Greater Greater Washington

More roads won't solve traffic on I-95 in Northern Virginia

I-95 in Northern Virginia is already one of the nation's most congested corridors, and forecasts predict it will only get worse. A new study by the GMU Center for Regional Analysis lays out the difficult decisions area leaders face regarding the corridor's future land use, economy, and transportation network.


Photo by bankbryan on Flickr.

At present, the I-95 corridor in Fairfax and Prince William counties is mainly a low-density suburban area. Most residents work in DC, Arlington, or Alexandria, and existing transit such as the Blue Line and VRE only serve inside-the-Beltway locations. The area's lone major employment center is Fort Belvoir, which is spread out and has limited bus service.

Traffic volume and congestion along I-95 are already very high, and major road investments are not expected to reduce congestion. Furthermore, job growth in the region has been occurring in areas like Tysons Corner and the Dulles Corridor, which are hard to reach from the I-95 corridor, especially by transit.

Development plans along the corridor envision a series of dense urban nodes around transit in places like Springfield, Huntington, and Woodbridge. But the success of those areas depends on carefully planned, and expensive, transportation investments both within the corridor and to other areas.

The situation is already problematic

The 21-mile stretch of Interstate 95 that connects the Capital Beltway and Quantico is one of the busiest highways in the eastern United States. The most heavily traveled segment of the corridor, located just south of Old Keene Mill Road, carries an average of 231,000 vehicles per day. This count includes about 30,000 vehicles per day in the corridor's reversible express lanes and about 14,000 tractor-trailers.

Traffic volumes along the corridor tripled between 1975 and 2000, but have flattened out since then. That's due to the expansion of transit and, more recently, the rerouting of through traffic around the "Mixing Bowl" interchange in Springfield.


All images from the GMU Center for Regional Analysis unless noted.

Transit ridership in the corridor has increased dramatically over the past 15 years, with the average number of daily boardings on the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) tripling and the number of boardings at the Franconia-Springfield Metro station increasing by 48 percent. The corridor also contains more than 15 express commuter bus routes that connect it to the Pentagon, downtown Washington, and Tysons Corner. In total, about 27,000 transit riders per day make use of these rail or bus options to travel to work each day.

Surveys by transit operators show that the majority of these riders work for the federal government and routinely commute by transit four or five days every week. These transit options are becoming increasingly congested: VRE reports that its trains operate at as much as 20 percent over capacity during peak times.

Increased traffic in the corridor has been a function of commuting patterns. Since 1990, the number of people who live in Fairfax or Prince William and work in DC, Arlington, or Alexandria has remained flat, while the number who work in other locations increased by more than 100,000 people.

Nearly all existing transit in the I-95 corridor serves employment hubs located inside the Beltway, so few options exist for these commuters. Traffic has also increased due to additional commuting activity from Stafford, Fredericksburg, and points south.

Lots of growth, little land

The areas of Fairfax and Prince William around I-95 are primarily residential: the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) reports that the corridor contained 566,000 residents and 187,000 jobs in 2010. Most corridor residents live in low-density, single-family areas, and there is little undeveloped land remaining in the area. MWCOG forecasts that the corridor will add another 126,000 residents and 85,000 jobs by 2030. Where will they go?


MWCOG Traffic Analysis Districts (TADs)

A look at the Comprehensive Plans for the two counties provides some clarity. Each county has designated a small number of areas located directly along I-95 and/or around transit stations for mixed-use development.

Fairfax anticipates high-intensity residential and commercial development around the Huntington and Franconia-Springfield Metro stations. Meanwhile, Prince William is planning intensive growth around the Woodbridge VRE station and a potential future VRE station at Potomac Shores, north of Quantico.

But the county also wants growth at the more auto-dependent Parkway Employment Center, north of Potomac Mills, and Neabsco Mills, south of Woodbridge along Route 1. Since VRE has no immediate plans to expand service on the Fredericksburg Line, additional growth in these areas would further strain the already-crowded system.

Investment in roads and highways isn't enough

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is in the midst of completing a slate of "megaprojects" in the corridor. Two of these are already in place: the widening of I-95 between Route 123 and the Fairfax County Parkway, and the completion of the last segment of the Fairfax County Parkway, encompassing a network of new roads, interchanges, and trails around the Fort Belvoir North Area.

VDOT reports that these new facilities have slightly reduced congestion in this segment of the corridor. But these investments have not reduced congestion in adjacent areas and may have even worsened it by allowing more vehicles to enter and exit the highway.


Construction on the I-95 express lanes. Photo from VDOT.

VDOT's most ambitious project in the corridor is a $1 billion expansion of the I-95 express lanes. This project will extend the express lanes nine miles into Stafford County, add a third lane north of Prince William Parkway, and connect the express lanes with the I-495 express lanes. It will also convert the express lanes from HOV to high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes from Stafford County to Edsall Road, just inside the Beltway. The express lanes will remain as HOV-3 lanes along I-395 north of Edsall Road.

The express lanes project will unquestionably add highway capacity, but will it actually reduce congestion? A serious concern is that converting the existing HOV lanes to HOT lanes will very likely reduce carpooling activity, as people driving alone will be able to pay to use the express lanes. A reduction in carpooling translates to needing more vehicles to move the same number of people, contributing to additional congestion.

VDOT's own Environmental Assessment of the I-95 express lanes concluded that, while the project would improve the overall situation, several currently failing road segments would remain at failing levels. It further concluded that, after completion, the merge areas at the northern and southern ends of the HOT lanes would still operate at failing levels.

Clearly, even this billion-dollar project will not solve the traffic woes faced by I-95 corridor commuters. Additionally, this project is primarily aimed at moving commuters through the corridor, and does not address the need to better connect the emerging urban nodes in the two counties to each other or to the surrounding region.

So what can be done?

To their credit, both Fairfax and Prince William counties have committed to focusing future development around existing infrastructure. However, successfully clustering new development in this manner will create a complex set of challenges.


Improving transit connections to far-flung employment centers can reduce traffic. Photo by Elvert Barnes on Flickr.

The counties will need to provide transit that serves private-sector workers, particularly those with irregular hours and/or in dispersed locations. They will also have to improve access to existing and planned transit hubs from nearby neighborhoods and employment centers.

It's also necessary to attract the high-paying office jobs that planned suburban employment nodes will need, and to provide housing that matches up with those jobs' earning potential to allow for shorter commutes.

Once those jobs are in place, Fairfax and Prince William need to create new incentives to encourage carpooling, and to add capacity to the I-95 corridor's already strained and crowded transit systems. The counties will also have to work regionally to help address transportation problems that originate elsewhere but affect the corridor.

Continued congestion of highways, roads, and transit in the I-95 corridor threatens its prosperity. Public and private sector leaders at both local and regional levels will need to understand and address the above issues in order to achieve their bold visions for future development.

David Versel is a Senior Research Associate with the George Mason University Center for Regional Analysis. 

Comments

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The proposal to redirect I-95 onto US route 301 through Maryland [crain highway] all the way to I-97 would clear up much of the congestion. Now to convince southern maryland...

by Bill the Wanderer on Dec 9, 2013 2:04 pm • linkreport

This entire story utterly ignores the fact that I-95 is not only a traffic sewer for Nova. For that part, this story is entirely accurate and useful.

However, the story utterly ignores that I-95 is also the road from Miami to Maine, and that massive amounts of long-distance and freight traffic use I-95. People driving from Philly to VA Beach will not use WMATA metro trains. Trucks on I-95 can not be replaced by metro. Neither can CSX increase capacity on its railroad, because Washingtonians oppose a deeper tunnel. A couple of extra buses will not solve the choking points Quantico and Fredericksburg, where there is simply no alternative for North-South movement.

Sure you can get a few commuters of I-95 during rush hour. But please tell me how that alleviates beach traffic on Saturday mornings and Sunday nights?

Yes, we need way more transit in NoVA. We need HSR from Boston to Richmond and Williamsburg - even Miami. But non-locals need more I-95. It is somewhat staggering that one of the busiest stretches of road is only 3-lanes each way.

An alternative is to upgrade US-301 and create an entire DC bypass.

by Jasper on Dec 9, 2013 2:07 pm • linkreport

Virginia seems to love building roads as a way to move people. This love affair has to end. Build smarter communities that include places for pedestrians, bicycles and more importantly, expand VRE and other public transit service.

