like the hills on the Custis, there certainly isn't a lot of them in the area. Admittedly they're a little more difficult to run on after a heavy snow.

Where would a second bike/running trail be built?

by Fitz on Dec 9, 2011 1:24 pm • linkreport

Yes, the only stretch of I-66 that needs to be widened is both directions between the Dulles Toll Road access ramps and Fairfax Drive exit into Ballston. Having driven this stretch for years I am convinced that would solve almost all the problems in this area. It is only 4 miles each way. Should be fairly cost effective and I think it can all fit in the footprint that exists today.

by NikolasM on Dec 9, 2011 1:29 pm • linkreport

Agreed about the hills on the Custis trail. Those would totally keep me from using that as a daily commuting route.

It reminds me of just how lucky DC-area cyclists are to live in an area with such flat topography.

by andrew on Dec 9, 2011 1:29 pm • linkreport

VDOT will go through the motions of entertaining options, just like Arlington will go through the motions of analyzing the BRT options for Columbia Pike when they have to apply for their streetcar construction money from the Feds.

Both sides have pet projects.

by Stu on Dec 9, 2011 1:33 pm • linkreport

I don't mind the hills on Custis (really only an issue going outbound), but the roots are really starting to take their toll on the trail surface. It's starting to turn into the twin of the Rock Creek bike path near the zoo. Very dangerous in the dark.

by oboe on Dec 9, 2011 1:35 pm • linkreport

Bikes and bike trails are great, but they're not substitute for highways. People on highways have longer commutes and even if the range might seem doable to an avid cyclist, most people are not physically up to it -- not to mention the challenges posed by weather or for those who need to drive for other reasons, including what they carry in the car. Adding a bike trail might benefit a few hundred people, but it's not going to get a lot of people off the road. Widening I-66, if that's possible, would benefit tens of thousands. A bike trail sounds like a great idea, but it's not a solution to the jams on I-66.

by Fischy (Ed F.) on Dec 9, 2011 1:41 pm • linkreport

There are two bike trails currently in the zone, not one: the Custis Trail and the (terrible) trail along Route 50. VDOT is in the process of rebuilding the Glebe Rd. bridge over 50 and appears to have decided to make no impovements to the trail there...BRT along Route 50 might work at rush hour but I don't think they have the density really...More tolls for those who drive through Arlington is a great idea but not happening.

by PS on Dec 9, 2011 2:09 pm • linkreport

also uncertain about the ability to support another rail line between the orange line and the Columbia Pike LRT. More buses, maybe BRT? 2 lanes in each direction seems awfully paltry for highway capacity in this area (and there arent many other radial highways in VA inside the beltway) Some capacity addition here may the best example of a legitimate addition of capacity ALONGSIDE other modes. Note, the silver line will mean more frequent rail service from EFC to Rosslyn and DC, and eventual extension of Orange line to Centerville will also impact this corridor.

Cabi expansion sounds like a decent idea, given where it already is in Arlington.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 9, 2011 2:14 pm • linkreport

A bike trail sounds like a great idea, but it's not a solution to the jams on I-66.

Sure, but since there is no solution to the jams on I-66 (at least outside of a reconfiguration of where and how we live and work) that's hardly an argument against increased investment in multi-use paths like the Custis.

"Let's eliminate these trails so we can have slightly wider gridlock!" is hardly a compelling rallying cry.

by oboe on Dec 9, 2011 2:15 pm • linkreport

"Where would a second bike/running trail be built?'

Columbia Pike and/or improve connectivity on Rt 50, (starting at 10th street), and/or Duke/Little River Tpke west of Holmes Run

by Kolohe on Dec 9, 2011 2:16 pm • linkreport

"It reminds me of just how lucky DC-area cyclists are to live in an area with such flat topography."

Someone doesn't live and/or bike EOTR.

by Kolohe on Dec 9, 2011 2:18 pm • linkreport

The only way alternatives will happen is if you figure out how to make the process work your way.

by Rich on Dec 9, 2011 2:31 pm • linkreport

Agree with NicholasM. Discussions of widening 66 are all or nothing. All they need to do is widen it between the Toll Road and Fairfax Drive so that you don't have 4 lanes from 2 major highways merging into 2 lanes and so that you have better merges going west coming off the major entrance ramps.

by xtr657 on Dec 9, 2011 2:36 pm • linkreport

I-66 expansion AND I-395 toll lanes AND a new & improved Arlington Blvd. corridor bike trail, AND a 395 corridor bike trail, AND BRT along Arlington Blvd. Not sure how you fund it, but any/all of those would be better projects than the Columbia Pike streetcar.

