I-66 Transformation is Another Transportation Mistake

Stuart Whitaker from Transiters wrote a great article that was published in the Washington Post.  He makes the case why the “Transform 66” project is a terrible deal for taxpayers and commuters.  The $2 Billion project is purportedly paid by tolls, but actually needs a $600 Million dollar public subsidy from taxpayers. Imagine what $600 Million could do for Virginia’s infrastructure, if it wasn’t sent to line the pockets of Big Pavement while they get to rake in toll revenue for five decades or more.  The next time a Virginia politician says that there is no money for modest rapid transit extensions, remind them that they handed out over a half billion dollars to subsidize private toll collectors.

And what do taxpayers receive in return for that hefty chunk of their tax dollars?  The “opportunity” to pay exorbitant unregulated tolls for the rest of our lifetimes while one of the free lanes on I-66 is removed, worsening congestion even more to ensure more people may pay for the expensive toll lanes.  A VDOT representative recently said that even VDOT doesn’t expect everyday commuters to pay for the toll lanes on a daily basis because they won’t be able to afford the high expense.

Unfortunately, the Transform 66 project gets much worse from there. Homes and neighborhoods near existing public transit stations will be lost forever forcing homeowners and families to pack up and leave everything behind, even their schools. Hundreds of acres of open or forested land will be either destroyed or paved over.  The publicly owned right of way will be turned over to a private operator to profit with the taxpayers’ money and land. Recently built infrastructure such as much of the I-66/I-495 bridges will be ripped out and demolished with the taxpayer subsidy, while other infrastructure deteriorates and road quality conditions worsen even more in Virginia.

Last year, the Commonwealth waived water regulations, so more storm water running off the newly paved land will cause more flooding and watershed damage in waterways such as Accotink Creek. The Commonwealth of Virginia and Fairfax County  have shown no signs of doing any meaningful storm water mitigation, preferring to let vastly increased water polluted from oils, chemicals, and excessive snow melting compounds drain into nearby swelling creeks, thence into rivers and your Chesapeake Bay.  The fragile environment that your health depends on is no match for tolling schemes and massive taxpayer handouts to private “concessionaires” who will be collecting more cash from commuters.

For more analysis, see Stuart’s article:


Posted in Government Policy, In the News, Transportation Planning | Leave a comment

VDoT Requests I-66 Outside Beltway Procurement Comments Thru June 16

The Transform I-66 Outside the Beltway project is currently requesting comments on the procurement process, which will affect neighborhood residents, commuters, and taxpayers.  The procurement public comment period ends on June 16.

The updated materials from the May 2016 meetings, including the Concept Plans are posted at:  http://outside.transform66.org/meetings/may_2016_public_hearings.asp

There are currently two teams with active bids to build and toll the I-66 express lanes.  One team is led by a familiar name in Virginia, Transurban of Melbourne, Australia.  Transurban is known for operating the I-95, I-495, and I-395 express lanes, as well as illegal campaign contributions to Virginia politicians during the procurement of those projects, and being forced in local courtrooms to soften predatory toll and fee collections practices.  For this project, Transurban would be joined by Skanska of Stockholm, Sweden and Archer Western.

The second bidding team is led by Cintra, of Madrid, Spain.  They would be joined by financier Meridiam of Paris, France.  (For anyone who has driven on the Autoroutes of France, or the Autopistas of Spain, you know that high tolls charged by concessionaires are a tradition). Their construction partners would be Ferrovial of Madrid (Cintra’s parent company), and Allan Myers of Malvern, Pa.

Comments are sought on the procurement.  At this time, VDoT says Virginia is heavily leaning toward a public private partnership to build, finance, operate, and toll the I-66 express lanes although it is not yet determined.  You might recall that in May 2015, Transportation Secretary Layne stated that Virginia could save about a billion dollars by doing the tolling and financing without a private concessionaire.  The construction lobby was aghast at this suggestion, and a few months later the full public private partnership was once again VDoT’s preference in a newly written finding of “public interest.”

You may comment on other aspects on the procurement, such as any rules on construction noise day and night, sound barrier construction, storm/flood water handling downstream of the project, “compensation events” designed to protect the private operator’s toll revenue from competing public infrastructure improvements, and neighborhood traffic impacts caused by construction.  If you have comments on any of these or other issues, be sure to comment while you can.

The full documents are available on the Virginia P3 Agency at: http://www.p3virginia.org/projects/interstate-66-corridor-improvements

Submit your comments via email or by postal mail to Susan Shaw, Megaprojects Director, at the VDOT District Office, 4975 Alliance Dr, Fairfax VA 22030.

You may also email comments  to Transform66@VDOT.Virginia.gov. Please reference “Transform 66 Outside the Beltway” in the subject line.

Comments must be postmarked, emailed or delivered to VDOT by June 16, 2016 to be included in the public hearing record.









