Tonight, the Virginia Department of Transportation plans to host the first of two public meetings to update progress on its study of the cramped conditions along Interstate 66 inside the Capital Beltway.

The study, meant to produce a variety of transportation options for the corridor, began in July and is scheduled to be done next summer. See a pdf map of the study area.

Seems like this troublesome highway is on the mind of everyone concerned about getting around Northern Virginia. Also under study by the state is the 25-mile corridor between the Beltway and Haymarket. A draft of that one also should be out by next summer.

Meanwhile, VDOT has been answering the prayers of many travelers by repaving I-66 between the Beltway and Route 50. It’s not done yet, but the completed part gives drivers a much smoother trip on asphalt than they had on the crumbling concrete.

And the first of what Virginia refers to as the spot improvements to the outbound lanes inside the Beltway has opened to traffic. This lengthens the westbound acceleration and deceleration lane for about two miles between the Fairfax Drive on-ramp just west of George Mason Drive and the Sycamore Street off-ramp. The effect is to form a continuous extra lane between the two, without broadening the footprint of the highway.

Virginia commuter Andy Feltman was out there this morning and wrote in with this report, describing drivers’ first encounters with the extended lane: “The lane marker is the short dashes typical of a lane that is ending, so most people entering at Fairfax Drive merged into the two through lanes as soon as possible as usual.

“But there’s two miles of a third lane. Yay.

“I hope people entering at Fairfax Dr will soon realize they have two miles of road and will get up some speed and merge smoothly. I hope spreading out the merges and making them smoother will help the overall flow.”

Several more such spot improvements are still in the design phase with no dates set for construction. They would provide similar widenings between Haycock Road and Westmoreland Street, and between Lee Highway and Glebe Road.

These are more popular with long-distance commuters than with the residents along the route. Many of them have resisted steps that could increase traffic along the highway inside the Beltway.

The study that is the subject of tonight’s public meeting is looking a variety of transportation options — transit, bicycle, pedestrian and highway — that could improve the movement of people through this corridor.

Tonight’s session is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. at Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School, 7130 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church. There will be a presentation on the study at 6:30 p.m.

A second session, with the same hours, is scheduled for Dec. 14 in the Arlington County Board Room, 2100 Clarendon Blvd.

Other improvements for Interstate 66 are in the works at the Capital Beltway interchange. They’re not part of any specific plan for I-66, but rather are part of the Beltway high-occupancy toll lanes project, scheduled to be done by the end of next year.

The Virginia Department of Transportation also is planning a traffic management program along I-66 that would give drivers a lot more information to work with through advances in highway technology.