But Collins has worked on large-scale projects across the commonwealth during several decades with VDOT, and he rates Interstate 66 as the most complicated. There are so many factors involved in creating the traffic problems and thus many potential solutions. And if you want to finance any of those solutions, you need a study.
The zone covered by this study extends from Haymarket in the west to the Capital Beltway, about 25 miles to the east. The inner part is very different from the outer part, Collins said.
Over the next several decades, the time frame that Collins is examining, VDOT expects to see a lot more housing on the west side and a lot more job growth on the east side. That’s not a scenario for reducing traffic congestion.
“I-66 is one of the region’s most congested corridors today and will become even more congested in the future,” said Bob Chase, president of the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance, a business and civic advocacy group.
What to do?
VDOT held two public information and comment sessions last week and will be taking public comments for the rest of the month about what needs to be done with I-66. Travelers want to know if anything can be done within their commuting lifetime. Collins is optimistic about that, despite limited prospects for funding from federal and state sources.
He said the cluster of ideas that will emerge by the end of this year won’t represent an all-or-nothing package. Some could advance faster than others.
Chase has seen a lot of transportation studies. When this one is done, he said, “state and local officials must adopt a sense of urgency to funding and implementing these solutions.”
Collins talked about the potential for increasing the capacity of the corridor.
These days, when transportation planners talk about increasing capacity, they don’t put a priority on adding regular lanes. They talk about various techniques for managing traffic.
Among the top priorities for I-66 is making travel time more reliable. Commuters know a trip along Fairfax County’s Main Street is going to take a long time, but at least the time should be consistent. Some actual reductions in travel time might be possible. Choke points could be eliminated.
Planners might be able to create more travel choices and increase access along the corridor for transit users, bicyclists and pedestrians. Managed lanes and tolling are among the options to consider.
Public comment sessions like the two last week rarely draw commuters who hope to benefit from transportation improvements. Attendees usually live near the meeting site and are drawn by fear of a project’s impact on their communities.
Commuters can e-mail their comments on what should be done on I-66. The deadline is Feb. 29. Send them to Stephen.C.Walter@Parsons.com. (Parsons Transportation Group is consulting on the study.) Or send them to CG.Collins@VDOT.Virginia.gov. Use “I-66 Tier 1 EIS: CIM Comments” in the subject line. It’s a reference to the formal title of the study.