Fixing traffic on I-66, seen here near Vienna, will require many changes involving the roadway and transit. (Karen Bleier/AFP-Getty Images)

The Transportation Planning Board added Virginia’s plan for Interstate 66 HOT lanes to the D.C. region’s list of priority projects during the board’s meeting Wednesday afternoon.

Projects added to the list by representatives of local and state transportation agencies are subject to review to make sure they fit into the overall plan for improved air quality before a final vote in the fall. But getting on the list is a significant and necessary step for the big regional projects.

The Wednesday vote came at the end of a month-long public comment period on the I-66 proposals, which would affect travel along 35 miles of one of our area’s most congested commuter routes both inside and outside the Capital Beltway.

The planning board’s staff, led by its director, Kanti Srikanth, reviews the public comments, consults with the officials who presented the proposal, and then summarizes the comments and responses for the planning board members before they vote. Here are a few items from that summary Q&A.

Comment: The cost and schedule for the multimodal [automobile alternative] improvements for the I-66 inside and outside the Beltway projects is unclear.

Response: The Virginia Department of Transportation and the Department of Rail and Public Transportation are working with stakeholders to further develop the transit and transportation demand management elements for the projects. This work will serve as the basis for more detailed cost estimates and implementation schedules.

Comment: Median space should be preserved for westward extension of Metrorail.

Response: VDOT and DRPT are examining two alternatives, one of which preserves the median for future Metrorail extension. Irrespective of the median space, VDOT and DRPT are working to develop the current multimodal improvements to I-66 so as to not preclude future extension of the Metrorail system in the I-66 corridor.

Comment: VDOT should conduct rigorous analyses and effective public outreach to demonstrate the wisdom of the proposed HOV-2 to HOT-3 conversion. Additionally the new HOT hours should at least equal the current eight daily hours of HOV restrictions on I-66 outside the Beltway.

Response: VDOT will work closely with Arlington County, Fairfax County, the City of Falls Church, transit providers, and other stakeholders to implement a comprehensive outreach program. … There will also be opportunities for the public to learn more about the project, as well as provide comments, both through the CLRP [Constrained Long-Range Plan overseen by the Transportation Planning Board] process and the NEPA [environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act] process.

The dynamic tolling [the toll that rises and falls with the level of traffic] is proposed to occur in both directions of I-66 during the peak periods only [inside the Beltway]. The peak period hours will be determined in the environmental study analysis.

Comment: Potential impacts to existing adjacent bicycle and pedestrian facilities as a result of the widening component of the I-66 inside the Beltway project should be fully addressed.

Response: VDOT and DRPT will work with project stakeholders to select and implement bicycle and pedestrian improvements identified in the multimodal study. VDOT and DRPT will seek to avoid or mitigate any adverse impacts to existing bike and pedestrian facilities.

Comment: The project must include a robust and detailed plan for funding, operating and maintaining high-quality transit both on I-66 and in east-west roads in the corridor such as Routes 50 and 29. Details regarding planned bicycle and pedestrian improvements should also be developed.

Response: The project is multimodal in nature … A project funding plan is under development that will include all elements of the multimodal project. Bicycle and pedestrian accommodations in the corridor are being developed in cooperation with localities, and will be consistent with VDOT’s Policy for Integrating Bicycle and Pedestrian Accommodations (pdf).

Comment: Concerns [were raised] about the proposed tolling associated with the express lanes component of the project and the conversion to HOT-3 on I-66 outside the Beltway. Concerns also [were raised] regarding the ability of the planned improvements to address future transportation needs.

Response: With the outside the Beltway improvements, users will have travel options, including general purpose lanes, managed express lanes, and high-frequency bus service, among others. The combined impact of these improvements is anticipated to improve travel times in the corridor, both in the general purpose lanes, as well as the express lanes.

This project will provide time saving benefits to those who choose to carpool, as well as facilitate the formation of both formal and informal carpools at new and improved park and ride lots.

Comment: Tolling of Dulles International Airport users on I-66 inside the Beltway would create a significant disincentive for passengers to choose Dulles International.

Response: The project team will work collaboratively with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority to explore potential solutions to address the concerns of the authority and impacts to Dulles Airport travelers.

See also
All 198 public comments submitted to the Transportation Planning Board