Posted in Government Policy, Public Meetings | Leave a comment

Reminder, TONIGHT: Linda Smyth’s I-66 Preview Meeting Monday 5/16 at Providence Community Center

Pre-Hearing Briefing on I-66 Outside the Beltway

Monday, May 16, 2016 at 7 pm

Providence Community Center, 3001 Vaden Drive, Fairfax, VA 22031- Multipurpose Room

Before the I-66 Public Hearing on May 23, 2016, Supervisor Linda Q. Smyth, with representatives from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will host a meeting at the Providence Community Center on May 16, 2016 to provide an overall project update. VDOT will also provide a presentation of the project’s procurement status along with Request for Proposals (RFP) documents and information related to the draft comprehensive agreement. Information related to changing the existing High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) designation on Interstate 66 from HOV-2 to HOT-3 (High Occupancy Toll or Express Lanes, where vehicles with three or more occupants travel for free) when the Express Lanes on I-66 Outside the Beltway open to traffic in late 2020 will also be discussed.

Posted in Government Policy, Public Meetings, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Public to review very different visions for I-66

Do you address the traffic congestion on one of the D.C. region’s main highways by widening it or by getting some commuters to leave their cars behind?


Dr Gridlock Article on I-66 Public Meetings and Virginia’s Two Approaches


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Cities Doubling Down on Highways

Kimberly writes us to mention an excellent article in The Atlantic, “The Cities Doubling Down on Highways.  Physically expanding roads doesn’t cure congestion. So why are places like Arkansas spending millions to do just that?

The real answer is similar to what happens in Virginia: A failure to analyze true benefits vs costs of projects in a comprehensive manner, as well as the cause and effects of congestion, highways, and land use policies over long periods of time.  Sprinkle in intense lobbying efforts by the construction industry, which salivates over big projects to “do something,” and a desire to see return on investment for politicians’ campaign contributions by the toll operator/concessionaires.  It is easy to see why handing over the keys of public assets to private toll companies is becoming a trend in Virginia.  The toll concessionaires have even become experts at obtaining taxpayer’s money to pay for large portions of the projects, then retain still more toll money from users of the infrastructure.  They write their contracts or comprehensive agreements to incentivize as much toll revenue as possible, even requiring taxpayers to pay them still more more money if more than roughly a third of Express Lane users are HOV.

Back to The Atlantic article, the author notes how housing trends are changing, even if classical thinking highway planners are not.  Urban developments and mixed use walkable communities have become very popular.  Building concrete jungles of massive highway interchanges and freeways through the few remaining green areas and wetlands is often in conflict with modern use patterns.   Will the folks who are entrusted with highway construction funding learn this or maintain their business as usual car first approach that favors long commutes in automobiles?


Posted in Government Policy, Transportation Planning | Leave a comment

I-66 Outside the Beltway Public Procurement Meetings in May

Public Hearings: I-66 Outside the Beltway

Virginia Department of Transportation is holding three public meetings on the I-66 Outside the Beltway procurement process. According to the Washington Post, VDoT it could still opt for doing this as a public project, as VDoT is treating I-66 Inside the Beltway.

All sessions are from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.  Similar to past practices, VDoT has scheduled the meetings during the week of the Memorial Day holiday.

Meeting Dates and Locations:

May 23. Oakton High School cafeteria, 2900 Sutton Rd., Vienna

May 24. VDOT Northern Virginia District Office, 4975 Alliance Dr., Fairfax

May 25. Piney Branch Elementary School cafeteria/gym, 8301 Linton Hall Rd., Bristow

Posted in Public Meetings, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Virginia Seeks Federal Grant For Extension of I-95 Toll Express Lanes

The Virginia Department of (Road) Transportation has decided that the I-95 Toll Express Lanes should be extended because of the daily traffic jams that occur where they currently end.  The plan is to push the merge further south.

Virginia has applied for two federal grants totaling $1.5 Billion, which would include extending the toll lanes to US 17 in Stafford.

Since the Express Lanes are operated by Melbourne, Australia based TransUrban Group, why are US Federal Government grants needed to extend them?  After all, the promise of Express Lanes is that the new lanes are paid by tolls!

In reality, the toll money goes to the private operator.  Much of the infrastructure gets bought and paid for by the taxpayers, whether through federal grants, TIFIA loans, block grants from the Federal Highway Administration, or state taxes.  For much of the existing I-95 Express Lanes, the existing reversible HOV lanes were originally built by the taxpapers.  This infrastructure was handed over to TransUrban when the lanes were converted to E-ZPass lanes.  And when too many carpoolers use the lanes, the Comprehensive Agreement with the Commonwealth of Virginia requires that state taxpayers pay Transurban even more.  To ensure that there will be plenty of congestion to captivate toll payers for decades to come, the Comprehensive Agreement also prevents VDOT from improving the free I-95, US Highway 1, or the Occoquan Bridge for the next 70 years.

All of this means that a grant funded extension would be one more taxpayer giveaway to concessionaire Transurban, who gets the taxpayers’ federal infrastructure AND the recurring toll revenue from the drivers who use that infrastructure.



