Home Transportation Annals of Terrible Ideas: An Outer Beltway

Annals of Terrible Ideas: An Outer Beltway


DC, Friday afternoonThere’s been revived talk lately of building an Outer Beltway, a large highway with a radius about twice that of the existing Beltway. There are plenty of reasons it would be a terrible idea, starting with how ludicrously expensive it would be. If adding HOT Lanes to the Beltway cost $2 billion, how much would a whole new Outer Beltway cost?

But as David Alpert writes at GreaterGreaterWashington.org, the main reason an Outer Beltway would be a boondoggle is that it simply wouldn’t ease regional traffic congestion:

The mobility problems outside the beltway are primarily about getting to and from the core, plus the local trips tied up by inadequate local street connections. Yes, traffic is bad for many people, and that’s something planners need to address instead of dismissing.

However, more beltways will only accommodate a small fraction of the trips involved. Most people will still drive toward or away from the job centers at or inside the beltway, in DC, Bethesda, Silver Spring, Tysons Corner, Arlington, and Alexandria. An Outer Beltway or three doesn’t help with that at all.

That “or three” is no joke – road advocates NVTA envision no fewer than six Beltways (PDF).

  • but not surprisingly, being pushed by the usual suspects, the ones who won’t be satisfied until they’ve paved over every last inch of Virginia, addicted us to fossil fuels forever, and melted the planet.  How do they live with themselves? Oh yeah, almost forgot, $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$.

  • Mike1987

    more money spend on public transportation and a recognition of current work routes are not all into and out of DC.  A beltway? Yes, a metro beltway

  • KathyinBlacksburg

    Assuming it would even be a good idea(which I am certainly not arguing here), it is far too late to do this.  Should have been thought of decades ago, before the buildup of the surrounding area.

    Were they to do it, the cost would be so high, and the punishment to local landowners so great,that they would likely sell it off to the highest bidder (err privateer).  Then the tolls would be so expensive that no one will use it.