If the expansion of VRE is important, it means that it will be necessary to create new routes along or within dedicated rights-of-way or even working with other entities to create a new Potomac River crossing. That will require money and cooperation on a regional scale, both are things that seem hard to come by.

by Randall M. on Dec 9, 2013 2:13 pm • linkreport

ultimately the Long Bridge project will enable more VRE capacity (as well as Amtrak) but that will not address commuters to places other than downtown DC, Crystal City, and Old Town Alexandria.

The biggest potential to shift to transit in the short run will be express buses/BRT utilizing the network of HOT lanes (and additional transit lanes on arterials as the counties see their way to doing them. IIUC FFX is going to be putting bus service for the first time on FFX county parkway (but not dedicated ROW yet, I think). The first dedicated ROW transitway is likely to be Braddock Rd (which will have limited direct effect on I95, as the services on Braddock either run inside the beltway to the Pentagon, or on the beltway to Tysons - but in future a Braddock to Ft belvoir bus could be an interesting demo project).

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 9, 2013 2:14 pm • linkreport

Upgrading 301 could be cost effective. The bridge is only 1 lane each way but I believe there is a second span already in the works. A few additional minor improvements could shave 30 minutes off the Baltimore to Richmond run and make it easily out compete slogging through 95 around Quanico.

by Richard on Dec 9, 2013 2:16 pm • linkreport

@Jasper - I think the US-301 DC Bypass would be good. But VA probably wouldn't like that; it would make it easier to access BWI. VA wants to make it easier to access IAD.

I don't like the HOV ext into Stafford as I think it will only make it easier for developers to sell homes in Spotsylvania & Caroline Counties.

I live in Lorton & work on Ft Belvoir and continue to be amazed at how many of my coworkers live south of Quantico.

by JC_Thomson on Dec 9, 2013 2:18 pm • linkreport

There is absolutely no money available for what you suggest, especially in light of the 10-figure Silver Line project. It is already a huge gamble that future growth will support all of the expansion in Tysons and westward. This means that the I95 corridor is more than a decade away from useful redevelopment that would allow it to attract "high paying office jobs". Sorry, this quagmire will be around for a long time.

by movement on Dec 9, 2013 2:23 pm • linkreport

movement - Im not sure what specific transit projects Mr Versel suggested. Could you specify?

There is definitely money for additional transportation projects in the region. The NVTA will have a steady flow of funds that is not committed to the Silver Line. The Commonwealth has put only a fairly small amount to the Silver Line. PWC of course has put nothing toward the Silver Line.

Fairfax county may be constrained - not just by its contribution to the Silver line, but by a range of road widenings and new interchanges (see the funded projects plan) as well as transit elsewhere - such as on Rte 7 between Tysons and Baileys. But they will certainly be making some transit investments in the southern part of the County.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 9, 2013 2:32 pm • linkreport

Jasper,

A lot of 95 is four lanes and functions ok. Up here it is the development and the land use WRT to the highway.

Southern PW is dominated by quantifiable and there aren't any local routes except for US 1. This is the case throughout stafford until you're south of the rappahannock. Fredericksburg and it's surrounding suburbs are an excellent case for the limitation of a hierarchical street network.

Fact is, the more locals you take off the better 95 becomes. You can do this through transit (a first step for sure) but I think every county from spotsykvania to fairfax needs to look at ways to improve local connectivity as well. Which goes back to The OP original point in the article

by Drumz on Dec 9, 2013 2:34 pm • linkreport

*quantifiable = quantico. Apologies for any other typos on the phone.

by Drumz on Dec 9, 2013 2:36 pm • linkreport

Why would we care about someone from Florida being stuck on 95 if we have local solutions to get ourselves off of it. This is a common problem for those who live inner suburbs and think that widening their local road helps them.

It doesnt

It helps those who are starting from Point A, transversing your area, to Point B. So, let Florida sit in traffic. Let the freight industries pay for their infrastructure. Let the fed's handle federal movement.

Our local dollars should be spent fixing local issues, and that means getting people less reliant on those major interstate movements by whatever means (stnd: land use changes, more local roads, more local transit, more local bike/walkway improvements and of course all of the above.)

by Navid Roshan on Dec 9, 2013 2:42 pm • linkreport

If VRE is overcapacity, this should signal more rail.

by SJE on Dec 9, 2013 2:48 pm • linkreport

Just FYI, CSX increasing its capacity through DC could also lead to crowding out commuter rail in the SW rail yards, which VRE uses to get to Union Station and which any future MARC service to VA would use. Since they're not currently proposing to increase capacity in the SW rail yards (not even sure if it's physically possible), and they're projecting a pretty dramatic increase in train frequency after the proposed project is completed, this would possibly reduce current commuter rail service capacity in addition to preventing future growth.

by j2342 on Dec 9, 2013 2:51 pm • linkreport

@Jasper: Good points on the I-95 long haul N-S traffic competing with local/regional traffic.

Long term, I think a modernization of Rt 13 to interstate standards for the length of the Eastern Shore could pay huge dividends both for the DMV and communities on the peninsula, as well as fulfil the original promise of the Bridge-Tunnel.

Of course, the follow-on challenge becomes resolving the age-old problem of Hampton Roads being a giant southbound cul-de-sac. It would be a worthwhile investment, though, to create another viable N-S artery.

by sproc on Dec 9, 2013 2:57 pm • linkreport

By the numbers provided above freight (tractor trailers) represents approximately 6% of the traffic along this corridor of I-95. Even give or taking a couple of percentage points that's not the problem. It's local land use and commuting problem patterns.

by jj on Dec 9, 2013 3:23 pm • linkreport

Of course more roads means less congestion.

Look at Atlanta and LA. They've built more roads than anyone and now they're traffic-free.

by JJJJ on Dec 9, 2013 3:45 pm • linkreport

@Jasper

+1.

by ceefer66 on Dec 9, 2013 4:12 pm • linkreport

Well JJJJ, the ADT table shows that rebuilding the Springfield Interchange and widening I-95 to Rte 123 led to reduced traffic growth on I-95. Funny, because I thought the Law of Induced Demand meant that new capacity was always immediately filled with new traffic.

by Maryland Ave on Dec 9, 2013 4:14 pm • linkreport

Based on the title of the post, the author and readers should be aware that there *is* an effort underway to plan transit for Route 1, from Huntington to Woodbridge, lest anyone think "Virginia seems to love building roads as a way to move people."

http://route1multimodalaa.com/

Also, realize that VDOT concentrates on the Commonwealth's roads; transit and rail fall under DRPT.

Regardless, it seems clear that Fairfax intends Reston-Tysons to be its worforce hub (and the hub for all of NOVA); no surprise that redirecting commuters from the I-95 corridor to the Dulles corridor seems to be its priority. Outside improving public transit around/within Springfield and Woodbridge, I'm not sure what else can be expected within the next decade or two to improve I-95.

by Rich 'n Alexandria on Dec 9, 2013 4:15 pm • linkreport

Thanks for the comments. I want to take exception to the notion that the study does not consider the impact of through traffic. If you read the entire study (linked from the intro), it actually begins with the idea that I-95 is the primary N-S corridor for the east coast, and that its utility as a commuter corridor is thus made all the more challenging. That said, as was pointed out, only 6% of the current traffic volume is from trucks. Additionally, most through traffic isn't occurring at peak hours. While peak-hour congestion would certainly be marginally improved by rerouting through traffic, but opening up this capacity would likely induce more potential transit commuters to drive, thus re-congesting the corridor.

As for the point about getting to the beach in the summer, short of forcing people to take a train or leave at 2:00 AM, there isn't a whole lot that can be done.

by David Versel on Dec 9, 2013 4:20 pm • linkreport

"Funny, because I thought the Law of Induced Demand meant that new capacity was always immediately filled with new traffic. "

I dont think there is a Law of Induced Demand, rather an empirical observation that it tends to occur but necessarily consistently enough to be a law. And not immediately either but over time - as driving patterns, and esp development patterns, adjust.

Tht said, its great if the changes actually led to reduced traffic on I95.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 9, 2013 4:21 pm • linkreport

@ Drumz:A lot of 95 is four lanes and functions ok.

No it does not. I-95 north of Richmond is always crowded. Same for I-64 east of Richmond. I-95 south of Richmond may be ok, haven't been there too often. But there are not cities there either, so that makes sense.

Yes, we need alternative modes. We need more (high-speed) trains. We need more metro. But we also need more lanes.

What you see happening right now is that jams form at Lorton, where I-95 goes from 4 to 3 lanes. And then further down where the PW Parkway and VA-234 come in with all the east-west traffic from NoVa. And Quantico is simply a bottleneck that can not bypassed.

