Virginia officials consider HOT Lanes on I-66 through Arlington

Virginia has two new toll highways and the state is planning to build a third, along the I-66 corridor outside the Beltway. The state will also study building express toll lanes inside the Beltway as well.

When new highway lanes are built in Virginia, they come with tolls: E-ZPass-only toll lanes where HOV-3 carpoolers ride free. That’s the case along 495 and 95. It will also be the way the state attacks traffic congestion on I-66 from the Beltway west to Haymarket, as The Washington Post first reported. But adding lane capacity to 66 inside the Beltway has always been a tougher sell because of the opposition of Arlington County.

“They’ve had a long stated policy of not wanting an expansion of the roadway,” says Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne. He says any plans to toll 66 inside the Beltway will aim to improve mass transit. “Any revenues that are generated would be used in that corridor for transit and other things.”

Layne says they are looking at solutions that can be implemented within the existing right of way.

“I absolutely do not think it is going to require additional right-of-way,” said Layne, when asked if Virginia would pursue a six-lane project inside the Beltway where I-66 is currently four lanes, two in each direction.

Stewart Schwartz heads the Coalition for Smarter Growth, a group that generally opposes the construction of new highways. He says moving the most people, not the most cars, on 66 should be the goal.

“While the HOT lanes can provide some relief from peak hour congestion, they come at a high cost per rider and not everyone can afford them,” Schwartz says.

Schwartz says building a rail line or express bus service along I-66 would be more effective at fighting gridlock.

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