For the Arl. Blvd. bike trail, the best way to run it would be to continue the improvements from 10th Street to Pershing, then split it from 50 and run it across Pershing (perhaps as a separated lane?) for the 2.0 miles to where 50 hits Pershing, then follow 50 from there. This would avoid three of the four interchanges along 50 (Washington Blvd., Glebe, and George Mason) by running on a parallel, non freeway-esque street through the southernmost part of "North Arlington." From Manchester Street in Arlington to the Beltway, there exists an almost-continuous set of frontage roads that could be adapted for a very nice bike trail -- although the stretch through the Seven Corners area interchange will be tricky to make smooth and safe.

by Arl Fan on Dec 9, 2011 2:43 pm • linkreport

There's also the W&OD Trail and the Bluemont Junction trail in that area. The latter of which doesn't even make it on the map. I hope that the fact that all of the bike trails aren't included and are shown as thin dotted lines compared to thick solid lines for the roads, does betray an attitude of biking as lessor than driving.

Improving the Route 50 trail is the obvious starting point for better bike connectivity.

by David C on Dec 9, 2011 2:53 pm • linkreport

Tolls are the only long term solution to reduce congestion on I-66 inside the beltway. VDOT can build 10 more lanes on I-66 inside the beltway and it will still be bumper to bumper. If you build it they will come.

A short term fix is to remove the Hybrid Exemption and put HOV2 into effect in both directions during afternoon rush hour.

by mcs on Dec 9, 2011 2:56 pm • linkreport

Tolls are the only long term solution to reduce congestion on I-66 inside the beltway.

+1! Although obsolete federal rules are the reason for it, tolling the DTR while not tolling inner 66 is absurd. If there's any road in the metro area that should be tolled, 66 is it.

Also do whatever is needed to go to all 8-car trains on the Orange Line, replace some Blue Line trains with Orange Line trains (already planned), and make flow improvements to both 50 and Columbia Pike.

by dal20402 on Dec 9, 2011 3:17 pm • linkreport

It's ridiculous that a Cadillac Escalade hybrid can ride in the HOV lanes when I can't with my MINI Cooper.

by Matthew on Dec 9, 2011 3:31 pm • linkreport

Actually, the tolling option looks very promising. Could the state convert HOV restrictions to HOT restrictions and then up the HO requirement from two persons to three or four? I assume it'd need some sort of NEPA analysis, but what level? Are there dedicated ramps from the Beltway HOT lanes being built? I know that Arlington fought HOV to HOT conversion on 395, but 66 might be distinguishable.

Tolls on 66 inside the Beltway partly paying for the Silver Line might lessen the need for such massive toll increases on the DTR and so be more politically palatable: spreading the misery rather than concentrating it.

by jim on Dec 9, 2011 4:00 pm • linkreport

@mcs

I agree with getting rid of the hybrid exemption, but I don't think HOV even makes sense for two occupants. It should be 3 minimum.

by Vik on Dec 9, 2011 4:10 pm • linkreport

The federal government does not approve of tolling interstate highways unless major improvements are made to the road. It would be easier to remove the I-66 designation from inside the beltway and make in an extension of the DTR. Arlington won't have as much heartburn about the conversion from HOV to HOT if it remains in government control.

by mcs on Dec 9, 2011 4:17 pm • linkreport

+1 for tolling! I think the reason Arlington opposed the 395 tolling scheme so strongly was because it included widening from 2 to 3 lanes. But HOT on the existing 66 lanes (with HOV at 3 or 4) could help fund transit improvements- either the Silver Line, as jim suggests, or express bus services that would increase the overall person-throughput of the road.

I'd agree with others that bike improvements aren't a substitute for increasing capacity on I-66, and I think to get VDOT/State/suburban support, a solution does need to do something to address congestion and the need to move people over long distances through the corridor.

by RichardatCourthouse on Dec 9, 2011 4:17 pm • linkreport

Biking by itself probably is not THE solution, but it is part of a complete breakfast. The worry is that VDOT only wants driving on their plate.

by David C on Dec 9, 2011 4:32 pm • linkreport

As someone who lives a half mile from 66 inside the beltway in falls church, I say: widen to three lanes full from dtr to ballston, remove ridiculous hybrid exemption. Every am I sit and watch solo drivers in gas guzzling hybrid SUVs while I'm on the orange line. A more controversial fix would be Hov 2 in both directions, but I think that should wait until the silver line opens due to the popularity of the reverse commute to Tyson's and points west.

by Nick on Dec 9, 2011 4:44 pm • linkreport

Making 66 an HOT requiring 3 or 4 riders would reduce cars on 66, but it would probably just send the problem onto other roads (like 50) which are also already congested. Face it, at the end of the day, people who live in the suburbs--and there are a lot of us--need to go from points west of the Beltway towards the Ballston-Rosslyn corridor/DC. Transit/bike trails all you want, but there also needs to be increased road capacity. Not doing so is reckless.

by Restonite on Dec 9, 2011 5:16 pm • linkreport

@RichardatCourthouse

Do you mean widening 395 from 2 to 3 lanes? If so, where is 395 only 2 lanes wide?

by Vik on Dec 9, 2011 5:25 pm • linkreport

Transit/bike trails all you want, but there also needs to be increased road capacity. Not doing so is reckless.