Coming north from Richmond delays start where I-295 comes in, pick up near Thornton (no clue why), you always get stuck near Fredericksurg, and afterwards it's just a parking lot.

However, if you just compare I-95 in NoVa with other major interstates around other smaller cities, there is no way to say that it's wide enough.

by Jasper on Dec 9, 2013 4:21 pm • linkreport

-95 south of Richmond may be ok, haven't been there too often. But there are not cities there either, so that makes sense.

Which goes to the point that it's the land use, not the through traffic that is causing problems on 95.

by Drumz on Dec 9, 2013 4:42 pm • linkreport

@Maryland Ave.

May I remind you of some other event that occurred in the 2007 time frame that affected traffic volumes?

by JJJJ on Dec 9, 2013 4:50 pm • linkreport

The fixing of the mixing bowl wasn't as much about adding capacity (it's already at/over capacity during rush hour) but more about improving how traffic merges/moves through this specific intersection to improve traffic flow (aka not having two converging sets of traffic trying to cross 2-3 lanes in both direction). So yes, you'd hope after $1+ billion that traffic would be better there.

Induced demand is more about added capacity and the tendency for developers to add housing/office in the area and (over)sell it on (look at this nice new parkway they've created for you to get around on ). combined with people thinking "oh this route is now faster than local Road A I'll use it now"

by jj on Dec 9, 2013 5:08 pm • linkreport

@Navid Roshan

"Why would we care about someone from Florida being stuck on 95 if we have local solutions to get ourselves off of it. This is a common problem for those who live inner suburbs and think that widening their local road helps them. "
-----

I can't believe any intelligent person who actually deals with the I-95 traffic would ever ask such a question.

I think the disconnect is that some believe the canard that simply "increasing transit options" and "changing land use policies" somehow magically make increasing road capacity to accommodate growth unnecessary.

Face it. I-95 was built too small to begin with. General use capacity (I'm not talking about HOV lanes for a specially-privileged few) hasn't been increased since the late 1980's. The proposed bypasses to route through long-distance traffic around the DC area never materialized (thanks mainly to anti-highway ideologues), leaving I-95 to serve a purpose it was neither intended nor designed to serve. All the "transit options" and "better land use" in the world will never fix that.

And "transit options" and "better land use" certainly aren't going to help those people who live here and are trying to get to the beaches or to any points north or south.

Every local I-95 user is not a commuter who can "just use transit" or "move closer to work". Get a friend to take you out onto I-95 in NOVA sometime (Saturdays, Sundays and holiday weekends are best) and show you what it's like.

by ceefer66 on Dec 9, 2013 5:19 pm • linkreport

Except that if you add transit and fix the land use then the traffic comes off of 95.

The presence of free flowing sections of 95 that are only 4 lanes suggest that the problems of 95 in Northern Va isn't because of FL-NY traffic.

by Drumz on Dec 9, 2013 5:24 pm • linkreport

@ Drumz:Which goes to the point that it's the land use, not the through traffic that is causing problems on 95.

Well, again, I haven't been there often, so I do not know what - if any - the problems are there.

But if you want to say that roads are more used when there are more people around, then I'd say that that's kinda the point of building infrastructure. You build is where people need them. Considering that 4 lanes is fine without people, it is hard to maintain that 6 or 8 works with millions of people around.

@jj:combined with people thinking "oh this route is now faster than local Road A I'll use it now",

The problem around Quantico being that there is no other road.

@ceeffer66:And "transit options" and "better land use" certainly aren't going to help those people who live here and are trying to get to the beaches or to any points north or south.

Yes they are. It is not an either or problem. We need everything. We need more metro. We need denser land use. We need more VRE/train/freight train/HSR. AND we need more I-95.

The problem of the article is that it creates a false choice.

On the other hand, the building of the HOT lanes will solidify any widening of I-95 for the coming 75 years. So, urbanists can be happy. That stupidity will help them with building more transit, because more I-95 is not an option.

by Jasper on Dec 9, 2013 5:29 pm • linkreport

Jasper,

Obviously but when most of the traffic is local then local solutions are much more effective. The original pressures that widened those parts of 95 initially were from the growth of local traffic as well. Maybe intead of widening it again for local traffic you come up with solutions to get the local traffic off the road that's all.

Saying 95 must be widened because people are driving to and from Florida is a straw man because that's not where the congestion is coming from.

by Drumz on Dec 9, 2013 5:42 pm • linkreport

"Except that if you add transit and fix the land use then the traffic comes off of 95. "
---

Hardly enough to make a difference, Hardly enough to even justify the cost - unless tax-abated "transit-oriented" sprawl is part of the mix.

It's not that simple. The idea that we can "just run some buses and build some more rail and restrict all development to within walking distance of the stations and congestion on I-95 will disappear" is so simplistic it sounds downright silly.

by ceefer66 on Dec 9, 2013 6:27 pm • linkreport

Fact is we need an "all of the above" approach - roads, transit and land use - carefully planned and managed.

A single-facet, one size fits all approach, based on entirely ideology and agenda is a recipe for failure. Our region's worst-in-the-nation traffic congestion - as the direct result of a "do anything but build a new road" transportation policy is a case in point - as is LA's 50 years of freeways only and Johnny-come-lately investment in rail.

by ceefer66 on Dec 9, 2013 6:35 pm • linkreport

@jj,

"Induced demand is more about added capacity and the tendency for developers to add housing/office in the area and (over)sell it on look at this nice new parkway they've created for you to get around on ). combined with people thinking "oh this route is now faster than local Road A I'll use it now""
----

And if the new road is faster, anyone who uses it will enjoy a faster ride resulting in less time wasted, the possibility of more productivity and/or more time with their family, less wasted fuel, and less pollution.

Can't have that, now, can we?

by ceefer66 on Dec 9, 2013 6:59 pm • linkreport

They are expanding 95. I don't know why you think they aren't

by Drumz on Dec 9, 2013 7:06 pm • linkreport

Also I don't know why you think transit,land use planning is just "adding some buses".is expanding a highway just "adding some lanes".

by Drumz on Dec 9, 2013 7:08 pm • linkreport

Sorry I'm on a roll,

It's just bizarre to me that somehow 95 is off limits from any suggestion that doesn't auto include adding lanes. In either case it's more room for people to travel. Apparently nothing we've ever learned about traffic applies to 95 because 95 is just some great unknowable beast. The only way to avoid its wrath is to pave more.

People will obviously take the transit alternative (witness the increases in Amtrak/VRE travel).

And it's bizarre that after doubling and tripling the sizes of our roads (and seeing commensurate increases in traffic) induced demand is still dismissed.

by Drumz on Dec 9, 2013 7:18 pm • linkreport

@Drumz

+1

by Watcher on Dec 9, 2013 7:28 pm • linkreport

@ Drumz:Saying 95 must be widened because people are driving to and from Florida is a straw man because that's not where the congestion is coming from.

So.... traffic jams on Saturday morning and Sunday night consisting of mostly New England, NJ and FL tags are local traffic?

I-95 is not only clogged during rush hour. It is stuck during rush hour, AND all other random times of day. That is not local rush hour traffic.

They are expanding 95. I don't know why you think they aren't

In the worst way possible. And not far enough south. They are just moving the choking point from PW county to Stafford county. What a waste of money.

by Jasper on Dec 9, 2013 8:28 pm • linkreport

@ Drumz: Apparently nothing we've ever learned about traffic applies to 95 because 95 is just some great unknowable beast. The only way to avoid its wrath is to pave more.

No. It's because I-95 goes through the bottle neck of Quantico that has no alternative. None. Also 'what we've learned' applies to local traffic in transit starved areas. What we have here is a road that is severely congested due to long-distance traffic AND has a unavoidable funnel in it.

Also, you keep implying it's either/or. It is not. We should be pushing for all of the above. Metro and VRE and rail and HSR and BRT and some extra lanes. And lots of it.

I want the Yellow Line to continue not just to Ft Belvoir, but along US-1 to the Potomac Hell Mall, and then along the PW county parkway to Manassass, preferably via Lorton Station, so I can bike home from there after work. I want VRE around the clock, preferably to Baltimore, so I can catch a night game there and drink some beer. I want decent train connections between Richmond and Baltimore, just because it's embarrassing that they don't exist. I want HSR from Williamsburg via Richmond all the way to Boston. I want all day bus and BRT all through the area. And I want some freaking extra lanes on I-95 so that I can leave for the south on a Friday night without getting stuck for hours.

by Jasper on Dec 9, 2013 8:42 pm • linkreport

When 95 is your only option to get to any other neighborhood on the weekend and the only time when it's feasible to repave the road is late at night then sure, then it seems reasonable that there is still a lot of local traffic outside of commuting hours.

