Virginia’s transportation officials have been doing a good job spreading the word about their plans for adding high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes on Interstate 66, but that doesn’t mean everyone likes what they’re hearing. A top question among long-distance commuters is why they can’t have more un-tolled lanes. People who live along the route are afraid the limited expansion of the highway will be more than enough to damage their property.
Several groups with questions about the project are sponsoring a forum from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday to discuss “I-66 and Our Neighborhoods.” They will gather in the cafeteria at Oakton High School, 2900 Sutton Rd., in Vienna.
Residents in the Vienna-Dunn Loring area are particularly concerned about the Virginia Department of Transportation plan for the 15 miles west of the Capital Beltway. In this heavily congested zone, VDOT plans to configure the interstate so it has three regular lanes and two HOT lanes each way. That could be done by 2021, VDOT estimates.
Tonight’s event is cosponsored by the Providence District Council, Coalition for Smarter Growth, Virginia Sierra Club, Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling and Friends of Accotink Creek. The format is a panel discussion, moderated by Stewart Schwartz of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, followed by a public discussion of the outside the Beltway plan.
In announcing the forum, the Coalition for Smarter Growth named some of the popular topics in Fairfax County: How will homes and neighborhoods be affected? Will there be enhanced opportunities for walking and biking? What transit alternatives are being developed? How will the project affect parks, streams and natural habitats? What are the likely effects on everyone during the construction period?
Big projects always generate big concerns, and this one — estimated at $2 billion to $3 billion for the outside the Beltway rebuilding — will easily fit the profile. The projects develop different constituencies. There are the long-distance commuters who are interested in the plans. And there are the people who live along the route, who are vitally concerned.
There will be more opportunities for those concerns to emerge after tonight. Use this e-mail address to request a community meeting with VDOT officials about the plan: firstname.lastname@example.org
The next round of formal hearings on the outside the Beltway project is scheduled for late May/early June.
May 27: VDOT Northern Virginia District Office, 4975 Alliance Dr., Fairfax.
May 28: Oakton High School cafeteria, same site as tonight’s forum.
June 2: Battlefield High School cafeteria, 15000 Graduation Dr., Haymarket.
The project is now in the second phase of environmental analysis. See the results of the first-phase analysis.
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