“The environment is going to change dramatically with this project,” said Mary Hasty, 56, who can see traffic on I-395 from her home on Winter View Drive in the Overlook community. “The new ramp will bring congestion up to street level with our houses, 75 feet from our homes and 25 feet from a very popular walking path.”
Hasty, whose husband has respiratory problems, said she is one of hundreds of other residents in her community concerned about the project. They also say that the Virginia Department of Transportation didn’t conduct the necessary studies to determine the ramp’s full impact, opting instead for regional studies.
Steven Titunik, spokesman for VDOT’s mega-projects, said that the agency had conducted extensive studies of the location of the ramp. He also said that the air-quality analysis has undergone thorough environmental reviews.
But residents, contending that no specific local analysis was done, hired an attorney who had successfully challenged the state on behalf of Arlington County. They also commissioned their own privately funded environmental study at a cost of $60,000. It found that placing the ramp there would “increase exposure to harmful pollutants for nearby residents.”
The I-95 express lanes, like the Beltway express lanes that opened on a stretch of Interstate 495 in November, represent a new way to deal with ever-increasing congestion by creating express lanes on which tolls rise to ensure a consistent, congestion-free ride.
The $925 million, 29-mile project is funded by a combination of public and private entities. The state will own and oversee the lanes, while private companies Transurban and Fluor will finance, build and maintain them.
While a ramp between Edsall and Duke has long been part of the plan, it was originally a small auxiliary ramp. After Arlington’s lawsuit prevented the express lanes from stretching into that county, the Landmark ramp became the last part of the HOT lane experience.
Northbound traffic in the express lanes would have to use the new ramp to move into the regular I-395 lanes. Area residents anticipate that those vehicles will slow down, idle and accelerate, spewing pollutants toward their homes.
Supporters of the project say that because cars carrying more than three people and buses can travel for free in the express lanes, the project could ease congestion.
“It takes cars off the road,” said Bob Chase of the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance. “It’s fewer vehicles and moving more people with fewer vehicles, which is obviously a plus.”