Unless you have some sort of numbers. 231K use the road daily. 14k or about 6-7% is freight. If there is more breakdown than that I'd like to see it.

Plus about 10% of people traveling in the corridor are using transit already. And that's with very incremental changes, imagine what a big investment in transit in the corridor could do.

The summer is a different beast though I don't know why that means the road must be widened more than it already is. Especially if the money for it would come at the expense of other transit projects.

by Drumz on Dec 9, 2013 8:51 pm • linkreport

And I'm not trying to say your assumption about where the traffic is coming from is incorrect but I think its reasonable to assume from a number of factors that most of the congestion isn't people traveling cross country but people locally. And transit works for them. And we should be adding lots of transit. Especially when we are adding lanes already, even if you think it's not enough. The political reality is that money that goes to lanes is money being taken from transit as well so when our elected officials are faces with a choice I'd say they should choose te transit.

by Drumz on Dec 9, 2013 8:57 pm • linkreport

And like Navid says, if the problem really is cross country travelers then let the Feds step in. I'll just keep using Amtrak to visit my family in Richmond.

by Drumz on Dec 9, 2013 8:59 pm • linkreport

Cute how that map stops outside Washington, D.C., with no regard to the effect of failing to complete I-95 through the area.

http://wwwtripwithinthebeltway.blogspot.com/2012/03/continually-ignoring-un-built-dc-i-95.html

by Douglas Andrew Willinger on Dec 10, 2013 2:43 am • linkreport

@Drumz,

"They are expanding 95. I don't know why you think they aren't"
-----

For HOV-only. And That's just moving the bottleneck from Dumfries to Stafford.

Which part of "That's not really expansion and a waste of money" are you having a problem understanding?

by ceefer66 on Dec 10, 2013 7:34 am • linkreport

@ceefer66
For HOV-only.

WOW way off buddy, in today's age of equalized information, comments like that could be easily verified by simple searchs, and I mean a mere 30 seconds of your life. Per the 95expresslanes.com "Provide a new choice to pay a toll for a faster trip when you need to get to your destination on time."

Regardless I think the entire 1-95 corridor all nine lanes[Fredericksburg to SW DC] should be sold to the highest bidder, be it foreign monies, domestic corporations, etc. They can do whatever they wish, hell charge $100 dollar one way tolls, set up a subscription service, whatever covers their purchase price and maintenance. I'd bet if the toll went beyond $30 dollars each way, it would be as smooth and predictable as a 1984 Honda Accord driving on I-15 in Montana.

by Bill the Wanderer on Dec 10, 2013 9:09 am • linkreport

"We should be pushing for all of the above. "

This is in the world where we prioritize transport over everything else - education, health care, and of course, private consumption.

Fact is there are lots of people who don't suffer that much from the congestion issues that obsess us, and don't want to pay more.

I suppose we could extend HOT lanes all the way to Richmond though.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 10, 2013 9:11 am • linkreport

re: "the feds stepping in"

this kind of transportation planning is actually done by the states. So that's what's happening. The federal gas tax is supposed to pay for it, as well as maintenance.

I do think the issue of "more lanes" (at least one more if only to limit the jam that results from when it goes down in lanes around Lorton) as well as the bypass mentioned in the first comment needs to be on the table.

But as someone else pointed out, that kind of multi-state planning can be seen as promoting LU development in Maryland at the expense of Virginia, at least as Virginia would see it.

The other issue is capacity given the road's use as the primary N-S roadway corridor on the East Coast. Such has to be acknowledged and accommodated, although yes, the more that local traffic can be diverted to other modes helps to "increase" throughput without adding lanes, thereby justifying multimodal approaches.

by Richard Layman on Dec 10, 2013 9:29 am • linkreport

One idea that would help would build a new crossing over the Occoquan between 123 and Yates Ford (Maybe improve Yates Ford). Then connect it to 123 and FFX this would take off any traffic from Woodbridge to western Fairfax county off I-95 and even 28 (which can be slower then taking I-95).

Only problem I have with creating a bypass is personal one. I enjoy on my daily I-95 is the interesting traffic I see on 95. Everything from cool boats, interesting loads and even nuclear waste.

by Will on Dec 10, 2013 9:52 am • linkreport

In regards to VRE, at least they're extending service into Spotsylvania and adding a station at the future Potomac Shores. There's even talk of swinging the Fredericksburg line into Caroline County as well. You also have to keep in mind that VRE still has two open train slots on both their lines, and they do plan on adding capacity on their trains within the next couple years.

Meanwhile the extension into Gainesville/Haymarket continues to be talked about as a "potential medium-term" action item. We thought for years that the studies were wrapping up and they were going to look for funding, now with the VRE System Plan on the verge of release it's looking like another 5-10 years before they even break ground on anything.

Honestly I think the most cost-effective solution at this juncture would be an eastern DC bypass for the long-distance travelers and trucks. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel and Rt. 13 sort of fills this role but only if you're coming or going from the Tidewater/Outer Banks area. Rt. 301 is probably the best possibility. A western bypass would have to involve upgrading Rt. 234 and building the Bi-County Parkway, something the landowners in western Prince William are vehemently against. Even if this does happen, you still need another Potomac crossing into the rural areas of MD and that will be fought tooth and nail probably well after we're all dead.

by Joe on Dec 10, 2013 9:54 am • linkreport

Jasper said, "I want the yellow line to continue to....Fort Belvoir....."

Actually, this would be impossible. Immediately south of Huntington station, begins many miles of uninterrupted housing. Examine a map. There is no right-of-way for a track south of Huntington, without either demolishing hundreds of houses, or else spending Trillions to tunnel underground.

by slowlane on Dec 10, 2013 10:27 am • linkreport

The thing is with I-95 between Springfield and Fredericksburg is that it's been awful for a long time. I considered living along that corridor when I moved to the DC area in the early 90s because it would have helped me maintain ties further south. It took a few months of making the trip south to make me give up that idea.

Whether it is a more direct Baltimore-Virginia toll road following 301, or an extensive express-lane bus system running 7-day schedules as good as commuter trains in places like NYC and Boston (or both), something different needs to be done.

by Patrickj on Dec 10, 2013 10:51 am • linkreport

The idea that we can "just run some buses and build some more rail and restrict all development to within walking distance of the stations and congestion on I-95 will disappear" is so simplistic it sounds downright silly.

It won't disappear and may not even get better but if you do those things, it won't get worse. On the other hand, if you increase road capacity by 10% but increase auto-oriented development by 20%, you are certain to get worse traffic.

And, don't start with "we'll increase road capacity without increasing development". That's simply not how transportation finance works. Big expensive infrastructure projects (whether rail or roads) are made into economically rational investments through growth of residential, retail, and commercial space.

by Falls Church on Dec 10, 2013 11:20 am • linkreport

You may want to look at a map and try counting again, slowlane.

by selxic on Dec 10, 2013 11:30 am • linkreport

Poster Jasper mentioned I-95 at Quantico is a "funnel." Is this because the base would refuse to give more land to expand the highway? (Or could Virginia lobby the US DOT to work with DOD?)

Separately, I'm familiar with the NJ Turnpike, and how it splits into "car only" lanes and "mixed" (truck and car) lanes as you approach NY. Could this be part of a solution for I-95 between Fredericksburg and the beltway?

by Rich 'n Alexandria on Dec 10, 2013 11:38 am • linkreport

The most sensible (and obvious) solution to I-95 parking lot problem would be to expand the Yellow Line further down the Route 1 corridor or improve VRE's Fredericksburg Line. Good luck getting that fly in Richmond though. If it wasn't for MWAA conveniently owning a toll road where they could jack up the rates to ridiculous levels, would the Silver Line have even been built?

I-95 in Maryland isn't nearly as bad thanks to Amtrak's NEC and MARC (plus US 29 and the B-W Parkway). I don't see why the MD SHA should spend hundreds of millions to upgrade 301 just because of VA's poor transportation decisions. Virginia, like every other state south of DC, has an addiction to roads and they keep trying to solve congestion by expanding them (as with the HOT lanes) or building more (Bi-County Parkway).

by King Terrapin on Dec 10, 2013 11:53 am • linkreport

Considering the apparent impact of the Blue Line completion, seems like this would be a pretty strong argument for speeding up implementation of the Blue Line extension/improvements both in DC and southwards toward Woodbridge. You don't have to solve every problem. But clearly to me it is also an indictment of land use practices that don't allow a concentration of high density mixed uses near existing transit resources outside of the core.

by BTA on Dec 10, 2013 12:24 pm • linkreport

@King Terrapin
How is a Yellow Line extension going to help me when I'm stuck in traffic in Prince William driving towards Richmond on a Saturday morning?

