Tag Archives: I-66

“I-66 Express Lanes to Take Four Years, $2 Billion”

Private Company to Keep Tolls for Next 50 Years

Traffic along Interstate 66 is going to get worse before it gets better as construction crews will be adding express lanes for the next four years.

From the Capital Beltway to Gainesville, Virginia, state officials said travelers will have a better ride with the express lanes, which will run alongside three regular lanes. The construction will be extensive, taking some private property along the corridor.

“It’s a lot of construction. $2 billion, roughly,” said Susan Shaw, ‎Mega Projects Director and Design-Build Program Manager at Virginia Department of Transportation. “There are some total takes. Those are still anticipated with the project. We did minimize that. It is what we showed in our plans last year.”

The concept for the lanes is the same as the other express lane networks in the Washington area. Three or more people in the vehicle get to use the lanes for free. Those vehicles with fewer than three people will pay a toll that changes based on traffic conditions.

Drivers are promised a speedy trip of at least 55 mph in the express lanes, including during rush hour. Virginia is contracting with a private company which will build, maintain and operate the lanes. Taxpayers won’t pay a dime for construction, but the private company gets to keep the tolls for the next 50 years.

Source: I-66 Express Lanes to Take Four Years, $2 Billion | NBC4 Washington http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/I-66-Express-Lanes-to-Take-Four-Years-2-Billion-400327631.html#ixzz4PQsbVSep
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“Cintra-Led Team Tapped for Virginia Express Lane P3 Project”

Consortium will build, manage 22 miles of I-66 upgrades near nation’s capital

 

ENR | November 7, 2016

A consortium led by the U.S. subsidiary of Spanish toll road developer Cintra will take on the Virginia Dept. of Transportation’s latest suburban Washington, D.C., express lane project—winning the nod to build and manage 22 miles of improvements along the I-66 corridor outside the I-495 Capital Beltway.

According to a VDOT statement, Express Mobility Partners—which also includes the firms Meridiam, Ferrovial Agroman US and Allan Myers Va. Inc.—will finance, design, build and maintain two full-time dynamically priced toll lanes in each direction between the Beltway and Gainesville, Va., replacing existing peak-hour HOV lanes and retaining the three full-time open travel lanes.

VDOT estimates the project, including the 50-year operations concession, will total $2.5 billion.

The selection follows a reworking of VDOT’s P3 procurement process, which had been criticized for its lack of accountability and competition in several recent public-private awards. By retaining the option to pursue the I-66 project on its own, at an estimated initial cost of nearly $1 billion, VDOT says it achieved “far more financially competitive” bids.

In addition to requiring no up-front public funding, Express Mobility Partners’ financing plan includes an initial $500-million contribution toward additional transportation improvements in the I-66 corridor. During its 50-year concession, the consortium will also fund $800 million in transit service, and contribute $350 million for other corridor work.

Transurban, VDOT’s partner for express lane projects on the Capital Beltway and I-395/95 corridor, teamed with Skanska in an unsuccessful bid for the I-66 job, with a financing strategy that required a public subsidy. The company continues to move forward on an 18-mile extension of the I-95 express lanes south to Fredericksburg.

Plans call for the I-66 project to reach financial close in mid-2017, with the five-year construction phase to begin soon afterward.

The award is Cintra’s first win since it elevated Belen Marcos to head the company’s $8-billion U.S. portfolio, announced on Oct. 18.

Marcos most recently served as CEO of Cintra’s combined three-project operations in the Dallas area—the North Tarrant Express, LBJ Express and construction of the NTE 35W project. Alberto Gonzalez will replace Marcos as CEO of the three projects. He previously served as deputy CEO.

According to Cintra, the LBJ Express opened ahead of schedule in 2015 and “has been described by the Texas Department of Transportation as the most comprehensive, complex project of its type in the country.”

She takes over from Nicolas Rubio, who was promoted to be Cintra’s Global Operations Director based in Madrid, according to a company statement. Th company says its global portfolio includes 1,200 miles of managed highway miles that represents more than $21.6 billion in road improvement investment.

