On March 21, 2015, a series of questions regarding the planned I-66 Transformation and its impacts were presented to VDOT and the community at Kilmer Middle School. The full set of questions provided to VDOT are below. VDOT has responded that they plan to answer these questions during the first week of April. When the answers are available, we’ll have them at Transform 66 Wisely.
- P1 How does VDOT justify destroying the homes and communities and displacing citizens living near transit in order to pave more asphalt, supporting long commutes in vehicles?
- P2 Why apply an inconsistent approach to I-66 for Arlington and Eastern Fairfax versus Dunn Loring / Vienna?
• Arlington / Eastern Fairfax: Toll or HOV-3 entire road, NO takings for foreseeable future
• Dunn Loring / Vienna area neighborhoods: Express Lanes, MANY takingsDetailed Question: The US Transportation Secretary Coleman Decision that formerly limited I-66 to 4 lanes total inside the beltway was effectively repealed by US Congress in 1999 with the passage of the Department of Transportation and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2000. Despite this repeal, we see no planned attempt at widening on this section (beyond limited “spot improvements”) until at least 2040. VDOT’s position appears to be that this segment of I-66, closest to the metropolitan area center, can be completely tolled or HOV-3 at rush hour in lieu of widening. Why not apply that same standard to I-66 through Dunn Loring, Vienna, and beyond? If any Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) rules or other requirements affect the dual standard, what effort is underway with FHWA and others to resolve the inconsistent approach for I-66 congestion? Are I-66 neighboring residents of Arlington County and Eastern Fairfax County inside the beltway receiving preferred treatment by VDOT versus neighboring residents in Dunn Loring, Merrifield, and Vienna?
- P3 What analysis of alternatives is VDOT considering besides toll lanes?
- P4 What local benefit assurances to the affected Dunn Loring community is VDOT providing?
- P5 What agreements exist with Transurban to restrict improvements to US 1 and the Occoquan Bridge? Will VDOT make similar non-compete agreements to incentivize congestion / toll collection around I-66?<br>Detailed Question: The planned Express Lanes will offer value to commuters by exchanging toll payments for bypassing congestion. In order for the toll lane concessionaire to make a profit from these tolls, sufficient congestion must exist. We’ve noticed, for example, that Section 12.05 of the I-95 Express Lanes Comprehensive Agreement appears to have an effective non-compete clause with U.S. Route 1 and the Occoquan Bridge, requiring state improvements to these facilities to result in a “compensation event” that benefits the Express Lanes concessionaire. By contractually limiting the Commonwealth of Virginia from making needed improvements that threaten to reduce congestion, a perverse incentive situation exists to incentivize congestion and penalize commuters. What similar perverse incentives and non-compete agreements will be included with agreements for the planned I-66 Express Lanes? Will there be restrictions for improving U.S. 50, U.S. 29, rail, or other congestion relief that threatens to compete with I-66 toll revenue?
- P6 Based on VDOT’s estimate for $1 Billion in I-66 toll revenue, what is VDOT’s anticipated annual Express Lane toll bill from US Route 15 in Haymarket to Washington, DC?
- P7 Why is there so much waste of tax dollars due to the Commonwealth’s lack of vision?
• Build new I-66 / I-495 complex junction (2010) and new sound walls, will tear down• Build overhead electric signs for “Active Traffic Management” next to the existing guard rails (2015), will tear down
• Build new Tysons Corner Jones Branch bridge over I-495 (2011), will tear down the brand new bridge as it was not built wide enough to accommodate the planned Jones Branch Connector bridge.
• $100 Million 7 mile I-66 repaving to US 50 (2011), will be replaced
- P8 If Active Traffic Management on I-66 is expected to be effective, why not observe its effects prior to engaging in further transformation? If it is not expected to be effective, why is it being constructed now?
- P9 The I-95/I-395 Express Lane project was originally planned to extend to the Washington, DC border with Virginia. Why did VDOT subsequently decide to stop the I-395 transformation and tolling project at Edsall Road in 2011? Is a similar truncated plan available to spare the eastern most portion of I-66 transformation, where the most community impacts are located?
- P10 What agreements does VDOT have with the toll concessionaires for I-495, I-395, and I-95 to provide them with compensation if too many buses or HOV carpoolers use the Express Lanes? Are taxpayers punished if there is too much carpooling or successful bus use in the Express Lanes? Does VDOT expect to provide any similar compensation to a future I-66 toll concessionaire?
- P11 On a lighter note, VDOT’s Northern Virginia District office is right off I-66, near Costco. Is the purpose of all the toll lanes on Interstates 66/495/95 just so VDOT employees can get between Fairfax and the Richmond headquarters without having to deal with the traffic that the rest of us deal with on a daily basis?
- T1 How will ending the widened I-66 managed lanes not lead to mass traffic funneling / congestion / noise / pollution before the I-495 junction?