Virginia is putting a lot into expanding Amtrak in the Commonwealth, with service to Lynchburg and Norfolk back on-line, and Roanoke underway. Just waiting for them to build a station at Doswell so I can take the train to King's Dominion! :-)

Anyway, don't kid yourself: there's plenty of stoppages on I-95 in MD. I especially get stuck on NB I-95 at the Susquehanna River toll almost every time I drive through your state.

by Rich 'n Alexandria on Dec 10, 2013 12:57 pm • linkreport

I also think they should just start tolling the interstate highway system. I understand that that wasn't on the table when it was built, but if they just tolled it at maintenance levels that would help rebalance traffic and you know put some of the actual cost back on the users. You could do performance tolling where prices would flucuate slighly where there is higher congestion which would mean the rural areas likely wouldn't be as impacted and metro area commuter traffic would be at a premium. Of course it would be war on cars blah blah blah.

by BTA on Dec 10, 2013 1:09 pm • linkreport

@ Bill the Wanderer

"WOW way off buddy, in today's age of equalized information, comments like that could be easily verified by simple searchs, and I mean a mere 30 seconds of your life. Per the 95expresslanes.com "Provide a new choice to pay a toll for a faster trip when you need to get to your destination on time."
-----
Your point being...?

Alright. I'll change my comment to read "HOV and HOT lanes only".

Fact is, the additional lanes on I-95 are NOT for general use. They are for a select few - those who can carpool and those willing to pay a toll. Everyone else rots in traffic.

Anyone who thinks that's an improvement either doesn't know the area involved or doesn't give a damn about the poor saps who actually have to deal with the traffic. Not exactly the people anyone should be paying attention to.

Happy now?

by ceefer66 on Dec 10, 2013 1:13 pm • linkreport

"Fact is, the additional lanes on I-95 are NOT for general use. They are for a select few - those who can carpool and those willing to pay a toll. Everyone else rots in traffic."

Not quite, the HOV lanes only have those restrictions during rush hour and are general purpose the rest of the time. I use them all the time with just my wife and I coming back from Richmond.

Fact is they still take vehicles out of the road. The fact that you might have to pay isn't exactly a scandal either. Most of the times that we travel we have to pay whether it's train/bus/plain fare or a toll. It's a good way to manage congestion.

The other thing that makes the HOV lanes effective is that there are fewer exits. Which could be unfair if you don't live convenient to those exits but to put up an exit at every mile would make the traffic worse.

by Drumz on Dec 10, 2013 1:25 pm • linkreport

"I also think they should just start tolling the interstate highway system but if they just tolled it at maintenance levels that would help rebalance traffic and you know put some of the actual cost back on the users"
-----

I'm not getting your point. Tolls are imposed along the entire length of I-95, except for North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia - 3 states out of 12. I'm omitting Virginia from the toll-free list since it plans to implement HOT lanes.

And many other states (heck, even Kansas) toll their interstates. I would dare say more than half of the states impose tolls on at least some portion of their interstates.

As for "you know putting some of the cost on the actual users", who do you think pay the fuel taxes that fund the highway Trust Fund and the state gas taxes, tolls and registration fees that states use for highway maintenance? You think that money comes from transit fares?

And before you off half-cocked about "subsidies from the general fund", keep in mind that people who drive contribute the lion's share of revenue to that.

by ceefer66 on Dec 10, 2013 1:45 pm • linkreport

@Drumz
Not quite, the HOV lanes only have those restrictions during rush hour and are general purpose the rest of the time. I use them all the time with just my wife and I coming back from Richmond.

Not quite, again per 95expresslanes.com "Unlike the existing HOV lanes, the new 95 Express Lanes will be in effect at all times including weekends. High occupancy vehicles (HOV-3+), motorcycles and transit will have toll-free access at all times; drivers with fewer than three occupants can choose to pay a toll to use the lanes on occasions when they need to get somewhere on time."

@ceefer66
...and those willing to pay a toll.
You pay for what you use. [insert snarky comment]
I don't know how to make this any clearer, if you don't like it move! I spent a few months in Fredericksburg[with a commute to Rosslyn] and didn't like it, so I faced my own problems and moved. The government can't help you with your problems, please try to solve them yourself.

by Bill the Wanderer on Dec 10, 2013 1:46 pm • linkreport

I take that back then. I'll just pay the toll I guess. Or use Amtrak as often as I can as well since transit helps me avoid it entirely.

by Drumz on Dec 10, 2013 2:00 pm • linkreport

@Drumz,

" Not quite, the HOV lanes only have those restrictions during rush hour and are general purpose the rest of the time. I use them all the time with just my wife and I coming back from Richmond."
-----

And when the restrictions are lifted, the HOV lanes are available for travelers going in ONE WHOLE DIRECTION!

Wheeeee!

"Fact is they still take vehicles out of the road. "

Hardly enough. And I find it impossible to you really do "use (the HOV lanes) all the time from Richmond".

Because if you did, you would know that the HOV lanes don't do one bit of good for anyone stuck in the stop-and-go northbound congestion along the 50 miles from the 95-295 interchange north of Richmond to where the HOV lanes begin at Dumfries. If you really did drive that section "all the time" you would know about the bad traffic that occurs "all the time" and you would that the HOV lanes barely have an impact.

Nice try, though.

by ceefer66 on Dec 10, 2013 2:04 pm • linkreport

Yes, The usual routine is that it gets bad when 295/95 merges and then we are cool until Fredericksburg. Then thugs can be dicey until I get to the HOV lanes which I use because then things get better. Now they're extending that so I can escape that traffic earlier and somehow you still think its a bad thing.

by Drumz on Dec 10, 2013 2:17 pm • linkreport

@Rich 'n Alexandria

Yes, I do give that clown McDonnell credit for heavily investing in "Amtrak Virginia." The service is still a far cry from the Northeast Corridor--it takes as long to travel DC-Newport News as it does to travel DC-New York--but it is vastly improved.

I wasn't implying there wasn't any traffic on I-95 in MD, there certainly is (and unfortunately MD is also building toll lanes north of Baltimore, eventually to DE), but the congestion on 95 in NoVa is of a different class altogether. It goes faaar beyond the normal garden variety rush hour/holiday weekend congestion to prolonged standstills at the most random times of the day/week.

It shouldn't take me 7.5 hours to travel from Busch Gardens/Williamsburg to Montgomery County on a Sunday afternoon. I've driven a lot in many states from Mass. to Fla. and have never encountered anything approaching the nightmare that is I-95 in VA.

by King Terrapin on Dec 10, 2013 2:20 pm • linkreport

"It shouldn't take me 7.5 hours to travel from Busch Gardens/Williamsburg to Montgomery County on a Sunday afternoon. I've driven a lot in many states from Mass. to Fla. and have never encountered anything approaching the nightmare that is I-95 in VA."
-------

Neither have I. Not even in California.

by ceefer66 on Dec 10, 2013 2:49 pm • linkreport

@Bill the Wanderer.

"You pay for what you use. [insert snarky comment]"

I thought I was already doing that with my taxes - and with my tolls. I'm going to say it again. Read it slowly, so you'll get it: I-95 in Virginia needs more general use capacity. That means more lanes that everyone can use. not just carpoolers or people willing to pay to act like carpoolers.

I've been driving between the DC area and Richmond since 1979 when hardly anyone lived south of Lorton. The area has grown. Road capacity has not. HOV and HOT lanes aren't enough. And it's an insult to those who deal with I-95 traffic to say it is.

"I don't know how to make this any clearer, if you don't like it move!"

(Insert snark that will likely be deleted for violating the comments policy - then again don't bother).

"I spent a few months in Fredericksburg[with a commute to Rosslyn] and didn't like it, so I faced my own problems and moved."

And since that was a solution for you, then it just MUST be a "solution" for everyone else. Thanks for clearing it up.

"The government can't help you with your problems, please try to solve them yourself."