But its portfolio also includes a spate of underperforming toll road operations and maintenance concessions such as the Chicago Skyway and Indiana Toll Road. Earlier this year, the Cintra co-owned company responsible for operating SH 130 near Austin, Texas, filed for bankruptcy citing lower than expected toll revenue.

“Virginia awards contract for I-66 under new approach that saves state $2.5 billion”

Terry McAuliffe

Virginia expects to save $2.5 billion in a public-private partnership contract that the state intends to award to a consortium to build express toll lanes and other improvements along 22.5 miles of Interstate 66 outside the Capital Beltway in Northern Virginia in order to relieve the worst traffic congestion in the state.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced Thursday that the state had selected Express Mobility Partners — a consortium of Spanish multinational company Ferrovial; a subsidiary, Cintra; global investment and asset management firm Meridiam; and construction firm Allan Myers — to finance, design, maintain and operate the toll expressway under a 50-year concession.

The group was one of two bidders for the project under new rules for public-private transportation deals. The rules are meant to protect taxpayers from costly projects such as the failed attempt to build a toll expressway along U.S. 460 and the ongoing expansion of the Downtown and Midtown tunnels in Hampton Roads.

The consortium won the bidding war against the rival Transurban/Skanska team with an offer that includes a $500 million upfront payment to Virginia, as well as a commitment for $800 million in public transit improvements and $350 million in other transportation projects in the I-66 corridor over the life of the toll concession. Construction is expected to begin next year and be completed in 2022.

“Not one single cent of taxpayer money will be used to construct” the project, known as Transform 66, McAuliffe said in the announcement at the Capitol.

The agreement also will free up to $600 million in state and regional money that had been allocated as a potential contribution to the project, but no longer will be required to pay for improvements in the state’s highest-priority transportation project.

The administration and legislative allies say the deal vindicates their decision to overhaul the 20-year-old Public-Private Transportation Act last year to protect taxpayers from the risks and costs the state was saddled with under previous agreements on U.S. 460 and the Downtown-Midtown Tunnel project.

“We put accountability at the forefront of the process, which I think was lacking before,” said House Appropriations Chairman S. Chris Jones, R-Suffolk, who sponsored legislation to reform the public-private partnership, or P3, process to increase public oversight.

***

Jones called the 2012 agreement between Elizabeth River Crossings and Gov. Bob McDonnell’s administration to expand and renovate the Downtown and Midtown tunnels between Norfolk and Portsmouth “one of the worst deals I’ve ever seen.” State officials say the deal has cost Virginia nearly $300 million to buy down tolls, while exposing the state to an estimated $700 million in penalties if it builds other projects that affect the private company’s toll revenue.

“It was too one-sided,” Jones said in an interview Thursday.

Jones also has been a fierce critic of the agreement McDonnell signed in late 2012 to build a 55-mile toll expressway along U.S. 460 from Suffolk to Prince George County.

McAuliffe canceled the project in early 2014 after discovering the state had little chance of getting a federal permit to destroy hundreds of acres of wetlands for a road that ultimately would have cost $1.8 billion in an uncongested region of the state. Ultimately, state taxpayers absorbed a $260 million loss on the project.

“We assumed all the risk, hence the taxpayer got left holding the bag,” Jones said.

Those deals prompted the McAuliffe administration to change the state’s approach to public-private transportation projects in order to ground deals in sound numbers and ensure the state was working from a strong bargaining position.

“We closed the buffet,” spokesman Brian Coy said.

Ferrovial, one of the partners in the winning consortium, also was part of 460 Mobility Partners, which the state had contracted to build the ill-fated 460 expressway. Ultimately, the company agreed to a settlement that cost Virginia $210 million, as well as $50 million to bondholders, but allowed the state to avoid or recover an additional $49 million in costs.

“I’m not saying it was a good result,” Secretary of Transportation Aubrey L. Layne Jr. told the Transportation P3 Advisory Committee on Thursday afternoon. “I am saying the contractor negotiated in good faith and could have received additional monies.”

***

The governor said he didn’t like the original estimate two years ago for a public-private partnership to build the I-66 project from Interstate 495 to U.S. 15 in Haymarket, which would have cost the state $900 million to $1 billion, without money for transit improvements or other projects to relieve congestion in the clogged corridor.

