Comment on I-66 Design by November 29

VDOT is accepting comments on the “final” I-66 freeway design through Wednesday, November 29, 2017. It is hard to say what the final design is for a design/build project until construction is well underway, but please send in your comments. VDOT states that they want to hear from you and they take comments seriously, so please prove them right (or wrong).

Are you interested in construction disruption due to overpass bridge demolition and rebuilding? Would you like sidewalks on nearby streets that are being moved by construction, for example Prosperity Avenue in Merrifield? Do you care about noise limits and monitoring during construction and the removal of sound walls for the loudest construction phase in local neighborhoods?

Would you like to ensure your Metrorail commute is not disrupted for months by station entrance demolition and power feed replacement?

Are you interested in ensuring local neighborhoods are protected from the project with new sound walls and carefully placed freeway lighting? Are you wondering why VDOT says it needs an elevated flyover structure to move eastbound traffic to the adjacent toll eastbound lanes near Dunn Loring, while VDOT says slip ramps are just fine for similar movements on I-95?

Please send in your comments to VDOT at the following email address: transform66@vdot.virginia.gov

You may also share ideas here by leaving a comment on this page, however this will not send your comments to VDOT.

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Cintra and I-66 Partners Secure $1.2B Federal Subsidized Loan

Governor Terry McAuliffe (D-Virginia) proudly announced this week that I-66 Express Mobility Partners has obtained a $1.2 Billion federal subsidized TIFIA* loan to widen I-66.

Although the I-66 widening project west of the capital beltway is publicized as using toll money and private financing, over a billion dollars of federal tax money will actually be used to pay the construction costs and the $500 Million upfront lump sum payment that CINTRA and its partners used to secure its winning bid with the Virginia Department of Transportation.

This money will now be need to be paid back to the federal government at subsidized below market interest rates, ensuring the taxpayers will be subsidizing both the construction and the lump sum payment, in addition to toll revenue from drivers.

VDOT now says that the I-66 Outside the Beltway project will cost $3.7 Billion dollars, a substantial increase from the “$2-$3 Billion” VDOT employees claimed it would cost last year. Some of the increase is due to additional investments, including moving a Metrorail traction power substation. VDOT contractually limited any orange line Metro extension to occur for years, unless Cintra and partners are well subsidized with more public taxpayer money, so additional investments on the I-66 corridor will be limited in scope.

If CINTRA’s Express Mobility Partners defaults on the loan, U.S. taxpayers will be on the hook for the debt.

Bankruptcy and defaulting on federal subsidized TIFIA loans is no stranger to CINTRA. In 2016, CINTRA’s majority owned subsidiary SH 130 Concession Co declared bankruptcy. This toll concession company built and operated a poorly constructed toll road near San Antonio, Texas before leaving federal taxpayers holding the bag. US Department of Transportation has refused to comment how much money taxpayers lost in the deal.

Although the projected cost continues to rise, VDOT still claims that construction for the 25 mile project will be completed in 5 years.

*TIFIA or the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act was originated by Congress in 2001 to allow public entities, and occasionally private companies (as with Cintra/EMP) to obtain federal financing for large projects.

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Va Transportation Secretary: Changing I-66 Trail Will Threaten Entire I-66 Transformation Widening Project

Bike and trail advocacy groups have recently been pushing VDOT to move the planned trail along the widened I-66 outside the noise barrier in the eastern 5 miles of the Outside the Beltway project.  VDOT states that moving the trail would greatly increase the project’s real estate footprint, increase land taking costs, and is inconsistent with the contract or Comprehensive Agreement that VDOT executed in December 2016 with I-66 Express Mobility Partners LLC.  Still, some potential bikers and pedestrians along the trail would prefer the trail be situated on the backyard side of the wall, not on the Interstate freeway side.

Even without a trail on either side of a noise barrier wall, residences along the project will get taken entirely or lose substantial portions of their land.  The homes in this area generally have very modest yards, and are facing having a wall only 10 yards away from their doors in some cases. In other words, they homes don’t have much land to begin with, and already are facing a significant haircut, if not complete loss. Even nearby green space is being converted to impervious paved surfaces complete with barriers, walls, and tall new overpasses. Moving the trail would aggravate the loss of already limited land.

Virginia Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne stated last week that making changes to the planned trail along the widening I-66 “will jeopardize the entire deal if we go back to the homeowners now and tell them we are going to take more of their property.”  Layne  also stated that it would be costly to Virginia and delay the project.

It might be heartening to see Mr. Layne’s sudden taxpayer/homeowner advocacy.  But in reality, he is advocating for his Comprehensive Agreement and to protect against anything that can derail or delay the sweetheart Public/Private Partnership deal for his chosen I-66 Express Mobility Partners, whose members consist of CINTRA and its parent company Ferrovial Agroman of Spain, France’s Meridiam, and Allan Myers.