Detailed Question: Since the completion of the existing I-495 Express Lanes, we’ve observed that the “Free” Lanes now experience increased congestion and backups northbound where the Express Lanes merge into the Free Lanes. The congestion appears much worse prior to the American Legion Bridge than before November 17, 2012 when the Express Lanes opened. For I-66, this similar merging and funneling effect will be magnified due to the loss of a shoulder lane at peak hours, a complex junction, and the reduction of I-66 lanes immediately after the junction. In addition, this merging and funneling area will take place just a few feet from a residential area.
- T2 Why do you need a huge flyover to move traffic from one lane into an adjacent managed lane instead of an at-grade slip ramp or similar?
- T3 According to the very optimistic VDOT calculations, each HOT lane can carry 17,500 people per hour what are the current number of people using the 495 tolls per hour?
- T4 This project will cost between $2-3 billion to create two HOT lanes and will (hopefully) result in $1 billion in tolls. Effectively, the taxpayers are subsidizing, at a 3 to 1 ratio, lanes for people wealthy enough to afford toll roads. What is the benefit to those not using the toll roads but losing a free green arrow lane?
- T5 What will happen after the I-66 transformation permanently removes one free rush hour lane (the loss of the green arrow lane)?
- T6 How will local Dunn Loring drivers be affected by this project?
Detailed Question: With the loss of a free peak hour lane and expected expense of tolls, what impacts will there be for local communities as former I-66 commuters attempt to bypass the problems? We’ve observed how the I-495 Express Lanes now also cause new congestion and delays on local roads (e.g. Virginia Route 7 at I-495 where the Express Lanes project caused the loss of a cloverleaf ramp and resulted in the addition of a new traffic signal and long left turn cycle to access the “Free Lanes.” This new arrangement and new signal delays traffic on Route 7 and traffic attempting to enter I-495. Similar new local traffic impacts are at other Express Lane access points)
- T7 The proposal for the I-66/495 Interchange appears to include 8 new HOT flyovers. What are the estimated costs related to just the flyovers and associated takings, moving sound barriers, etc? It seems like having the tolls end/start at Nutley would be a much more economical option.
- T8 According to the very optimistic VDOT calculations, each HOT lane can carry 17,500 people per hour. What are the current number of people using the I-495 Express Lanes per hour?
- C1 How does VDOT take just one townhouse in a row?
- C2 How will VDOT replace the critical buffer zones and limited green space surrounding the existing freeway?
- C3 How many HOAs have you contacted / had meetings with? Is there a list?
- C4 What time of day will construction take place next to homes?
- C5 What community mitigations will VDOT offer to homes not demolished?
- C6 Example: I-93 construction in Massachusetts near residences:• Thick windows, insulation, vibration dampening beds
- C7 Will VDOT have a real time complaint number to stop overnight construction if noise is unbearable or exceeds a set noise threshold?
- C8 Will VDOT build new sound walls prior to old sound wall destruction and jackhammering?
- C9 The Environmental Impact Statement issued in 2013 indicated that no schools or public properties would be affected but the plan clearly shows that there will be a taking of the Stenwood Elementary school’s grounds and baseball field, parts of the Manassas National Battlefield Park, Bull Run and other public spaces. Did VDOT planners forget to consult a map when preparing the Tier 1 study?
- C10 Given the number of meetings that VDOT has held with stakeholders and the short period in which VDOT has to provide its final plan in May, what suggestions are currently being considered and may be incorporated into the final plan?
- C11 The purpose of stormwater cesspools is to ensure that pollutants such as heavy metals, fertilizers, road chemicals, oils, hazardous material spills, etc. do not get into our watersheds such as the Accotink Creek and Chesapeake Bay. Given the stormwater management facilities’ purpose, has VDOT conducted any studies to ensure that pollutants collecting in these cesspools do not pose a health risk to children or wildlife residing in the immediate vicinity?
- C12 How will VDOT prevent mosquito breeding in the swampy stormwater ponds, to be constructed adjacent to residences?
- C13 How will VDOT ensure pedestrian access and paths from Dunn Loring Village to the Dunn Loring Metrorail station will be preserved as it exists in 2015?
- B1 Where are the specific bus plans located for this “Multi-Modal” project?
- B2 When will the bus study be provided?
- B3 Why take houses now and only make promises for some buses later?
- B4 Were the planned express buses for the I-495 transformation fully implemented? Were bus plans fully implemented for the I-95/I-395 transformation?
 Department of Transportation and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2000, Pub. L. 106-69 § 357, 113 Stat. 1027 (1999), http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-106publ69/html/PLAW-106publ69.htm
I don’t know if you’ve seen this yet, but VDOT’s responses to the questions are here: http://outside.transform66.org/meetings/asset_upload_file849_77633.pdf
VDOT excels at the non-answer.