“I’d rather have no deal than a bad deal,” he said Thursday.

The administration decided to start over with an approach based on what the project would cost if it was built by the state. The state ultimately decided it could build the toll lanes for $600 million, about $350 million less than the original estimate, and pay for it with toll-backed bonds.

“The key was the governor kept saying (to private vendors), ‘We’re going to do it ourselves unless you come to the table,’” Layne said in an interview.

Layne said the new approach saved $1.5 billion by including in any deal the cost of transit and other corridor improvements. The competition between the Cintra and Transurban teams resulted in offers that met the state’s terms, but the winning bid turned a $600 million public cost into a $500 million gain.

“That’s a $2.5 billion swing,” McAuliffe said.

Layne credited both bidders in submitting proposals that met the state’s terms, and then some.

“We gave them a target and both teams exceeded it,” he said.

However, the Cintra-led consortium made a proposal that scored higher than the other offer on technical requirements and financial terms, Layne said.

“This was not a close call,” he said, adding that the deal marks “the first time in the state’s history that it has gotten a check for a concession.”

***

The administration got help this year from the General Assembly, which kept alive legislation that would allow the sale of $600 million in bonds to build the project if private vendors did not produce proposals that met the state’s terms. The legislation passed the Senate and was carried over in the House of Delegates, pending the outcome of competitive bidding.

The I-66 project is the first to go through the reformed law on public-private partnerships. The new rules require a finding of public interest that considers the risks, liabilities and responsibilities of a project, subject to review and approval by a new oversight committee that includes representatives of the General Assembly’s budget committees as well as the Commonwealth Transportation Board.

At the end of the process, the transportation secretary must certify that the project, as approved, still meets all the findings of public interest.

“The risks and rewards are in much better balance in the process than there had been in past deals,” Deputy Transportation Secretary Nick Donohue said.

Virginia chose Express Mobility Partners despite a critical report circulated by the Unite Here union of Ferrovial and its Cintra subsidiary for past bankruptcies and other controversies, such as toll hikes and contract provisions that require payments if state agencies build new road capacity that reduces toll revenue.

Layne said Donohue and Deputy Transportation Secretary Grindly Johnson thoroughly vetted the company’s performance in Texas, Toronto, Florida and North Carolina, and returned with what he called “glowing reviews,” especially for customer service.

Ultimately, Layne said the state is less concerned about the company’s profits than the protection of taxpayer interests.

“I don’t care how much money they make as long as they do it cheaper than we can,” he said.

The agreement with Express Mobility Partners does, however, submit the state to certain restrictions. Officials have agreed to pay the consortium if the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority extends the Orange Line during the next 10 years or if new general-purpose lanes are added to I-66 in that time frame. Neither project is likely to happen in the next decade, state officials say.

The consortium gets the right to collect and set tolls on the express lanes for 50 years, though tolls will be determined via an algorithm using “dynamic pricing.” The state will be able to audit the toll collections to ensure rates are within the contract terms, Layne said.

The project, expected to begin construction by the end of 2017, promises two express lanes alongside three regular lanes in each direction, with space in the median for transit. Vehicles with three or more people travel the express lanes free; others pay the toll. The general-purpose lanes are free to all traffic.

There will also be corridorwide bike and pedestrian improvements, 13 new and improved transit routes, new park-and-ride lots, and safety and operational improvements at key interchanges.

Cintra and Meridiam are the equity partners in the deal, meaning they will invest capital and assume debt related to the project, while Ferrovial Agroman U.S. and Allan Myers will be responsible for construction, said Patrick Rhode, a Cintra spokesman.

Cintra, which will manage the roadway once it’s finished, has its U.S. headquarters in Austin, Texas, and is a subsidiary of Madrid-based Ferrovial. It calls itself “the leading private-sector transportation infrastructure company in the world,” managing 1,200 miles of highways globally, including $8 billion worth of projects in the U.S. and $4.7 billion in Canada.

Lead contractors are Ferrovial Agroman U.S. Corp., another subsidiary of Ferrovial, and Allan Myers, which says it is the largest civil construction and materials company in the Mid-Atlantic region.