What's reckless is building all that housing out there without good transpo options other than driving. Increasing road capacity will only encourage that reckless behavior further.

I agree on eliminating the hybrid exemption...but that's already happened:

http://www.virginiadot.org/newsroom/northern_virginia/2011/hov_law_for_hybrid51769.asp

The only hybrids still allowed on 66 are the ones that got their clean fuel plates prior to 7/1/11 (essentially grandfathering in those cars).

The best solution to stopping 66 congestion from getting worse is to stop all the new development in western fairfax, loudoun, and prince william and concentrate that growth closer to existing infrastructure.

by Falls Church on Dec 9, 2011 6:22 pm • linkreport

@Falls Church I don't think it's reckless. Some people (myself included) don't WANT to live in cities/urban areas, yet we commute into those areas because that's where our jobs are. The expense that would be needed to cover the area in transit wouldn't match the low density. You can't have the transit (i.e. buses in this case) be frequent enough to make it a solid option for me or many of my neighbors. The silver line will be good but only covers one corridor and doesn't even blanket the entire area that regularly uses 66.

Also, there are major job centers out in Western Fairfax, Loudon, and Prince William counties. DC/Arlington/inner Maryland doesn't have the office capacity to match the needs of the DC region (for example, Tysons is now the 12th largest concentration of office space in the country). So many of my friends who live in housing "out there" have the local commutes, but their spouses have jobs in DC or Arlington. They could live closer in, but then the other one is forced to commute along this corridor. Either way, one of them will be going along it (and again, transit cannot truly cover the entire area).

This is a healthy debate to have, but recognize that some people with DC jobs want to live on farms and sub-developments that frankly shouldn't be covered by transit. It's a personal choice. Urban and urban-lite development isn't for everyone.

by Restonite on Dec 9, 2011 8:26 pm • linkreport

Transit/bike trails all you want, but there also needs to be increased road capacity. Not doing so is reckless.
What's reckless is building all that housing out there without good transpo options other than driving. Increasing road capacity will only encourage that reckless behavior further.

Is there any evidence that adding another lane would actually improve things? I mean, we could probably convert all the sidewalks in DC to extra traffic lanes, but unless they were reserved for buses I'm not sure I see how that would make an impact. At this point all you're doing is eliminating non-auto facilities for rapidly diminishing returns.

by oboe on Dec 9, 2011 8:28 pm • linkreport

Vik:

"Do you mean widening 395 from 2 to 3 lanes? If so, where is 395 only 2 lanes wide?"

They mean the existing, reversible, express lanes (HOV 3, but only during rush hour) in the middle of I-395. There are 2 such lanes. The primary lanes of 395 are more numerous - at least 3 and sometimes more in each direction.

by Nick on Dec 9, 2011 11:07 pm • linkreport

"@RichardatCourthouse
Do you mean widening 395 from 2 to 3 lanes? If so, where is 395 only 2 lanes wide?"

I believe he is referring to the existing HOV lanes, which is where I think the HOT lane would have been added.

by Kolohe on Dec 9, 2011 11:07 pm • linkreport

@Restonite

I understand that some people want to live on a farm and have a job in the city. thats fine. It's a fre country and people can do as they please. just don't ask the government to build an expensive road that also degrades the environment for others to make that dream a possibility.

I also understand that some households have people with jobs in different parts of the state or country. Once again, if one spouse has a job in DC and the other wants a job in Herndon or Leesburg or Richmond, you're free to do that. Just don't ask the govt to make that desire a reality by building you a road or high speed rail or whatnot.

And don't say that if we build the silver line for transit lovers we should build more roads for car lovers. It has nothing to do with love. The silver line will add $4B to the value of propert just within a half mile of the four tysons stations. The remainder of the Silver corridor will see additional value added making the project very ROI positive. Show me a road with similar economic returns and I'll say build it.

