In a Dec. 15 editorial, The Post again called for the widening of Interstate 66 inside the Beltway. The editorial took issue with a resolution passed unanimously by the Arlington County Board at its meeting on Dec. 11.
In that resolution, the board took the position that a comprehensive study on the transportation needs in the region must have input from those who will be most affected by a future decision, and there is indeed such a plan.
At the behest of the Virginia General Assembly, a bipartisan group of elected officials just completed the Northern Virginia 2020 Transportation Plan -- a comprehensive approach to the region's transportation problems. It had extensive community input.
The widening of I-66 inside the Beltway does not appear anywhere in this plan, which is being submitted to the General Assembly in time for consideration within Virginia's next budget cycle. Independent proposals by federal and state authorities outside this framework could create ineffective transportation projects and risk undermining the regional consensus approach to transportation problems.
Efforts to improve transportation should focus on extending rail to Tysons Corner, Reston and Dulles Airport. A lane expansion of I-66 without rail would bring six lanes of congestion and cause a funnel effect east of Spout Run. It also would expend scarce resources that could be more effectively applied to other solutions. People want options, which is why Arlington favors non-roadway solutions to congestion rather than widening I-66 at this time.
The region needs to recognize the connection between land use and transportation and apply some smart-growth principles to local planning. The 2020 Transportation Plan incorporates such principles.
Arlington has designed its land-use plan to invest heavily in Metro, allowing high-density, mixed-use development around most of the stations in the county. The county also has made significant investments in public transit, bicycle trails and street design to encourage more pedestrian activity. Arlington has resisted developers' requests to expand high-density office buildings and housing away from business corridors. These policies have allowed Arlington to have significantly less traffic than other localities in the region.
Congestion is not going to be solved by adding more and more lanes to highways such as I-66. Our environment and regional quality of life must be protected. Options for reducing demand must be considered along with improved road capacity. We will continue to work with our neighbors to find the most effective and sustainable responses to regional congestion.
-- Paul Ferguson
is the chairman of the Arlington County Board.