The Washington Post has an article, “Changing trail design could jeopardize entire I-66 widening project,” that describes the recent trail interests.  Several folks affiliated with Transform 66 Wisely were contacted and/or quoted in the article.

It is interesting to note that Linda Smyth, Supervisor of Fairfax’s Providence District states in the article, “This has been a wrenching experience for the neighborhoods and the people who are closest to it.”   That is certainly true. 

 This isn’t the first time I-66 has been widened, Smyth noted. Area residents have seen pieces of their property nibbled away over the years.

“So this noise wall is getting closer to the houses,” she said. “People remember these things.”

It isn’t clear what section of I-66 Outside the Beltway that Smyth is referring to, but the I-66 freeway opened in 1964 with six lanes from the Capital Beltway to U.S. 50, seven miles west.  This is roughly the same configuration that exists today, except for how the pavement is used, so it is unclear where the nibbling took place in Providence District.  In 1993 the shoulder along this stretch was converted to an active lane controlled by a green arrow/red X system, and the left lane was marked for HOV use during peak hours.  This history is derived from Scott Kozel’s excellent and well researched Roads to the Future history for I-66.

Interestingly, the politicians who support the privatized tolls and I-66 widening are still buying VDOT’s official line that the entire 22 miles of widening construction will finish five years after shovels break ground.  Coincidentally, it took VDOT five years to widen just 2 miles of Stringfellow Road.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Community, In the News | 3 Comments

Virginia Legislators Push to Move I-66 Bike & Pedestrian Trail Outside Highway Wall

Eighteen members of the Virginia General Assembly have written Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne a letter to request significant changes to the planned I-66 shared use trail. The primary concern is where this bicycling and walking trail would go in the eastern section, and to extend the trail beyond Route 28 in the western section. Current VDOT plans call for trail to be constructed inside the right of way and sound walls in the Beltway to Blake Lane section.

Some bicyclist groups are demanding the trail to be moved to outside the sound wall, putting their groups at odds with homeowners already having their limited yards taken away by VDOT’s I-66 widening. According to VDOT, moving the trail would increase the land taking from private yards, and place the trail on modest backyards already severed by the project.

Homeowners in this transit-oriented area between metro stations are already facing significant takings of modest backyards to make room for a greatly expanded freeway footprint and toll facilities.

Of the eighteen members of the general assembly who signed the letter to Secretary Layne, several of them represent areas such as Roanoke and Virginia Beach. Only three represent districts along I-66 outside the beltway, and none of the signers represent the areas between the Beltway and Vienna.

Besides the trail placement, the letter also advocates for extending the mixed trail beyond its planned terminus at Route 28. Placing the trail along the complete Transform I-66 project, including west of Route 28 is a worthy goal.

The Washington Post wrote a story with more details on this letter and issue.

The current plan puts about five of the 22.5 miles of proposed trail on the highway side of the wall. They are on the Fairfax side of the project, which covers about 16.5 miles of trail parallel to I-66. In Prince William, state officials say, another six miles of trail is expected to be coordinated by the county.

Susan Shaw, director of Mega Projects for VDOT, said the department is working with the project’s private partners to find other locations within those five miles of trail where the facility could be moved to the other side of the wall. A modified design would be released for public review this fall, she said.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/dr-gridlock/wp/2017/08/17/virginia-lawmakers-oppose-plan-to-sandwich-i-66-trail-between-a-sound-wall-and-traffic/?utm_term=.4e362388f32f

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Inside the Beltway: VDOT to Spend $2M More for New I-66 Tolls with Flashing Lights

You may have noticed the flashing strobe lights overhead on I-66 and Route 267 inside the beltway. VDOT is at work and is testing the new toll gantries, including their bright flashing features. While other facilities use overhead tolling without flashing lights in drivers’ eyes at night, VDOT has chosen the bright strobe method. White strobe lights can trigger seizures for those with photosensitive epilepsy, and can be extremely distracting for all drivers. The strobe lights appear angled from the rear of a vehicle, however the flashes from the oncoming lanes is angled directly of driver’s line of vision and there is plenty of bright light in all directions.

The strobe lights’ purpose appears to be to illuminate license plates and allow law enforcement to count vehicle occupants at night while cars whiz by. Other agencies have figured out how to do this without visual strobe lights, but driver safety does not appear to be a priority on I-66.

Meanwhile, VDOT needs an extra $2 million dollars to collect tolls than their original budget for I-66 inside the beltway.


WASHINGTON — The Interstate 66 rush-hour toll system inside the Capital Beltway that is due to begin charging solo drivers in December will cost at least $2 million more up front than previously planned.