Also, there is plenty of additional capacity to build office space and housing in rosslyn-ballston or tysons or even reston. Tyson is set to double its office space in the coming years and even more would be built if demand was further concentrted their. Rosslyns is continuing to add office space and the rest of that corridor has a lot of catching up to do with rosslyn in adding bigger office towers.

by Falls Church on Dec 10, 2011 10:59 am • linkreport

Btw, I know someone who lives on a farm in upstate NY and commutes to a job in DC. She does it without any special infrastructure designed specifically to make that happen or any other govt handout. It's possible if you're willing to make certain sacrifices like being away from your spouse four days a week. But nothing great in life comes without personal sacrifice.

by Falls Church on Dec 10, 2011 11:07 am • linkreport

@Falls Church

You realize that you can flip that argument on its head and ask why those of you who are proponents of increased transit get the special "govt handout" over those of us who want to live a quieter suburban/rural life. I don't understand why the road widening can't go WITH other forms of transit that will reduce the needs for the road? It's not a zero-sum argument here. The silver line adds all of that economic growth, and the widening of 66 will reduce gridlock in that 4-mile stretch, thereby better connecting the region. They both have positive effects.

Oh, and I'll be sure to keep all this in mind when I choose my next job and get married. In fact, I'll break up with my girlfriend today because she works in Leesburg. Got it.

by Restonite on Dec 10, 2011 11:18 am • linkreport

You want to live out there? You will have to deal with the traffic. It's part of the equation, and the free lunch is over. There's not enough money to even maintain the existing infrastructure, much less build enough new routes for everyone -- not to mention that driving costs everyone more money, and doesn't deserve further subsidies.

BRT on 50 (or 66, or wherever) would improve connections past that corridor. Part of the magic of BRT is that the express buses along that trunk corridor can become local buses at the end of the line, with no transfer necessary.

by Payton on Dec 10, 2011 12:44 pm • linkreport

Last I checked, there are like 20+ story buildings in Reston Town Center. Obviously that's not all of Reston, but it suggests that more highways aren't even the answer for the places people "escape" to, especially if we're going to allow intense development in Tysons/Reston/Herndon/whatever.

It's really not an either-or thing. You can live in a house with a yard in Arlington or Silver Spring or Bethesda and walk/bike/bus/Metro it to your destination. The same could happen in Reston, allowing people to live as they want without having to drag a car along.

by dan reed! on Dec 10, 2011 2:45 pm • linkreport

@Restonite:

"This is a healthy debate to have, but recognize that some people with DC jobs want to live on farms and sub-developments that frankly shouldn't be covered by transit. It's a personal choice. Urban and urban-lite development isn't for everyone."

You can go on and on about how this is all about freedom and personal choice, but that argument breaks down when your "personal choice" impacts everyone who didn't have a say in your choice. And guess what? All of that pollution and congestion that you cause impacts everyone else. That's what externalities are.

But you aren't just content to subject others to the negative externalities of your choices--you also want them to pay to build an unlimited supply of roads for you?

If you want to work inside the Beltway but live well outside it, then you're going to have to accept one of two things: unpleasant levels of traffic or figuring out a way to take transit. There's just no other way to move all of the suburbanites (or romanticized farm-dwellers, as you put it) into the urban areas. Since you seem completely unwilling to consider transit, why do you refuse to accept the traffic?

by Gray on Dec 10, 2011 5:33 pm • linkreport

Who said I was unwilling to consider transit? On the contrary, I'm a huge proponent of transit, but also think that I'm pragmatic. Transit isn't going to be sufficient to connect the the many suburbs of NoVa to the rest of the system any time soon (for a whole host of reasons). And talking about externalities...the amount of pollution created by the crawling cars could be reduced with the spot improvements that allow the cars to travel at faster speeds. The comments section of the Aug 2010 article on the spot improvements (linked at the end of the article) discuss this much further. I'm not asking anyone to pave over the region; I just fail to see why this third lane is so much of a problem, especially since it will relieve the negatives that are being forced onto non-highway streets.

by Restonite on Dec 10, 2011 6:00 pm • linkreport

widening of 66 will reduce gridlock in that 4-mile stretch

I don't believe widening 66 will have that effect. It's a bit like folks who want to set up large-scale drilling operations in ANWR because of the massive impact it'll have on our foreign oil dependence.

We'll never get that wilderness back, but at least we'll have a neutral return on the investment. At least despoiling ANWR is likely to pay for itself.

by oboe on Dec 10, 2011 6:13 pm • linkreport

@Restonite:

You know, I hear this a lot, and I don't think people think it through very much:

" . . . the amount of pollution created by the crawling cars could be reduced with the spot improvements that allow the cars to travel at faster speeds."

