Plans to widen I-66 gained traction today.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced a new deal reached with both parties and both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly that would widen a four-mile stretch of I-66 while also removing objections to state plans to allow toll-paying drivers of single occupancy vehicles to use the highway during rush hours.
Previously, money raised by McAuliffe’s toll plan would have been dedicated to transit projects and road improvements in the corridor. Northern Virginia legislators and local government leaders objected to the plan, pointing out that tolls, expected to average $6 per one-way trip, would especially hurt commuters who already pay to travel on the Dulles Toll Road and Dulles Greenway. Toll opponents argued that efforts to address daily gridlock in the area without adding new lanes inside the Capital Beltway would offer little relief.
The plan announced today allocates up to $140 million to add an eastbound lane between the Dulles Connector Road and Ballston.
The agreement takes shape in House amendments to McAuliffe’s proposed budget and comes after extensive negotiations between the governor’s office, Del. Jim LeMunyon (R-67) and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Chris Jones (R-76). As part of the deal, House Republicans agreed to table legislation by LeMunyon and others that would have blocked the tolling plan.
“This agreement is a big win for Virginia’s economy and for the commuters who spend too much time on the most congested road in the most congested region in the country,” McAuliffe said in a statement announcing the deal. “This multi-pronged strategy will increase options and reduce commute times through improved transit, smarter management of the lanes we already have and a new agreement for a wider roadway both inside and outside the beltway.”
“My colleagues and I made the case for widening I-66 inside the beltway,” LeMunyon stated. “I’m glad there is now consensus on the need to do this as soon as possible. This is a step forward in our efforts to address the gridlock on I-66 within the limits of current budget resources. I look forward to taking additional steps to reduce congestion in this key corridor.”
Sen. Jennifer Wexton (D-33), of Leesburg, issued a joint statement with Sen. Chap Petersen (D-34) and Sen. Jeremy McPike (D-29) hailing the agreement: “For the first time in a generation, the Commonwealth is addressing this choke point by actually adding lane capacity inside the Beltway. At the same time, the I-66 improvements will raise money for a transit service, most likely Bus Rapid Transit, that can travel along designated lanes on I-66 and provide direct access to commuters and tourists seeking to enter Arlington or the District,” they wrote.
Details of the project include:
- converting I-66 inside the beltway to express lanes during rush hours in the peak directions, widens I-66 eastbound from the Dulles Connector Road and improves transit service throughout the corridor.
- allowing carpoolers (two or more people in a vehicle) to continue to ride the lanes for free when dynamic tolling is scheduled to begin in 2017 during morning and evening rush hours (5:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. eastbound and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. westbound). Solo drivers, now prohibited on the highway during rush hours, can use the road if they pay a variable toll based on the distance they travel. Average toll is expected to be $6 a trip.
- In 2020, the lanes will be converted to HOV-3 during rush-hours under a previously adopted regional policy. All others will pay a variable toll.
- The lanes will remain free to all traffic during off-peak periods. There will be no tolling in the reverse commute.
- All of the revenues raised from the tolls will be used by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission for improvements in the corridor such as new transit service and carpooling incentives. Estimated toll revenue in 2018 is $18 million.
- Toll revenues will finance the environmental work and construction to widen I-66 eastbound from the Dulles Connector Road to Ballston.
- The estimated cost of construction is up to $140 million and will be funded with increased revenues from the recently passed FAST Act and improved state revenues. No revenues will be taken from previously approved regional projects.
More information on the project can be found at http://inside.transform66.org.