Tell that to those who want more transit. Or more bike lanes. Or respect for their civil rights for that matter.

by ceefer66 on Dec 10, 2013 3:00 pm • linkreport

@ Bill the Wanderer:Regardless I think the entire 1-95 corridor all nine lanes[Fredericksburg to SW DC] should be sold to the highest bidder, be it foreign monies, domestic corporations, etc. They can do whatever they wish

I take it you never go there?

@slowlane this would be impossible. Immediately south of Huntington station, begins many miles of uninterrupted housing. Examine a map. There is no right-of-way for a track south of Huntington, without either demolishing hundreds of houses, or else spending Trillions to tunnel underground.

Yeah, imagine that, a metroline underground. Absolutely unheard off. Well, except for the last 150 years or so.

As for Huntington, you can funnel the Yellow Line along Kings Hwy to US-1. Examine a map indeed.

@ Rich Alexandria: Jasper mentioned I-95 at Quantico is a "funnel." Is this because the base would refuse to give more land to expand the highway?

There is no other way to get from north of Quantico to south of Quantico other than I-95 (ok, and US-1, which is useless for non-local traffic). Your next option is US-15/17/29.

@ King Terrapin:I-95 in Maryland isn't nearly as bad thanks to Amtrak's NEC and MARC

And I-295. And local traffic uses US-29 or US-1. And if things get really bad, you can bypass via US-50 (I-595) and I-97.

Virginia, like every other state south of DC, has an addiction to roads and they keep trying to solve congestion by expanding them

You forget that MD is south of the Mason-Dixon line as well. Ever heard off the ICC and the widening projects along I-270? Also, I-95 is 8 lanes between DC and Baltimore and being widened. I-95 is south of DC is 6 lanes. Finally, VA is building the Silver Line, and thinking about extending the Blue and Yellow Lines. How's that Purple Line doing? All, I'm saying is: Pot meet kettle.

@ ceeffer66:Fact is, the additional lanes on I-95 are NOT for general use. They are for a select few - those who can carpool and those willing to pay a toll. Everyone else rots in traffic.

Oh, come one man. The HOT lanes are open to anyone. Also, everyone else does not rot in. They are traffic.

@ Drumz:The other thing that makes the HOV lanes effective is that there are fewer exits.

Agreed. Separation of long-distance and local traffic is a good thing. If only because it reduced mindless lane chancing of impatient people.

@ ceefer66:If you really did drive that section "all the time" you would know about the bad traffic that occurs "all the time" and you would that the HOV lanes barely have an impact.

Hogwash. The current HOV lanes help. Not enough. But they help. The problem with the extended HOT lanes is that they will only move a choke point down the road. That is literally kicking the can down the road, not solving a problem. What a waste of money.

@ King Terrapin:I've driven a lot in many states from Mass. to Fla. and have never encountered anything approaching the nightmare that is I-95 in VA.

Thank you sir.

by Jasper on Dec 10, 2013 3:05 pm • linkreport

@Drumz,

"Yes, The usual routine is that it gets bad when 295/95 merges and then we are cool until Fredericksburg. Then thugs can be dicey until I get to the HOV lanes which I use because then things get better. Now they're extending that so I can escape that traffic earlier and somehow you still think its a bad thing."
------

Then I must be driving that route at the wrong time and on the wrong days because it's usually a mess all the way up to Dumfries (Exit 158). And I'm rarely "cool until Fredericksburg", least of all on a Sunday evening.

Like I said, it's hard to believe you. Unless you're travelling at some odd hour.

And yes, doing nothing but HOV/HOT lane only - and pretending that's all that's necessary - is in fact "a bad thing". And a colossal waste of money.

And once they're open, you will never again be "cool until Fredricksburg".

by ceefer66 on Dec 10, 2013 3:18 pm • linkreport

@ Jasper,

The HOV lanes are open to everyone only at certain times of the day and only in one direction. Anyone who actually drives the route knows that only helps a bit. In one direction.

I actually drive on 95. Try it yourself.

by ceefer66 on Dec 10, 2013 3:21 pm • linkreport

@ceefer66
And since that was a solution for you...

blah blah blah, just try and come to your own solutions. Just buy your own land and build your own road, buy a helicopter, or why would moving be so difficult for you?
Virginia needs more general use capacity
Start up your own road building corporation and get moving.
I've been driving between the DC area and Richmond since 1979
I wasn't even close to being born yet.
Tell that to those who want more transit. Or more bike lanes....
I believe the same thing, pay what you want to have with you checkbook.
...state gas taxes, tolls and registration fees...
Should be based on what you use, not some flat fee.

Tolls are imposed along the entire length of I-95, except for North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia - 3 states out of 12.
I believe ALL I 95 tolling systems are government owned and controlled, the entire interstate system should be privatized[owned outright by a foreign or domestic entity, no stipulations] and since the free market isn't a charity it would be heavily tolled.
I actually drive on 95. Try it yourself.
And would you quit it with that. Since it is one of the busiest interstates in the region, don't you think that some of us who read this blog travel on it, again based on the sheer number of cars! I was on that interstate at 4:50am M-F, so yes I have tried it myself.

by Bill the Wanderer on Dec 10, 2013 3:31 pm • linkreport

Ceefer,

Yes. I must be lying because I've come to a different conclusion than you.

by Drumz on Dec 10, 2013 3:46 pm • linkreport

@Ceefer

When did I say something about transit (yeesh talk about someone who doesnt actually read or listen to the other persons point of view). I said local solutions, ie get people who want to go to Fort Belvoir for instance, to have other options than I-95, like better interconnection with the Parkway, Ox Road, Route 1.

You can often reduce congestion on a road by addressing demand by split rather than plateau'd increases in capacity via lanes. Thats the difference, I'm actually a civil engineer and know that there is a finite return on #of lanes.

PS I lived in Burke/Springfield for 20+ years, I think I am knowledgeable enough on the area to be able to speak to it ;)

by Navid Roshan on Dec 10, 2013 4:05 pm • linkreport

@Jasper
"And I-295. And local traffic uses US-29 or US-1. And if things get really bad, you can bypass via US-50 (I-595) and I-97."

In my original post I already mentioned US 29 and the Parkway (I-295 in MD runs between the SE DC and I-495). Nobody in their right mind would travel US 1 or I-595/I-97 to travel between DC and Baltimore.

"You forget that MD is south of the Mason-Dixon line as well."

And this means what exactly? There was a lengthy discussion in the comments last week about how a 300-year-old imaginary line has no bearing on the collective culture of a state . The true North/South line is somewhere around Fredericksburg/St. Mary's County. Or, if it must be along state lines, the physical Potomac River is much more realistic (it certainly was during the Civil War)

"Ever heard off [sic] the ICC and the widening projects along I-270?"

The ICC was a pet project of a clueless Republican governor. Fortunately, the state only has one of those once a generation. That said, the road itself wasn't an entirely bad idea and is meeting usage projections . The problem with the ICC is that the efforts to finance (even if it was through bonds) and construct it could have gone to far better use.

"Also, I-95 is 8 lanes between DC and Baltimore and being widened. I-95 is south of DC is 6 lanes. Finally, VA is building the Silver Line, and thinking about extending the Blue and Yellow Lines. How's that Purple Line doing? All, I'm saying is: Pot meet kettle."

I-95 is not being widened between DC and Baltimore.

Virginia is not building the Silver Line, the MWAA (a multi-state authority) is. VA is only financing a meager 3.3% of the total cost. As recently as last year Loudoun County didn't want to fund its share of Phase II.

"Thinking" is right, concerning those projects. In contrast, Maryland has identified funding for and is in the late engineering phases for the Purple Line, Red Line, CCT BRT, and numerous upgrades to intercity and commuter rail lines. Additionally the state is "thinking" about a Southern MD light rail line and a Yellow Line extension to National Harbor.

by King Terrapin on Dec 10, 2013 4:06 pm • linkreport

@King Terrapin
Technically, you're right: MWAA *is* building the Silver Line. But the money it's using comes from Dulles Toll Road Drivers (because VA transferred tolling authority over to the MWAA). Regarding Loudoun County: to be clear, it was *reluctant* to proceed with Metro; but in the end, the Board of Supervisors voted to proceed.

To your earlier point, comparing the trip to Hampton Roads to a trip to NYC: realize that the geography in the Commonwealth doesn't allow for construction of many other (any?) other routes. At the same time, the population density in VA makes justifying improved passenger rail service much harder than in the NEC.

by Rich 'n Alexandria on Dec 10, 2013 5:13 pm • linkreport

"But the money it's using comes from Dulles Toll Road Drivers"

And from Tysons landowners. And from the feds. And from the Commonwealth. And from Fairfax and Loudoun Counties.