In the short term, widening I-66 might increase speeds and allow those cars to move more freely, but it won't take long before more people drive on I-66 and we're back to the same level of congestion--with more cars, and hence more pollution. This is the pattern we've seen throughout the metro area, and yet people continue to argue that roads should be expanded as a way to magically reduce pollution?

You don't think that transit is sufficient to connect the far-out suburbs, and I agree with you there. Where I think you're wrong is that you think that people from those far-out suburbs can somehow be served by expanding the road network, which we've seen over and over again just isn't true. Even if it were free, it wouldn't solve the problem, but it's most definitely not free. So instead we either need to focus on other ways to move those people around, or they need to accept that they're going to be spending a lot of time in traffic--and stop asking for more roads paid for by others.

by Gray on Dec 10, 2011 6:15 pm • linkreport

@Gray

Even without the widening of the roads the amount of cars trying to travel them is increasing. The cars will come whether or not the lanes are built, and still no one has given a good reason why expanding 66 in these areas is a bad idea. Again, I refer back to last August's comments for a better explanation of the positives...it's hard to summarize an entire length of comments into one short post.

And re: "and stop asking for more roads paid for by others." Fine, then stop asking for others to subsidize your transit use. You pay for the way you travel, and I'll pay for the way I travel. I'm frankly frustrated with the "holier-than-thou" and "subrubanites suck" attitude of some of the pro-transit folks. I KNOW it's not all pro-transit folks (after all, I really am one), but that sort of attitude is a detriment to the development of the region. Suburbanism provides a positive net to the region, but so many in the city's core look down on the many positives that the suburban areas provide.

by Restonite on Dec 10, 2011 6:38 pm • linkreport

You realize that you can flip that argument on its head and ask why those of you who are proponents of increased transit get the special "govt handout" over those of us who want to live a quieter suburban/rural life.

The Silver Line is no gov't handout to transit lovers. It will pay for itself many times over in economic development. Here is the info:

To get an idea of how much wealth will be created by Rail to Dulles, consider this: The current assessed value of the commercial property in just the Phase 1 special tax district, concentrated in Tysons Corner, is $9 billion to $10 billion. Fairfax County is contemplating changes to its comprehensive plan that would increase allowable square footage of non-residential development (offices, retail, hotels) by 43 percent and residential development by 151 percent.(1) Those zoning changes in Tysons Corner potentially could translate into an additional $4 billion in property assessments. And that doesn't include the boost to property within walking distance of the METRO stations, which could easily double in value.

Add it all up, and the increase in property values for just Tysons Corner could well exceed $5 billion.

http://www.baconsrebellion.com/Issues06/05-15/Bacon.php

The silver line adds all of that economic growth, and the widening of 66 will reduce gridlock in that 4-mile stretch, thereby better connecting the region.

If a road (and the pollution it causes) will pay for itself through economic development -- i.e., it's a good investment when all economic and environmental costs are accounted -- then I'm all for it. Widening 66 is not such an investment.

Widening 66 inside the beltway is unlikely to spur development and create high paying white collar jobs in Arlington. On the contrary, it will make Arlington a less desirable place to live and do business. Widening 66 inside the beltway isn't going to spur high paying job growth in Centreville or Gainseville or what-have-you because frankly, high paying employers don't want to locate out there. Maybe you could argue that widening 66 would spur jobs in places like Reston because it would facilitate reverse commuting but the Silver Line is taking care of that. The bottom line is that widening 66 inside the beltway is not going to create the kind of $100K+ jobs that make transportation investment fruitful.

Oh, and I'll be sure to keep all this in mind when I choose my next job and get married. In fact, I'll break up with my girlfriend today because she works in Leesburg. Got it.

You think you've got it bad? I know people living in DC with long distance relationships in NYC. No one's asking you to break up with your gf or even change jobs. Just realize that it's going to mean spending a lot of time in your car just like my DC/NYC friends know that their long distance relationship means getting to know Amtrak all-too-well.

by Falls Church on Dec 10, 2011 7:42 pm • linkreport

Even without the widening of the roads the amount of cars trying to travel them is increasing. The cars will come whether or not the lanes are built,

I don't see how that would happen. More cars are going to come only if more houses are built out there. More houses will be built out there only if more roads are built. Unless you think people are going to buy houses out there when they know for a fact that they are signing up for a traffic nightmare.

by Falls Church on Dec 10, 2011 7:45 pm • linkreport

@Falls Church

I'll only seize on one of the problems in your recent post. How will widening 66 make it a less desirable place to live or do business? The widening will NOT expand the slash, which has already been created. If it were to do so, then yes, I would agree with you. But it's not. The expansion increases capacity, which in my opinion increases its desirability. But maybe that's just me; I'm sure you have some brilliant study that proves that wrong.