In a statement, Cintra and Meridiam pointed to experience “delivering large-scale infrastructure projects” such as the LBJ Express and North Tarrant Express lanes in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, both of which are “alleviating traffic congestion and achieving high levels of customer satisfaction,” the company said.

“It’s a privilege to be selected as the preferred proposer for this critically important, highly innovative transportation project serving residents and businesses in and around the D.C. metro area,” said Belen Marcos, Cintra’s U.S. president. “Our consortium is proud to be bringing our experience delivering state-of-the-art infrastructure projects that connect people to their home, work and communities.”

 

 

 

 

 

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“Virginia picks new partner to build I-66 HOT lanes”

November 3 at 2:05 PM

Washington – Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced Thursday that the state has picked a private partner to construct and operate HOT lanes on Interstate 66 outside the Capital Beltway, and for the first time in Northern Virginia, the Transurban company is not part of the deal.

The winning group is called I-66 Express Mobility Partners, which consists of the Cintra, Meridiam, Ferrovial and Allan Myers companies. The unsuccessful bidder was Express Partners, formed by the Transurban and Skanska companies.

The state’s decision continues Virginia’s aggressive expansion of its HOT lanes network, with public-private partnerships as the primary tool for creating new highway infrastructure. But it expands the number of players involved in building and operating the system.

Transurban was part of the consortium that built the 495 Express Lanes, the first high-occupancy toll lanes in the Washington region, as well as the 95 Express Lanes. It’s preparing to extend the I-95 HOT lanes both north and south. Meanwhile, the state itself is setting up the inside-the-Beltway portion of the I-66 HOT lanes, scheduled to begin operating next summer.

After the governor’s announcement, Transurban issued a statement: “While disappointed with the outcome, Transurban remains committed to its partnership with the Virginia Department of Transportation and to travelers in the Commonwealth. We look forward to continuing our work together on improving transportation infrastructure in Virginia and to serving our joint customers.”

The McAuliffe administration used a different approach in setting up the requirements for this contract, designed to correct what administration officials saw as a flawed process on some of the state’s other public-private transportation projects, including the 95 Express Lanes.

Officials under the direction of Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne first established what it would cost to have the state take responsibility for the entire project, relying on public financing. Having set that benchmark, the administration then asked private companies if they could do better.

The two private consortia submitted proposals Oct. 11 to design, build, finance, operate and maintain the express lanes outside the Beltway. Both proposals were deemed compliant with the specifications for the project. The state then began separate examinations of each bid’s technical proposals and their financial plans.

“Both teams that submitted bids for this project met the criteria the Commonwealth set for it,” McAuliffe said in a statement announcing the selection, “but Express Mobility Partners’ proposal was the best for Virginia from both a technical and financial standpoint.”

Layne said the most striking difference in the bids was on the financial side. Mobility Partners offered to pay the state transportation fund a $500 million upfront concession fee that could be spent on other transportation programs in the corridor.

“We could get to zero,” Layne said, referring to the potential for reducing state investment in the project, “but we could never write ourselves a check.”

There is no upfront public funding involved in the winning bid. Layne said the other bid would have required a public subsidy as part of the finance plan. Mobility Partners will put up $1.5 billion in private equity in exchange for a long-term lease that will allow it to collect the toll revenue during the 50-year lease.

Layne said an important part of the deal is the $800 million in financing that will become available over the next half century to support travel options such as carpooling and commuter buses that allow travelers to leave their cars behind for the trip on I-66. Also included are improvements for bikers and walkers. In addition, Express Mobility Partners is to provide $350 million over the same term to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority in support of other projects to reduce congestion in the I-66 corridor.

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“Va. names private consortium to build, operate I-66 express lanes”

WASHINGTON — Proposed toll lanes on Interstate 66 west of the Capital Beltway will require no upfront funding from Virginia and the state will get a $500 million payment from the company selected to build the lanes.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced Thursday that the state will ink a 50-year deal with bidder I-66 Express Mobility Partners to build and operate the lanes, which would run from the Beltway to Gainesville. The deal is separate from a plan to add rush hour tolls along I-66 east of the Beltway.

Cintra, Meridam, Ferrovial and Allan Myers teamed up to submit the selected bid. Ferrovial, which owns Cintra, is a Spanish company that has been involved in a series of similar toll road deals elsewhere in the country, some of which have fallen through.

