‘Lexus lanes’ for I-66 will leave most people still stuck in traffic

A reader of the Washington Post from Burke, VA wrote an excellent letter to the editor.   One thing we’d like to point out is that the funding picture is even worse than what the writer states.  VDOTs own plans [pdf] show that the Express Lanes will not be built mostly with private money. The numbers aren’t even close.

In fact, only $1 Billion of VDOT’s estimated $3.3 Billion cost (year of expenditure accounting) will actually come from private funding.  The remaining $2+ Billion of Express Lanes construction costs will be paid for with your Federal, State, and Local tax dollars.  And the $1 Billion of private funds would even include Federal government subsidized or guaranteed TIFIA loans.

Good deal for the public?  Hardly.  A great deal for the private operator who gets a 3:1 public subsidy and an unregulated Express Lane monopoly with unlimited toll increases for 50+ years?  You bet. 

The proposed high-occupancy traffic lanes for Interstate 66 are another fine example of the influence of the 1 percent [“Plan for I-66 tolls splits Va. officials,” Metro, April 19]. The region’s huge congestion problem is not solved by creating special lanes providing preferential treatment for the well-to-do.

Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.) accurately noted that much of the current congestion on I-66 is caused by those breaking the rush-hour rules for the road. The appropriate response is better enforcement, not disruptive construction that would produce lanes unavailable for the majority (because of high tolls). One could say that these tolls could be avoided simply by forming three-person carpools, but if forming two-person carpools — to comply with the I-66 rules — is already so difficult, how would going to HOT-3 improve things?

That gets us back to the 1 percent: Advertisements for the relatively underutilized HOT lanes on I-95 and the Beltway promise a faster ride (for those who can afford the fees), not relief of congestion. What about everyone else in the crowded lanes?

The appeal of HOT lanes to some local politicians, of course, is that they are built mostly with private money, an inviting thought in these legislatively dysfunctional times. But they are not the answer to local congestion, at least not for the majority of commuters.

Dennis Chamot, Burke

Letter to the Washington Post

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3 Responses to ‘Lexus lanes’ for I-66 will leave most people still stuck in traffic

  1. Rhonda Gleditsch says:

    I was on 66 Eastbound yesterday when the HOV lane was in effect. I saw someone drive by in the HOV lane – 1 occupant – breaking the law. I decided to watch the lane for about a mile as I got to my exit. Of 11 vehicles, only 3 in the HOV lane had more than 1 occupant.


    • Bryan says:

      One caveat with the existing I-66 HOV rules is, “Hybrids with clean fuel plates issued before July 1, 2011 may use the HOV lanes on I-66 during HOV hours with one occupant.” Another special exception allows solo drivers to use I-66 at all times between the District and 267.

      That said, a quick glance out the window from any Metro train at any rush hour will show plenty of folks flaunting the HOV rules unchecked, regardless of plates.


  2. Mark S. says:

    The I-66 Dulles Exemption and Clean fuel plates should be removed when Phase 2 of the silver line opens. This would make enforcement easier.


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