Posted in Government Policy, Tolls | Leave a comment

WaPo’s Dr Gridlock Hosting Aubrey Layne for Online Chat, Monday 3/28 12:00 Noon

The Washington Post’s Dr Gridlock will host Virginia Secretary of Transportation, Aubrey Layne, for a live online chat on Monday 3/28/2016.  This is a great opportunity to ask your questions about the status of VDOT’s I-66 Transformation Outside the Beltway (and inside the beltway).

You will have the opportunity to inquire how the Secretary considers these projects’ effects on the environment, your communities, and the current administration’s private toll operator policies that favor long commutes via highway over existing transit oriented housing in Fairfax County.

Other potential topics of interest are the private concessionaire draft terms (including restrictions on Orange Line expansion and parallel route improvements), the lack of a cost/benefit analysis for commuters and taxpayers, and how the Commonwealth will select a 3P partner for I-66, as incumbent Virginia toll operator TransUrban remains very active in the Commonwealth’s politics.

You can ask questions and view the chat by clicking this link.

There is no need to wait until noon Monday to ask your question, the link is available to take questions right now.  (The earlier you submit a question, the higher the chance it will receive a response).




Posted in Government Policy, In the News, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

TPB Accepting Comments for I-66 Outside the Beltway for Air Quality Testing

The Metropolitan Washington Transportation Planning Board (TPB) is considering air quality conformity testing that will support adding I-66 Corridor Improvements Outside the Beltway to their Financially Constrained Long Range Plan (CLRP).  The project needs to be added to the CLRP to receive critical federal taxpayer funding that the toll project requires.

To see the project updates that TPB is considering, click here: http://www.mwcog.org/clrp/update/files/2016Profiles/66Outside.pdf

To learn more and register your comments, please see http://www.mwcog.org/transportation/public/default.asp

Posted in Government Policy, Transportation Planning | Leave a comment

Revised Enviromental Public Comments Due Tuesday, February 9th — I-66 Outside the Beltway

Last summer, VDOT requested Environmental Assessment public comments for the I-66 widening project, and hundreds of folks responded with substantive comments.  The public comment period is required by Federal law, and the Federal Highway Administration (FWHA) must review the comments received.

To proceed forward with the I-66 widening in the short term, VDOT is relying on FHWA providing a “Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI)” to the environment.  VDOT received many comments last summer that showed that there may be a significant impact.  Now, VDOT has revised its Environmental Assessment and has dismissed many of the comments received last June in their language to FHWA.

Now is YOUR chance to show FHWA why VDOT’s plans do have a significant impact to the environment and where they err in favoring Big Pavement over your environment!  Please see below for more information.  Note that comments are due to VDOT’s email address no later than Tuesday, February 9.

VDOT has prepared a revised Environmental Assessment of the I66 Outside the Beltway project for federal approval. The revision tries to dismiss the majority of public comments submitted last year as having been addressed or “studied” and dismissed (read more here). You can view the documents via the links below.

  1. Tier 2 Revised Environmental Assessment (EA)

(Take a look at sections 1.3.3 Environmental Consequences, 3.4.3 Preferred Alternative, Chapter 4 – Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences)

  1. Appendix A (which documents specific public comments and VDOT responses)

Don’t let VDOT have the final word! Comments are due Tuesday, February 9th. We need to ensure that the record states that many of the community impacts noted last Fall to VDOT still remain. And specifically that “The environmental impact of the proposed plan for the I-66/I-495 interchange is too high and alternatives must be further evaluated”. These impacts are documented on the links below if you wish to include any in your comments. Letter to VDOT: Remaining Impacts of the Proposed Changes to the I-66/I-495 Interchange


  • Less than half of the projected new noise impacts will be addressed.
  • The Preferred Alternative would result in property loss for 208 parcels (197 partial takings are not documented in the report).
  • The Preferred Alternative would result in 11 residential displacements, including loss of affordable housing near transit. Per EA, “this number is not inordinately high given the size of the project”.
  • The proposal ignores viable alternatives that would reduce the project footprint and environmental impact and induces traffic on ancillary roads and neighborhoods.
  • The report does not document the vertical impact of the project, including new ramp structures that will tower over neighborhood soundwalls. No noise mitigation plan has been proposed.
  • Loss of 118 acres of wooded areas, 60 acres of floodplains, 30 acres of wetlands, 106 streams will significantly impact our water and air quality and displace wildlife. No stormwater mitigation plan has been proposed.
  • The project might result in possible compensation events that would prevent extension of Orange line.


Submit your comments this week by email (Transform66@VDOT.Virginia.gov) to Ms. Susan Shaw, PE, and consider cc’ing your elected officials as well to fight on our behalf. Please reference “I-66 Tier 2 Revised EA” in the subject line for all correspondence.

Thank you for your support,

Transform66Wisely Team

Posted in Government Policy, Uncategorized | Leave a comment