The Virginia Department of Transportation is asking the Commonwealth Transportation Board Wednesday to approve the additional $2 million in order to keep the project on schedule to open just before Gov. Terry McAuliffe leaves office, based on VDOT and contractor estimates for upcoming costs.

Full Story from WTOP:

http://wtop.com/dc-transit/2017/07/va-spend-2m-new-66-toll-lanes/

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Arlington Seeks I-66 Outside the Beltway Funds for East Falls Church Improvements Inside the Beltway

In a few months, VDOT will turn the switch on its new tolls of I-66 Inside the Beltway.  Commuters at rush hour in the peak direction on all lanes of I-66 can pay a toll  without 2 people in the vehicle between the Beltway and the Potomac River.

These new tolls will collect a lot of cash, and VDOT has stated it will use some of it to improve transportation and transit for the corridor Inside the Beltway.  This means Arlington County will be a large beneficiary of the Inside the Beltway tolls.

But Arlington County want more, and wants to grab toll money from OUTSIDE the beltway too.  As part of its bid winning strategy, the winning consortium—CINTRA of Spain, Meridiam of France, and Ferrovial also of Spain—promised $500 Million advance in cash to VDOT.  This money was supposed to be used for transportation improvements outside the beltway.  It is essentially a prepayment of toll revenue that the consortium will collect over the next 50 years.

The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) is charged with allocating the Outside the Beltway funding.  Seeing money dangling from the highway (and the homes, backyards, and neighborhoods that CINTRA et al’s widening will destroy), Arlington County wants some too.  Even though Arlington is wholly located inside the Beltway, they want to grab money from outside the beltway.

And what do they need Outside funding for?  $23 Million would build another local street entrance and curb street to their East Falls Church metro station.  The rest would be spent on building two bus bays.  One might wonder why two bus parking areas would cost $6 million dollars, but that is another subject.

Why send Outside the Beltway funds for some local County improvement projects Inside the Beltway?  VDOT has been very clear about having two separate and distinct projects for I-66: Inside and Outside.  Inside the Beltway, homes, neighborhoods, and transit oriented communities are largely preserved and kept sacred by VDOT.  Outside the Beltway, homes, neighborhoods, the last trees, and transit oriented communities are mere obstacles for the bulldozers to destroy and pour concrete on so CINTRA et al can ensure profitable congestion for half a century.

The toll money collected over the remains of Outside the Beltway communities should remain outside the Beltway.  The NVTA should ensure they do exactly that when they decide how to allocate the funds in October 2017.

Arlington’s request seeks improvements to the East Falls Church Metro station, with the lion’s share – $23 million – to provide design and engineering of a second entrance to the station from Washington Boulevard. The overall project cost is estimated at $96 million.

 County officials also are seeking an estimated $6 million for the addition of two bus bays in the current bus loop at the station, along with miscellaneous upgrades to shelters and pedestrian access.

Inside Nova:  Arlington board to seek region cash for East Falls Church Metro upgrade

 

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VDOT I-66 June 2017 Plan Comments Due 6/30

Earlier in June 2017, VDOT unveiled revised plans for I-66 at several public meetings.  These plans include significant changes to the designs at Nutley Street, Vienna and Dunn Loring/Merrifield.  The changes also include a grade elevation increase for I-66 at the Capital Beltway, with significantly higher ramps, retaining walls, and structures towering over backyards and local roads.  VDOT and its partner wants to rebuild the entire junction (constructed in 2012) to make it significantly more complicated and damaging to the local area, with little thought on impacts to the local community that Fairfax County has been encouraging to develop.
Please continue to voice your concerns about the issues with the I-66 Outside the Beltway project and the impacts to the Dunn Loring/Vienna community.  Take a moment to email your responses to the 5 comment questions below to Transform66@VDOT.Virginia.gov  (reference “Transform 66 Outside the Beltway” in the subject line), and be sure to copy your elected officials in the email.
Some talking points to consider:
  • Express lanes are not solving traffic congestion
  • Reduce vertical and horizontal footprint
  • Need improved soundwalls in surrounding neighborhoods
  • Need storm water management plans
  • Loss of Stenwood school property and treeline
  • Impact of the widening of Gallows Rd to 6 lanes
  • Safety improvements on Gallows Rd
  • Minimize construction disruptions and impacts to residents
  • Reasonable terms for Right of Way acquisitions
  • Concerns with another “Springfield mixing bowl” at 495/66 interchange
  • Concerns with heavy tractor trailers being allowed on 70 MPH Express lanes and neighborhood streets
  • Concerns with high toll price (higher toll price if tractor trailers are allowed on Express lanes)
  • Safety and privacy concerns for bike lanes being in neighborhoods and school area
Posted in Government Policy, Public Meetings | Leave a comment