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RIP to HOT on 395?

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ArlNow reports:

Arlington County has emerged victorious from its $1.5 million legal battle with the state over the plan to build High Occupancy Toll lanes on I-395.

Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton announced today that the state is no longer pursuing its I-395 HOT lanes plan, which the county blocked by filing suit in 2009. VDOT is also canceling plans to upgrade the Shirlington and Eads Street interchanges

As far as I’m concerned, this is great news; thanks to Arlington County Board Chair Chris Zimmerman and everyone else who fought against this. As Zimmerman explains in a 5-page letter, the goal of Arlington’s lawsuit was to “ensure the protection of transit and HOV operations in the corridor, and minimize the impacts of the project on surrounding local streets and communities.” And that, indeed, is what Arlington County has now done. Good work!

Also, see the “flip” for Del. Adam Ebbin’s letter on the subject. As Del. Ebbin points out, “While this announcement is a step in the right direction, we need to address our transportation needs with an increased emphasis on transit rather than encouraging sprawl by only focusing on expanding existing roadways.” So true. And that includes Bob McDonnell’s unwise transportation “plan,” which really should be called a “pave and sprawl” plan, as it allocates just 11.5% of funds to transit. With the price of oil at $100 per barrel, and with unrest in the Middle East demonstrating once again the national security implications of being so reliant on oil (not to mention the environmental “externalities”), what we should be doing is moving away: from roads and as fast as possible towards transit, bicycle and pedestrian projects. The fact that Bob McDonnell’s “plan” does the exact opposite tells you everything you need to know about Backwards Bob and his up-is-down, black-is-white, head-in-the-sand view of the world.

UPDATE: See Del. David Englin’s statement here.  David has been doing great work on this issue for over 2 years now — thanks!

Friends,

I’m happy to report that the Virginia Department of Transportation has just announced that it no longer plans to construct six miles of high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes inside the Beltway in Arlington and Alexandria.

Instead, the state will move forward with new HOT lanes on I-95 from Garrisonville Road in Stafford County to Edsall Road in Fairfax, linking them to the new HOT lanes on 495 already being built.

It makes much more sense to terminate the HOT lanes at the Beltway-where traffic can be disbursed in a number of directions-rather than backing up traffic on 395 at the previously planned terminus at Eads Street.

This also means there will be no construction disrupting neighborhoods like those adjoining Shirlington Circle, such as the historic communities of Fairlington and Park Fairfax.

I’m pleased that VDOT also announced that it is accelerating plans to build a ramp to connect the existing HOV lanes on I-395 to Seminary Road, which currently has no HOV access way, in order to help accommodate the influx of traffic to the new Mark Center building.

While this announcement is a step in the right direction, we need to address our transportation needs with an increased emphasis on transit rather than encouraging sprawl by only focusing on expanding existing roadways.

I want to thank Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton for acknowledging the concerns of Arlington and Alexandria residents.

Thank you for your continued support,

Adam Ebbin

Member, Virginia House of Delegates

  • This is a big win for Fairfax, Alexandria and Arlington residents concerned about overextended roads and cut through traffic.  We need to study the details, but it looks like significant help to two big regional traffic problems is on its way.  My hat is off to all of the regional elected officials who worked together on this.  People often fight for credit in politics, but sometimes it really is a team effort.

    I was happy to draft the Alexandria City Council’s policy against hot lanes as well as our position to protect the Winkler Preserve near BRAC. This action appears to be consistent with both (we have to look closely at the Seminary interchange plans). I think the best thing about this news is that it shows that civic debate, activism, discussion and effort can lead to a positive resolution.

    The focus needs to remain on transit.  I co-chair the Alexandria planning group that is working to build a streetcar system in Alexandria that can connect to Fairfax and Arlington’s Columbia Pike/Skyline streetcar project.  We are also working on the dedicated transit connection between Crystal City and Old Town.  Ultimately, these systems all have to connect throughout the region which will give us a new transit backbone to serve us well into the future.  Our region won’t have a future if we don’t get this mass transit infrastructure right.  It takes a lot of work to work through the engineering and design details, but its some of the most important work we can do.

  • The environmental studies noted the sound generated from 395 vastly exceeds noise pollution standards required to build sound barriers.  

    It’s time for those barriers to be erected.

  • SterlingNorth

    The bad news is that the HOT project is still a go for I-95. They’ll just run from south of Edsall Road. This is still a bad idea to basically sell a road to the highest bidder and have them charge drivers for what was formerly a public good.