Interstate 66 in Virginia will get temporary rush-hour car pool lanes, Metrorail will be able to continue work on the long-awaited Green and Blue lines and sections of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and George Washington Parkway will be rebuilt under legislation approved by Congress before adjourning Sunday.
As part of a $30.89 billion transportation spending bill that is expected to be signed by President Bush, the region also will receive more federal money this fiscal year.
Virginia will get an additional $36 million this year, the District $21 million and Maryland $10 million because lawmakers raised the ceiling on the amount states may spend from the highway trust fund, which is the repository for gasoline tax revenue.
Raising the ceiling had been a priority of Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, who testified before Congress last spring. Overall, Maryland will receive $281 million in federal money, Virginia $239 million and the District $108 million.
The two-year project to build temporary rush-hour car pool lanes on I-66 outside the Capital Beltway will begin in March, Virginia officials said yesterday.
While the project extends only 7.7 miles between the Beltway and Route 50 in Fairfax County, officials view interim car pool lanes as a first step toward reducing traffic congestion outside the Beltway on I-66, one of the region's slowest highways during rush hour.
"It's going to be a big help," said Fairfax County Board Chairman Audrey Moore.
In addition to giving special treatment to car pools -- an advantage to people living in places such as Centreville -- the I-66 project also includes eliminating the first of two awkward left-turn exits from the Beltway onto westbound I-66 and also easing the bottleneck between Routes 50 and 123, where the highway narrows.
Money for the $22.5 million project was in doubt until Congress approved $7.2 million for I-66 before adjourning Sunday.
The bill also includes $64 million for Metrorail construction, short of the $108 million that the regional transit agency was seeking. The Metrorail money will be used for building the Green Line in the District and the line to Van Dorn Street in Fairfax.
In Maryland, the transportation bill and a separate Interior Department spending bill approved by lawmakers provided $24.9 million for the National Park Service's project to rebuild an 11-mile stretch of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway between the District line and Route 175 (Jessup Road). The total cost is $141 million.
In Virginia, the Interior bill also included $9.7 million for the rebuilding of the George Washington Parkway between Spout Run and the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge. The National Park Service is building another lane for traffic entering the parkway at Spout Run and a third lane outbound between the Roosevelt Bridge and Spout Run.
The I-66 project will involve widening and reinforcing the right shoulders in both directions to be used as an extra lane for conventional traffic during rush hour. The left lanes will be painted with diamonds and will carry vehicles with three or more persons during rush hour. After rush hour, use of the shoulder is prohibited and the diamond lanes will be open to all traffic.
The same system exists on a stretch of the Shirley Highway between the Beltway and Woodbridge, where the state is building permanent restricted car-pool lanes.
Inside the Beltway, I-66 already is restricted during rush hour. The highway frequently is backed up in the morning and evening between the Beltway and the Gainesville exit west of Manassas.
Built to handle about 71,000 vehicles a day, parts of I-66 carry twice that number. The segment between the Beltway and Route 123 carries more than 162,000 vehicles a day.
Though Congress approved $7.2 million, the rest of the $22.5 million will come from state and federal money allocated over the last three years. Because the I-66 project will cost less than the original $34 million estimate, officials will use the additional money to build walls along the highway to block noise from nearby residents.
Eventually, Virginia transportation officials want to widen I-66 outside the Beltway to 10 lanes, five in each direction, to Gainesville, a distance of about 22 miles. That project, which would cost more than $600 million, would include building permanent, reversible car pool lanes.