As for what Va is doing in transit, they also built Tide light rail, and will almost certainly extend it. Pike Rail (sponsored by Arlco AND Fairfax) will probably ask for state funds after it gets Fed New Starts funding. CCPY transitway is under construction now. City of Alexandria will soon be moving ahead with the Beauregard transitway. NoVa has funded a study of the rte 7 corridor from Tysons to Alexandria, which is underway now. FFX is pretty much committed to transitway on Braddock Road, which will feed into the beltway HOT lanes.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 10, 2013 5:23 pm • linkreport

How much of the problem of I95 south of fredericksburg has to do with the traffic being so concentrated on a couple of days a week, a few months of the year?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 10, 2013 5:25 pm • linkreport

@ ceefer66:I actually drive on 95. Try it yourself.

This statement proves you did not read my previous comments. But if you don't believe me, I can't help you.

@ King Terrapin:Nobody in their right mind would travel US 1 or I-595/I-97 to travel between DC and Baltimore.

True. But you could if you wanted to. In NoVa, there is no other way to get through Quantico. Bad options are better than no options.

And this means what exactly?

That's you can differentiate yourself from the south if you're from the very grey area bordering the south. And especially not when your state is actually lagging behind NoVa in doing the right thing. You guys built the ICC first, and are now scrambling for the Purple Line. NoVa is finishing with the Silver Line because it was smartly pegged to the disgusting HOT lanes on I-495.

Republican governor. Fortunately, the state only has one of those once a generation.

I-95 is not being widened between DC and Baltimore.

I forgot where exactly, but I recently got stuck somewhere in traffic on I-95 north of DC for what really looked like widening work. Maybe around the ICC interchange? Not sure.

Let see: Warner (D), Kaine (D), McDonald (R), McAuliffe (D). Warner and Kaine would have been easily re-elected if that were possible in VA. McDonald would have had no chance.

Looks like we're pretty blue in the governor's mansion these days in Richmond.

VA: 8 R out of 72 governors.
MD: 7 R out of 62 governors.

You see, we're not so different after all.

Virginia is not building the Silver Line, the MWAA (a multi-state authority) is. VA is only financing a meager 3.3% of the total cost. As recently as last year Loudoun County didn't want to fund its share of Phase II.

Blah blah blah. In a few months, we can ride the Silver Line, and in a few years, all the way to Ashburn. The Purple Line is still only a dream.

Additionally the state is "thinking" about a Southern MD light rail line and a Yellow Line extension to National Harbor.

Meanwhile, the VA congressional representation has already funded studies to extend the Yellow Line to Ft Belvoir. And the Blue Line to Woodbridge. Again, dreams vs dollars.

But aside from this pissing contest, which is fun but useless, why the Yellow Line to National Harbor, and not the Green Line?

by Jasper on Dec 10, 2013 5:32 pm • linkreport

Oh, I see I copied in a later comment in the wrong place. Sorry. Please separate the gov argument from the I-95 widening. Should be pretty clear.

by Jasper on Dec 10, 2013 5:33 pm • linkreport

@Bill the Wanderer

"I don't know how to make this any clearer, if you don't like it move! I spent a few months in Fredericksburg[with a commute to Rosslyn] and didn't like it, so I faced my own problems and moved."
--

Anytime someone says "if you don't like it move!", they've already lost the argument. The utter shallowness and stupidity of such a statement makes me just sigh and roll my eyes.

It also is a clear indicator that the person advising someone to "just move if you don't like it" is somebody with an unimportant job that they can quit and replace on a whim while living the single life without responsibilities or attachments. Not exactly someone qualified to be making regional, local or even neighborhood decisions on anything substantive or fundamental.

I mean seriously. "if you don't like it move"? In what universe? I am sorry (actually, I'm NOT sorry), but I bought my house in a location that offers access to quality schools and open space in an attractive and relatively safe area with a functioning local government that's a pretty good compromise between my office location, the various consulting clients I support, and the things I like to do. Unlike someone else's $50K a year entry-level job or temporary internship on the Hill, my Big 4 consulting management job isn't one I would just quit because I "don't like" the commute.

My job has moved me to different assignments at client sites all over the region. That affects my commute, sometimes adversely. Dealing with such things is generally what adults do. I am not going to sell my house every time I change assignments just to shave a few miles off my commute or fit someone else's definition of "responsibility" and "sustainability". Get real!

"If you don't like it move!". LMAO!

by ceefer66 on Dec 10, 2013 6:42 pm • linkreport

Then don't move and pay the toll.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 10, 2013 7:58 pm • linkreport

@Ceefer66 and anytime someone says that "telling me to move" is not a solution then I say, neither is depending on those of us WHO DID MOVE to solve YOUR PROBLEMS a viable solution.

You were in a wave of people who all moved to the hinters. Then you discovered that the hinters weren't sustaining themselves, asking too many people to move there, and suddenly you no longer lived in the hinters you lived in a middle ground with plenty of people moving in behind you.

Want solutions?

Fight against continued sprawl, support development in the inner core that will absorb a lot of that outward growth, and then maybe you wont have so many people jumping on your back trying to get through the congestion on their win.

Either way

You are still wrong in the math of it to think that widening I-95 to add more lanes will do anything to help you. At best it will add a 1000 more Veh/hour capacity. Congrats, that will last all of a 3 months before being back to utter crap.

by Navid Roshan on Dec 11, 2013 9:22 am • linkreport

*way in

by Navid Roshan on Dec 11, 2013 9:22 am • linkreport

@Navid Roshan ,

"You were in a wave of people who all moved to the hinters. "
-----

Bowie, MD is the "hinters"?

Well, you DO know more than the rest of us.

Thanks for clearing things up.

by ceefer66 on Dec 11, 2013 9:37 am • linkreport

@AWalkerInTheCity ,

"Then don't move and pay the toll."
---

Then submit an expense report and get reimbursed.

So, your point is...?

by ceefer66 on Dec 11, 2013 9:40 am • linkreport

"Bowie, MD is the "hinters""

To me it might as well be. Its not the role of others to make your life choices (or those who live in Fburg) feasible. You get more space, you deal with longer commute. You get less space, you deal with shorter commute. Those are the facts of life. You can cry about it all you want, no matter how many lanes are built, it will never change the dynamic. See Houston, Atlanta, and LA all with comparable populations, far more pavement, and just as bad traffic.

by Navid Roshan on Dec 11, 2013 10:13 am • linkreport

Then submit an expense report and get reimbursed.

So, your point is...?

Well now you'll be able to use the HOV lanes that you were complaining about. Since now they'll be open to anybody willing to pay. And if you're traveling from Bowie to Richmond 301 might be about equal in time even in decent conditions on 95.

by drumz on Dec 11, 2013 10:21 am • linkreport

Navid, it's okay to admit you made assumptions about ceefer66 that were wrong. Comparing Bowie to Fredericksburg and calling either "hinters" is immature and not productive.

by selxic on Dec 11, 2013 11:42 am • linkreport

Bowie, MD is the "hinters"?

If you're traveling to VA, then yes. While Bowie isn't a long distance from VA as the crow flies, regional infrastructure isn't designed for traveling between MD/VA. Historically, the two states have never been on particularly friendly terms and if it wasn't for the Feds, there would be no infrastructure between them.

If you're commuting to DC, you should be able to take MARC from the Bowie station and you'll be in DC in a jif.

by Falls Church on Dec 11, 2013 12:02 pm • linkreport

Bowie is a pretty good place to live if your job has you traveling (by driving) regionally. That doesn't mean that adding more general lanes to this section of 95 is the best (and often argued as the only) solution though.

by drumz on Dec 11, 2013 12:08 pm • linkreport

OK... now we're confusing where a person lives with his unrelated opinions about a different area.

by selxic on Dec 11, 2013 12:12 pm • linkreport

@Navid Roshan,

""Bowie, MD is the "hinters""
To me it might as well be. Its not the role of others to make your life choices (or those who live in Fburg) feasible. You get more space, you deal with longer commute. You get less space, you deal with shorter commute. Those are the facts of life. You can cry about it all you want, no matter how many lanes are built, it will never change the dynamic. See Houston, Atlanta, and LA all with comparable populations, far more pavement, and just as bad traffic".
-------
Do your know where Bowie is?

FYI, Bowie is about 10 minutes from the New Carrollton Metro/Marc/Amtrak station and 15 minutes from the Largo Town Center Metro station. There is also a Marc station on the north side of town at Bowie State Univ.