by Restonite on Dec 10, 2011 7:55 pm • linkreport

I have an idea. Create a combination robocar/transit lane. This is forward-looking, as the technology is still being developed and promoted. The idea is to have a lane reserved for robotic vehicles, including vehicles that combine into larger vehicles. Since it takes years to commercialize the technology, we can have such a lane ready to go when people start buying it up. That will go a long way into demonstrating whether Bertie or I am right about our assertions.

by Rickyrab on Dec 10, 2011 8:45 pm • linkreport

Multi-modal? Just add some lanes. Stop the BS!

by JAY on Dec 11, 2011 12:25 am • linkreport

Excellent argument, JAY!

by Gray on Dec 11, 2011 6:25 pm • linkreport

I will add to the growing chorus of people who say that the hybrid exemption needs to go, and add that in addition we need a clear definition of what "using" IAD is. Working at the airport is using it, traveling through the airport, or picking up/dropping off someone traveling through the airport is using it, nothing else is. There's NO reason buying a coffee at the gas station on the airport's premises should be considered using the airport. Combining both of these with effective daily enforcement instead of biannual "show-of-force" crackdowns are short-term corrective actions that will immediately improve flow of traffic on I66 within the beltway. Outside the beltway, HOV2 needs to be carefully monitored for actual HOV use.

The long-term solution, though, requires effectively functioning, competitively-priced mass transit. If the decision there is Metro, then it's time to increase core capacity in the short-term by going to 100 percent 8 car trains, and longer-term by either building a new tunnel across the Potomac or lengthening existing platforms to accommodate 10/12-car trains. If the decision is not Metro, then let's rip up those tracks and create dedicated BRT lanes along the entire I66 corridor.

And finally, this is a place to start talking about affordable living closer to DC. We've tried moving closer to DC more times than I can care to count, and we've yet to find a total of commute+housing that comes out less than where we currently are, and that's with a willingness to halve our square footage.

by varun on Dec 11, 2011 9:50 pm • linkreport

It certainly is a good idea to expand 66, it would move a lot more cars, but in today's world with extremely limited budgets and governments unwilling to make commitments to big projects we need to make sure that the big projects go to plans that focus on moving people, not necessarily cars. If we focus all of the money to moving more cars then you miss out on chances to move more people across the region. So yes, it is important to look at all the options rather than just accepting that the road must be widened.

by Canaan on Dec 12, 2011 9:01 am • linkreport

clearly the best solutions for providing capacity to commute to the core involve transit. Clearly also, there are a large number of people who insist on single family houses on quarter acre lots. To not give them anything at all would A. Create the very backlash against urbanism and multimodalism we want to avoid (see we were RIGHT that the socialist elitists want to force you into tiny boxes) and B. Will likely push more employment to the periphery of the metro area (such as the Dulles Corridor).

It seems like a balanced approach is best. We already have heavy rail in that corridor, the Orange line. More frequency when the silver line is done. At some point extending the orange line to Centreville probably makes sense, as does improving transit (probably in the form of of BRT) on Rte 50. To get more auto capacity, dealing with the DTR to Ballston bottleneck makes sense. Im not sure if raising the HOV to 3 will be a big net gain, or just aggravate problems on Rte 50 and elsewhere.

Im not sure what the dispute is about - widening the whole highway at the expense of the Custis trail? I think both approaches miss the point - on the one hand a full extension of the extra lane all the way in will be costly and disruptive - it may help some, but will the ROI be that good? OTOH in a corridor like this I suspect its transit thats the real alternative, not cycling. Though it would be interesting to see actual usage of the Custis Trail.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 12, 2011 9:56 am • linkreport

The problem is that the people who want to live on quarter acre lots want to build highways through our neighborhoods and pollute our air.

Extending the Orange line to Centerville misses the point of what transit is. It's for close in transportation that might be used at all times - building transit that will only be used during rush hour is a good way to bankrupt transit. That far out, you need commuter rail like VRE. Running cheap buses on I-66 is another good solution to connecting Centerville to DC.

In fact the real solution is to a bunch of direct buses from places out along the I-66 corridor to DC, buses which would be paid for by people who live on quarter acre lots. Or they can sit in traffic. Their call.

by David C on Dec 12, 2011 12:03 pm • linkreport

Pollution is an argument against overreliance on highways, use of transit, and more focused development. However the costs are measurable and finite, and do not mean no highways should ever be built. And yes they (like transit and bike lanes)run through communities - we all go through other communities to get somewhere. I66, you note is already built - if Arlington hadnt allowed it or I395, the Commonwealth would likely have rescinded Arlingtons charter.

