I’m 100% with Rep. Don Beyer on this one (see his statement below); VERY dubious about additional asphalt, not pleased about forcing a road widening through Arlington County, which should be a regional model for smart growth and transit. I’m also in full agreement with Greater Greater Washington (GGW) that “McAuliffe’s original tolling proposal had already been significantly compromised,” so this is a worse compromise on an already less-than-ideal compromise. I further agree with GGW on this: “This new compromise is a blow to Arlington, which has long supported investments like transit, cycling, and transportation demand management as alternatives to widening I-66. It is also a blow to Virginia’s moves toward a more data-driven transportation decision-making process, as the lawmakers pushing for widening ignore data saying it’s not necessary.” And, as GGW points out, $140 million doesn’t just come from nowhere; where’s that money coming out of exactly?!? On the positive side, “the majority of toll revenue will still be dedicated to transit and other multimodal improvements,” but that should always be done regardless, as building more roads – and de facto encouraging more sprawl, more fossil fuel consumption, more pollution, more global warming, etc. – is exactly the wrong way to go for a whole host of reasons.
Arlington County had a longstanding agreement that I-66 would not be widened inside the Beltway. Today’s announcement by Governor McAuliffe changes that understanding, and with no public input so far.
My initial reaction is one of concern for Northern Virginians who have worked – many of them for decades – for an alternative approach to big highways. But I continue to learn details of the proposal and to listen to constituents on all sides of this issue.
Early conversations with elected officials who represent Arlington County indicate that Arlington is more open to this partial I-66 widening than in the past, and that the potential benefits from I-66 tolls will bring important transit and multi-modal benefits to the surrounding corridor. I remain dubious about additional asphalt, and await input from my Arlington and other constituents about today’s proposal.
P.S. See after the “flip” for the Coalition for Smarter Growth’s – and several environmental groups – critical reaction to this deal.
RICHMOND, VA — Three leading smart growth, conservation, and transportation reform advocacy groups released the following joint statement on the announced agreement between Governor McAuliffe and state legislators on I-66 inside the Beltway:
Our organizations have supported the Governor’s package of transit, HOV, and tolls for I-66 inside the Beltway as a far more effective approach than widening. This package of solutions will move 40,000 more people through the corridor in the peak hours faster and more reliably, and it won the support of Fairfax, Arlington, Falls Church, and the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission.
Therefore, we are deeply disappointed by legislators of both parties who have pressed to undo this effective demand-management and people-moving package in favor of a widen-first approach. In doing so, the legislators have failed to understand the settled science of induced traffic where widened roads in metropolitan areas quickly fill up again. They also failed to understand the benefits of funding transit through the toll revenues, and the effectiveness of the package in moving more people through the corridor during peak hours.
We’re grateful to the Governor for fighting for the package of solutions he has championed for I-66 inside the Beltway. Although we are very disappointed that the widening is being accelerated before more effective solutions are given the opportunity to work, the agreement reflects a political compromise. That said, we urge the Governor and local governments to accelerate the funding and implementation of transit and supportive ride-matching and transit marketing necessary to ensure we maximize the number of people using transit and carpooling before the widening takes effect in 2019.
We urge legislators to understand that an economically successful region like ours cannot build our way out of congestion through highway expansion. That widening is just a band-aid with an increasing cost to people’s homes, neighborhoods, schools, parks, and health.
We have long made the case that investment in transit and smart growth, which can be coupled with road and parking pricing, is the most effective approach to addressing traffic congestion in the near, medium, and long term. Creating a network of walkable, transit-oriented centers and communities allows us to maximize walking, biking, and transit trips, while minimizing driving. It reduces the sprawling development which is the chief contributor to our traffic congestion, and creates the types of communities so in demand today.
Finally, it is important to recognize that Arlington County’s internationally recognized success in coupling transit-oriented development (TOD) with transit investment has done more to reduce regional traffic congestion than any other jurisdiction or any highway expansion in Northern Virginia, while increasing the region’s economic competitiveness. Arlington’s success is a compelling case for why we should continue to maximize our investment in transit and TOD across Northern Virginia rather than widen highways all the way to DC.
The Coalition for Smarter Growth is the leading organization in the Washington DC region dedicated to making the case for smart growth. Its mission is to promote walkable, inclusive, and transit-oriented communities, and the land use and transportation policies needed to make those communities flourish. Learn more at smartergrowth.net.
The Southern Environmental Law Center is a regional nonprofit using the power of the law to protect the health and environment of the Southeast (Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama). Founded in 1986, SELC’s team of over 60 legal experts represent more than 100 partner groups on issues of climate change and energy, air and water quality, forests, the coast and wetlands, transportation, and land use. Learn more at SouthernEnvironment.org.
The Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club is 15,000 members strong. We are your friends and neighbors working to build healthy, livable communities, and to conserve and restore our natural environment. Learn more at sierraclub.org/virginia.
Since 1972, the Piedmont Environmental Council has proudly promoted and protected the natural resources, rural economy, history and beauty of the Virginia Piedmont. Learn more about the Piedmont Environmental Council at pecva.org.
The Arlington Coalition for Sensible Transportation has campaigned for a ‘wiser, not wider’ I-66 inside the Beltway since 1999. Learn more at acstnet.blogspot.com.
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