Therefore, I honestly don't get the point of your rant and the reason for strawman arguments about Altanta , Houston and LA other than evidence of some perverse need to be "right". Or maybeyou just want to impress the lurkers,
because it certainly doesn't impress me.

I suggest you remember your preaching about it not being "the role of others to make your life choices feasable" the next time you come hat in hand begging elected officials to find ways to get others to pay the cost of your expensive, heavily-subsidized, deficit-generating rail transit.

That's all I have.

by ceefer66 on Dec 11, 2013 12:19 pm • linkreport

Selxic,

Ceefer related them his/her self. As an example of where traffic on 95 is coming from and what should be done about it. One solution is to add more lanes to 95 which would definitely benefit some people (for a while) but I think in a world with only so much money to spend on transportation it's better to leverage transit to get locals off the road, clearing up the existing space for people traveling through the area. Especially when the road is currently being expanded in the corridor.

by drumz on Dec 11, 2013 12:33 pm • linkreport

Bowie is a pretty good place to live if your job has you traveling (by driving) regionally.

Not if you work in consulting and the traveling you need to do is to regional employment centers. There are few major employment centers in PG county (I hope that changes). As a result, traffic is usually really bad commuting between PG and major employment centers. I'd say Springfield would be better and you should be able to buy a detached house there on a government contractor's salary.

About the only things Bowie is good for from a consultant's perspective is if you have a project in New Carrollton, Fort Meade or CMS in Baltimore.

by Falls Church on Dec 11, 2013 1:29 pm • linkreport

Wait... without knowing more than a portion of his title, you want to tell someone who is happy with where they live, distance to clients, and their transit options to move to Virginia? Where ceefer lives was only brought into the discussion because Navid declared "You were in a wave of people who all moved to the hinters." Navid's statement was irrelevant to the discussion however ceefer disputed the claim by mentioning where he does live.

by selxic on Dec 11, 2013 4:10 pm • linkreport

"OK... now we're confusing where a person lives with his unrelated opinions about a different area"
----

I'm a bit confused about why some might think I have no right to an opinion about I-95.

Especially considering the fact that so many of the people who use the GGW comments to vent about the "small-minded NIMBYs" who oppose the Purple Line don't actually live in Maryland.

by ceefer66 on Dec 11, 2013 4:42 pm • linkreport

You can have your opinion, just stop trying to say mine is invalid because my experiences and conclusions vary a little bit from yours.

To get back on track and away from running afoul of the comment policy. Why can't transit take away cars from 95? Right now transit is removing about 10% of cars from the corridor and that's without very much work at all. Pretty much just running some trains on existing corridors and providing some sort of bus service to and from those stations. Imagine how much more of a number you could get with a metro extension or a third track for VRE. Amtrak is increasing service to Norfolk and eventually light rail in Hampton Roads will go all the way to Virginia Beach.

You could move more people overall with smaller investments in transit than just adding an extra lane either way. Even if transit doesn't work for you in a particular instance doesn't mean its not successful if its doing a good job moving others.

by drumz on Dec 11, 2013 4:53 pm • linkreport

"You can have your opinion, just stop trying to say mine is invalid because my experiences and conclusions vary a little bit from yours."
---

I never said your opinion was "invalid", I said it was wrong. And I still do.

The part I'm having trouble with is why you have allowed the need to "prove" that you're "right" to get out of hand. All those posts from you directed to me just because I don't think I-95 adequately accommodates the non-carpooling driver who doesn't want to pay a toll?

Part of being a grown-up is the ability to either admit you're wrong or just agree to disagree and let it go.

I'll be the adult in this room and let this be my last word to you on this.

OK, now?

by ceefer66 on Dec 11, 2013 5:30 pm • linkreport

Well I'd say its the accusation of me lying when I talk about my experiences on the road. Or the tautology of saying that we must expand the road because the road needs to be expanded. Or the bizarre refutation that the extension/creation of HOT lanes is an expansion of the highway, more than the fact that we disagree (on this issue. We're both pro-height limit repeal if I'm not mistaken).

You're right in stating the problem (that to be a SOV on 95 is particularly tough) but there is no consideration of any sort of alternative other than adding as many lanes as can fit (and then adding more lanes). There's just no justification for that answer other than: that's the way we've always handled it. I think by the time you get to about 10 lanes you start reaching the limit of how much many more lanes you can add. Meanwhile we have lots of evidence that says transit makes traffic better than it could be. Even in this corridor we've seen this.

If I don't expect to convince I at least want something more than just "transit will never work!" as a counter argument. That goes back to my point that for whatever reason, everything we've learned about highway construction/transportation planning goes out the window once we start talking about this section of 95.

by drumz on Dec 11, 2013 5:42 pm • linkreport

But I apologize for anything offensive that I said or implied. I find going back and forth about these things helpful to me at least.

by drumz on Dec 11, 2013 6:01 pm • linkreport

And so it ends.

by Crickey7 on Dec 11, 2013 6:20 pm • linkreport

A small piece of the congestion puzzle can be solved if Amtrak would lower its rates for trains running between DC and Richmond. At its cheapest, a round-trip ticket is 44$ which is more expensive than driving my sedan (non-hybrid!) from DC to Richmond even if gas goes past 4 bucks a gallon.
I'm a big fan of taking the train, but unless Amtrak can get cost competitive with our beloved automobile, it'll be bumper to bumper traffic in the meantime.

by Brendan on Dec 12, 2013 9:21 am • linkreport

"AWalkerInTheCity ,
"Then don't move and pay the toll."
---

Then submit an expense report and get reimbursed.

So, your point is...?"

That adding tolled lanes is a good solution, that would work perfectly well for a consultant who can get reimbursed for expenses, among other folks. In fact this instance ia a perfect argument for tolling - the clients, who chose to locate in autocentric peripheral locations (presumably to save on office rent, on wages for locally available employees, etc) should pay for the usage they are capacity needs they are imposing on particularly congested roadways.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 12, 2013 9:38 am • linkreport

A few things:

It's insane that I-95 is used for both local travel around NoVA and through travel for the eastern seaboard. An alternative through route is needed.

Improving 301 up to I-97 sounds great, but that takes a lot of trucks out of VA and into MD. Virginia likes the tax dollars it makes off trucks traveling through the area. VA also likes people flying out of Dulles rather than BWI. Those are difficult political choices that someone would need to make.

Congestion occurs not from the number of cars on the road, but from differences in speeds between cars, known as the 'delta.' When the delta becomes too large and people start using their brakes, it has a cascading effect that leads to congestion. The reason you see it more on busier stretches of road is because there are more cars, and thus more chances for that delta to be large. Poorly designed interchanges and too many stoplights exacerbate this issue.

However, the idea that if you don't build roads that more cars won't use them is also absurd. All you need to do is look at Rt. 15 between I-66 and Point of Rocks to realize that. People along that route have, for years, fought against any expansion. But guess what! It still takes you 2-3 hours to get home on a busy afternoon. Go figure.

Transit is OK, but it is really inconvenient for the suburban lifestyle. Transit in this area also ignores the fact that just as many, if not more, commutes are not from suburb to DC, but from suburb to suburb. "Live closer to work" sounds like the obvious solution, but that ignores the fact that many households in this area have both adults working. Because of job mobility these days, they often work in different areas. It also ignores that people want to live in a place for a variety of reasons (family, schools, outside interests) that may not be the best near where they work.

For me, a major road re-engineering effort should be undertaken. The Rt 7 and Rt. 28 projects should be implemented on Fairfax County Parkway, Rt. 123 and Rt. 234, making all those roads stoplight free expressways. Build the bi-county parkway as well, which combined with Rt. 234 would become the de-facto western bypass which this area has needed forever. Finally, widen I-95 to 4 or 5 lanes all the way to Richmond.

But don't ignore transit. Let's just build transit that works. Bus Rapid Transit is cheaper and faster to build than heavy rail. BRT along major road corridors with the design based on the idea that not everyone goes into DC to work.

Lastly, I telework one day a week and it makes a world of difference. My boss teleworks all the time and using tools like Goto Meeting make it seamless. Encourage this solution too.

The mistake that too many of us make is thinking that we have the only best solution. Any sentence that starts with "Everyone should..." is a red-flag that whatever you're about to say next is not going to work. Designing transit solutions shouldn't be about trying to force people into a certain lifestyle, but rather about adapting our modes of transportation to the lifestyles we actually do lead.

by WrongVerb on Dec 17, 2013 8:53 am • linkreport

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