As for centerville, its close than the end of the silver line, or the end of development (which goes out to gainesville and beyond, and should be and already is served by VRE not metro - but VRE is not close to Fair Oaks/centerville, and building a new RR line is not in the cards) metro rail service will get higher ridership, take more people out of cars than buses will, and will enable denser development in Fair Oaks/fair lakes and Centreville.

(I also doubt very much that weekend ridership is a huge factor in the financial health of WMATA or other similar systems in the USA - weekend ridership undoubtedly pays over its marginal costs, but its not what drives the cost benefit of the system)

as for whose call it is - its the call of the commonwealth to support transportation options that make travel to the core easier or not in one of the most congested highway corridors in the region. Arlington may or may not be able to block I66 widening. Arlington cannot (and AFAICT, is not inclined to) block extension of the Orange line. One or the other, if not both, will occur.

However here in Virginia, the arguments FOR transit IN LIEU of highways are NOT helped by a sense that a move away from focus on asphalt is a actually part of a war on low density living.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 12, 2011 12:52 pm • linkreport

"Widening 66 inside the beltway isn't going to spur high paying job growth in Centreville or Gainseville or what-have-you because frankly, high paying employers don't want to locate out there. "

In terms of job location, I think the rationale for improving movement (via rail or highway) between western fairfax and the core is to keep those jobs in the core, rather than moving to Loudoun, or out of the region.

There is also benefits to, you know, travelers. The actual users of the facility. Either via shorter travel times (IF the induced demand is not 100% of added capacity) OR via the value of the added trips (since someone making a trip they werent making before is presumably getting something out of it).

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 12, 2011 12:57 pm • linkreport

@Falls Church,

It's somewhat disingenous to chastise suburban residents for "wanting others to spend money for roads to support your suburban lifestyle" while you try to make a case for building the $5.4 billion Silver Line.

Agreed that the Silver Line will provide economic benefits - primarily to property owners along its route.

However, you fail to mention that those property owners are reaping a benefit at great expense to the region as a whole.

And it will hardly "pay for itself". Even with the increased property values, the Silver Line will still require over $150 million in annual operating subsisidies and it will years before the capital costs are recouped in additional property tax revenue - if ever.

And we could go for the rest of the week about the ethics and fairness of "providing additional wealth" for an affluent few at the expense of the very people you advise to "get used to the traffic if you want to live out there, because it's wrong for you to expect the rest of us to spend money on roads to make your life easier".

by ceefer66 on Dec 12, 2011 2:06 pm • linkreport

The Silver Line goes out too far too, IMO. We can't keep building Metro farther and farther out chasing people who don't want to live near Metro. And I think we've already gone too far - compare it to other cities.

by David C on Dec 12, 2011 2:13 pm • linkreport

@ceefer66:

And we could go for the rest of the week about the ethics and fairness of "providing additional wealth" for an affluent few at the expense of the very people you advise to "get used to the traffic if you want to live out there, because it's wrong for you to expect the rest of us to spend money on roads to make your life easier".

Sure, but you're begging the question here. Spending that money isn't going to "make your life easier." It'll just be digging the hole you're in deeper.

by oboe on Dec 12, 2011 2:29 pm • linkreport

Other cities in the northeast, at least, have extensive commuter rail systems, which run on pre-ww2 area dense rail nets. Greater DC does not have an old rail net, cause we were much smaller, and had little industry.

I am NOT for extending metro rail deep into sprawl land. I agree that the extension of the silver line beyond dulles is debatable. But Centerville is already relatively dense. There is going to be little new SFH in fairfax - ffx is mostly built out. Maybe some folks in the northern PWC sprawl will go to centreville by car or bus and use an extended orange line (they can already go to Vienna, and I think some do). Extending the orange line to Centerville will mainly mean bringing metrorail closer to built up areas, including relatively dense centreville, and quasi walkable Fair Lakes. Its not the same as extensions of PWC and Loudoun, either in distance or density of areas served.

Its one thing to call for greater balance among modes (I agree) and to call for changes in urban form to provide more options to autocentric living (I agree with that also) - its quite another to try to use a non functioning highway as a mechanism to punish people for their choices - which is what the knee jerk reaction to ANY attempt to ease flow in I66 corridor, whether via rail transit, or via limited highway (I like the widen from DTR to Ballston only idea) sounds like to me. Id be happy to toll 66, if that is legally possible.

