I-66 in Fairfax County has always baffled me as the only 2-lane interstate highway to access a major city. A simple geospatial analysis I performed in Google Earth examining road conditions in Americaâ€™s top ten metros show I-66 is the narrowest Interstate Highway feeding a downtown area. As Governor McAuliffe and Transportation Secretary Aubrey Lane move to seal off the district from us cheap suburbanites with sky-high tolls, many wonder if parallel collector streets and Metro busses can handle the inevitable spillover.
The top ten major metros (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Washington, Philadelphia, Miami, Atlanta, and Boston) all have two or more major highways entering the central business district. Each highway has at least 3 travel lanes with two exceptions: I-78 (Jersey Turnpike ext.) and 478 in New York City shorten to 2 lanes on approach to the Holland and Brooklyn Battery Tunnels and a 0.8 mile section of I-76 (Schuylkill Expy) in Philadelphia. That section of I-76 has an Average Daily Traffic (ADT) count of 26,000 cars whereas peak morning hours alone produce that many drivers on I-66 in Arlington. The actual width of these roadways (including shoulder) are more accommodating too, where I-78 and I-76 measure 34â€™-36â€™ in length per direction and I-66 between Glebe Rd and Lee Hwy typically measure 31â€™-34â€™.
According to the VDOT website there are still no plans in place to expand or enhance Lee Hwy, Arlington Blvd or Washington St. These are the main roads that parallel I-66, and spillover from drivers who donâ€™t want to pay over $4,000 extra per year is inevitable.
This whole process reeks of NIMBYism and elitism from wealthy Arlington government elites. Having known residents and business contacts in the county, they want to keep their government funded homestead as pristine and unfelled as possible. Numerous proposals to widen I-66 in the past 20 years have been offered only to be rejected by well-financed legal defenses. Meanwhile, lawmakers are somehow still convinced that â€˜noâ€™ means â€™yesâ€™ and we canâ€™t wait to board their little busses and trains.
During the 5:30 to 9:30 a.m. rush, nearly 38 percent of all eastbound traffic comes from the Dulles Connector Road (Route 267), while 29 percent comes from I-66 west of the Beltway. Maddening as it is, the tolls wonâ€™t go toward road improvements; commuters are paying for bike paths and subsidizing mass transit. People in Loudoun and Prince William Counties will be paying $9.8 million for Metro Bus maintenance and bike paths in Arlington. Furthermore, for those of you who love the idea of digging your own graves, an additional $2 million of your tolls will go toward constructing the toll lane infrastructure.
Roughly $2.2 million will go into â€˜exclusive bike transit lanesâ€™ and high-tech interactive signage in metro Arlington. Keep in mind these bike transit lanes are carved out of existing roadway. An additional 16 bike share stations, some adjacent to Metrorail stations, will serve as a final trip connector from rail and bus stops. The Northern Virginia Transportation Commission claims this will accommodate 450 extra trips per day, but color me skeptical. The 77 percent ($7.6 million) of the remaining tolls revenue will fund new and enhanced bus service.
â€œThese projects will have a significant impact, ultimately moving an extra 5,000 people through the corridor each morning,â€ says NVTC Commissioner Jay Fissett. Once again, ladies and gentlemen; color me skeptical.