This is a hot topic right now along the I-66 corridor, with Republicans’ wildly dishonest attack ads against Democrats Jennifer Boysko and Kathleen Murphy on Gov. McAuliffe’s plan for variable congestion pricing on I-66 inside the Beltway during rush hour periods. Last night, at an Arlington County Board forum sponsored by Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment, the Coalition for Smarter Growth, the Mount Vernon Group of the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club, and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. The responses by Arlington County Board candidates were highly revealing. Here’s a summary.
Christian Dorsey (D): “The VDOT plan such as it is needs a lot more work before it can be qualified as a plan. The concept in theory needs a lot of supporting data to make me comfortable that it’s a fully-based solution as opposed to a precursor to what has long been VDOT’s interest, and that is finding an opportunity to widen the road…There’s still a lot more that I want to see in terms of whta will be the impact on roads that are vital to our transportation network…In theory, it would be great if we could all of a sudden have no secondary impact, no ancillary impact on those roads, we could also raise money for multimodal and provide people with their consistent trip on 66. It seems that it’s going to promise a lot, and I haven’t see the data that backs up that it will be able to deliver. So for me, I’m in the information-gathering stage; I need to see a lot more before I evaluate it. I think we as a community have a right to be skeptical, because – let’s be frank, let’s be clear – those of us who have lived in Arlington for a long time know that it’s long been VDOT’s position that it wants to widen I-66. And if this is specifically a precursor to distract us from what would be a catastrophically wrong policy moving forward, that’s something that gives me great pause and concern.”
Katie Cristol (D): “With respect to the 66 plan, I have questions….chief among them is which multi-modal and in what order? There are a lot of ideas swirling out there…The whole principle of 66 has to be moving people throughout the corridor without adding more cars to the road…The second question, which is the impact on our arterial streets…It is an open question here in Arlington…This is a plan that needs a lot of work…Arlington can play a role in helping it become a better plan…The question, of course, is what’s the alternative. What’s so problematic for our community is because of induced campaign it leads to more cars…same amount of congestion with more vehicles, which is terrible for our air quality. As our population grows, we need an alternative to widening…widening is the worst-case scenario for Arlington.”
Mike McMenamin (R): Says there’s more pollution from I-66 from “cars sitting on 66 than they do moving” (note: I’d love to see proof of THAT claim!). Says Arlington has bad air because we’re “ringed in by highways,” but then says widening “is going to happen one day, folks…It would be much better to have traffic moving on I-66 in terms of air quality and flow of traffic than not having the ability to put more cars on it.” (again, really?!?) …”I believe we need to find a way to widen 66 and get the benefits that Arlington needs out of the widening of 66.” WRONG WRONG WRONG!
Audrey Clement (I): Calls for using “high tech” to help solve the problem, enforce HOV restrictions. “There are several steps it could take before either widening or tolling; it is not adequately researched as yet.”
Summary: Democrats Christian Dorsey and Katie Cristol raise important points, including that widening I-66 would be a disaster (“catastrophically wrong” or the “worst-case scenario,” take your pick). For now ,they are both undecided on Gov. McAuliffe’s plan for variable, congestion-based tolling of I-66 inside the Beltway during rush hour. As for Independent Audrey Clement, I think she raises a good point about getting more data before deciding what to do. Finally, Republican Mike McMenamin’s answer is both questionable in terms of the “facts” he cites, not to mention in terms of his wildly wrong conclusion. This answer alone should rule out McMenamin for consideration by anyone who cares about the environment, smart growth, expenditure of taxpayer money, etc.