A fortiori, Id like to price carbon, to internalize that externality.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 12, 2011 2:30 pm • linkreport

"Sure, but you're begging the question here. Spending that money isn't going to "make your life easier." It'll just be digging the hole you're in deeper."

Is there any study suggesting induced traffic is always equal to 100% of capacity? That sounds odd to me, intuitively.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 12, 2011 2:31 pm • linkreport

"Sure, but you're begging the question here. Spending that money isn't going to "make your life easier." It'll just be digging the hole you're in deeper."
----

In other words, don't build any road capacity because people will use it.

Your logic is akin to the following;

Doctor: I have bad new and good news. The bad news is you are seriously ill you could die. The good news is we can do an operation to make it better. Maybe even much better.

Patient: If you do the surgery will I live forver?

Doctor: Of course, not.

Patient: Then don't bother.

Oboe, you never cease to entertain. Thanks.

by ceefer66 on Dec 12, 2011 5:03 pm • linkreport

@ceefe66:

In other words, don't build any road capacity because people will use it.

We're at the point of diminishing returns. I'm not sure if you noticed, but we have quite a few roads in the greater metropolitan area. This ain't southwest Georgia.

As far as your doctor analogy goes, I think a medical analogy could be pretty illuminating, but we'll have to tweak it a bit:

Doctor: "You've got to change your lifestyle. Your arteries are clogging, and you may not live for very much longer. I recommend a lifestyle change while you're still relatively healthy, otherwise you'll probably start to decline over the next five years."

Patient: "I've heard there's a surgical procedure that can fix things. Why don't we do that?"

Doctor: "I don't recommend that. First of all it's likely to be ineffective, and any benefits would be short term. Secondly, it's very expensive. Thirdly, and most importantly, you'd just be kicking the can down the road. You need to stop eating crap, and start exercising. And making those changes will just keep getting harder the older you get."

Patient: "Why don't you want me to get better!!!"

Of course, we've got a really bad habit of looking for quick fixes in this country, damn the costs. My theory is that this is an unfortunate side-effect of being told exactly what we want to hear for decades on end.

by oboe on Dec 12, 2011 8:01 pm • linkreport

And we could go for the rest of the week about the ethics and fairness of "providing additional wealth" for an affluent few

Just wanted to point out that this is exactly the sort of misguided resentment you hear whenever someone attempts to develop in DC as well. Sure some fancy-pants developers are talking about replacing that crack vial strewn vacant lot with mixed-income condos and ground floor retail, but that's just going to enrich someone. Same with the urbanization of Tyson's Corner (including Silver Line extension).

The only difference is that the folks in DC who fear change are afraid that new condo means less housing vouchers. You think it's going to mean one less lane.

At the end of the day though, healthy economic development means more money for highly subsidized groups like the urban poor and the exurban commuter. It's a win-win.

by oboe on Dec 12, 2011 8:11 pm • linkreport

It's amusing to read many of the comments here about the 'dread' of widening I-66. For those who were not here before I-66 was finally pushed through from the Beltway...be reminded the growth around the Arlington METRO stations would largely NOT have taken place were it not for I-66. There was no other reasonable outlet for traffic...especially to and from the western routes where most of the new jobs are created. I-66 needs to be widened. It's known as 'smart growth'. Sadly, Arlington is led by 'green dreamers' who care little about the environment but sure love to cling to 'theory'. Roads and bike trails can co-exist.

by Pelham1861 on Dec 14, 2011 10:29 am • linkreport

Great comments! VDOT should hear what you have to say. To make these part of the official study record, input them at info@i66multimodalstudy.com

by transportgal on Dec 16, 2011 3:06 pm • linkreport

Doc: I wont do the surgery till you change your lifestyle

Patient:Doc, i quit smoking, I walk every day, and Im on the Heart Association diet.

Doc: not good enough - you need two hours of aerobic exercise every day, and you need to go on the Ornish diet - much more austere.

Patient - I dont think I can do that, why dont you help me figure out something else

Doc - Go die!

@oboe - have you been west of the beltway lately? Have you been to Fair Lakes? It seems you dont even want to support high density, potentially less auto centric development in the suburbs.

If only have ALL population growth be in the center will save us, we might as well give up, cause we will die anyway.

Whats the total potential population of DC? You couldnt hold a fraction of NoVa. Your position sounds less like a proposal to solve the problem of sprawl, than a way to increase the value of your house.

A widening of one small part of I66 between ballston and DTR is not "major surgery" - major surgery would be adding lanes the whole length, or building another highway. Its minor surgery, that will help incrementally. No responsible physician would turn it down because it didnt solve the whole problem.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 16, 2011 3:28 pm • linkreport

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