Northern Virginia transportation plan update

By Robert Thomson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 25, 2010; 6:27 PM

Each year, the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance invites leaders in regional transportation to report on important developments in their area of expertise. They get five minutes each, so they distill their comments down to the most important changes and challenges. Here's what they highlighted at last week's session.

I-66 corridor

The Virginia Department of Transportation has been targeting problem areas inside and outside the Capital Beltway.

l In June, VDOT began the first of several planned spot improvements to add capacity on I-66 west inside the Beltway. The first is between George Mason Drive/Fairfax Drive and Sycamore Street. It is scheduled to be done in December 2011.

lThis summer, VDOT finished widening I-66 in both directions out to Route 29 in Gainesville.

l Construction will begin early in 2011 on an interchange at Route 29 and Linton Hall Road in Gainesville. The project, scheduled for completion in summer 2014, will remove a long-standing bottleneck.

l VDOT plans to repave 6.5 miles of I-66 from the Beltway west to Route 50, with scheduled completion by fall 2012.

l VDOT is launching a study of topics that include greater transit service along the corridor, tolling, traffic management options including high-occupancy vehicle and high-occupancy tolllanes and localized improvements on I-66 from the Beltway west to Route 15. A draft environmental impact statement on options should be ready by June 2012.

Base realignment

Tom Fahrney, VDOT's coordinator for problems stemming from the huge personnel shifts required by the federal Base Realignment and Closure program, focused on attempts to ease congestion likely to occur around Fort Belvoir and the Mark Center.

l Two highway projects near Fort Belvoir are well along. VDOT this month opened a two-mile extension of the Fairfax County Parkway. I-95 is being widened for six miles between Route 123 and the Fairfax County Parkway. A fourth northbound lane opened in December 2009. A fourth southbound lane is scheduled to open this fall.

l Work continues on ramps and interchanges that will open up access between the parkway, I-95, and the federal bases as thousands of additional employees arrive.

l That effort around Newington "really pales in comparison to the issues we will have at the Mark Center," Fahrney said.

l Several proposed ways of easing traffic at the Mark Center, including an HOV flyover ramp connecting to I-395, have been rejected for lack of community support or engineering issues.

Road work

A total of 78 projects will be underway next year in Northern Virginia. Intersection improvements are planned at Route 29/Gallows Road, Route 50/Courthouse Road, the Fairfax County Parkway's Fair Lakes Boulevard interchange and Route 28's Wellington Road interchange.

l Construction at Wellington Road began this summer and is scheduled for completion in fall 2012.

l Construction at Fair Lakes Boulevard begins this fall and is scheduled to take three years.

l Construction at Gallows Road is scheduled to begin in early 2011 and be done by mid-2013.

l Construction of the Courthouse Road interchange is just being advertised to contractors and is scheduled to be done in summer 2013.

Virginia Railway Express

Dale Zehner, chief executive of the Virginia Railway Express, listed major changes in 2010, and additional plans for the rail service.

l Despite several fare increases, ridership grew in the past year.

l For the first time since service began in 1992, VRE changed operators, replacing Amtrak with Keolis Rail Services America, the U.S. subsidiary of a company based in France.

l VRE has 71 new rail cars and one new locomotive in service, with 18 other locomotives scheduled for delivery by June 2011, Zehner said.

l VRE still must replace 30 aging rail cars, find more storage space for rail cars, add more parking, provide platforms for longer trains, upgrade track - and find the money to do all that.

HOT lanes

Steve Titunik, communications director for VDOT's Megaprojects office, updated the rapid changes in the region's biggest highway project, the high-occupancy toll lanes construction along 14 miles on the western side of the Beltway.

l The project, adding four lanes and rebuilding 12 interchanges, is scheduled for completion in late 2012 or early 2013.

l Construction of new bridges has been completed at westbound Braddock Road, eastbound Little River Turnpike, southbound Gallows Road, the Route 50 ramps, eastbound Lee Highway, Oak Street, westbound Route 7, the Beltway outer loop at Route 123 and eastbound I-66.

l Scheduled for completion this year are the westbound I-66 bridge, the Route 50 bridges and the inner loop bridge at Route 123.

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