The firms have pledged to spend $800 million on transit projects over the next 50 years. They plan to spend another $350 million to improve mobility through the 66 corridor. The firms will be responsible for all upfront costs and all maintenance of the lanes.

“And just for icing on the cake, on top of all of that, Express Mobility Partners will write the Commonwealth of Virginia a check for $500 million that we’ll receive early next year,” McAuliffe said.

He called the deal a model for other states considering similar projects.

“Tolling revenue is very important. It is also very lucrative,” McAuliffe said. “If we are going to give tolling revenue away, we’re going to negotiate a very, very tough deal.”

Transurban and Skanska combined for the second bid under the name Express Partners. Transurban, an Australian company, operates the 95 and 495 express lanes and is expected to soon convert the 395 HOV lanes to express lanes.

State officials were willing to publicly finance and build the project without a private partner, which McAuliffe said helped negotiate a better deal for taxpayers.

With no upfront state funding needed, $300 million in state road funds that had been allocated for the express lanes project would be available for other projects.

The two competing bidders had been allowed to include up to $600 million in state funding in their financial proposals.

Under the terms, two express lanes would be built in each direction. The lanes will operate similarly to express lanes that run along Interstates 495 and 95 in Virginia.

Construction is expected to begin next year and the lanes should open to traffic in 2022.

Like other express lanes elsewhere in the region, cars with three or more occupants and an E-ZPass Flex in HOV mode will travel for free. Cars with one or two people will pay a toll that adjusts based on the number of vehicles using the lanes.

A higher toll is meant to discourage drivers from using the lanes in order to keep traffic moving. Lower tolls at times when there are fewer cars in the lanes are meant to attract drivers to the lanes.

This deal is separate but related to plans to toll solo drivers during the rush hour on I-66 east of the Beltway. Tolls are set to begin in mid to late 2017 for drivers traveling east in the morning and west in the afternoon.

Virginia plans to raise the HOV requirement from two to three people once the express lanes west of the Beltway open, expected in 2021.

The proposed agreement states that changes to HOV rules inside the Beltway that would lower the number of passengers required to qualify as a high occupancy vehicle or that would reduce the length of the tolling periods would likely result in a payment from the state to the companies operating the toll lanes outside the Beltway.

“Governor McAuliffe Announces Selection of Private Sector Team to Finance and Deliver I-66 Outside the Beltway Project in Northern Virginia”

~ Reformed P3 process increases competition, resulting in $2.5 billion savings for Virginia ~

 

RICHMOND – Governor Terry McAuliffe today announced that the Commonwealth has selected Express Mobility Partners to build express lanes on I-66 Outside the Beltway, following a 16-month procurement process. Express Mobility Partners, a consortium of Cintra, Meridiam, Ferrovial Agroman US and Allan Myers VA, Inc., will finance, design, build, maintain and operate the project under the Public-Private Transportation Act.

“This project will transform travel in the I-66 corridor and pave the way for additional multimodal options that will reduce congestion and commute times,” said Governor McAuliffe. “Both teams that submitted bids for this project met the criteria the Commonwealth set for it, but Express Mobility Partners’ proposal was the best for Virginia from both a technical and financial standpoint.”

The selection is the culmination of the first major procurement process to follow Virginia’s reformed Public-Private Partnership (P3) process, which was designed by the McAuliffe administration and the General Assembly to increase competition, accountability and transparency in P3 projects after several high profile problems.

Governor McAuliffe continued, “This project will benefit Virginia’s economy and our quality of life and it will be built at a $2.5 billion net savings for taxpayers thanks to reforms my administration has made with the General Assembly to our Commonwealth’s Public-Private Partnership process.  P3’s are a powerful tool for procuring new projects, but they only work if taxpayers’ interests are protected. The reforms we have established strengthened Virginia’s negotiating position for this project and helped us secure the right project for the right price for taxpayers.”

An analysis conducted using the P3 process that was in-place when the Governor took office estimated that the project would require an investment of between $900 million and $1 billion of public funding from Virginia taxpayers to secure a bid from a private sector partner. Following the reforms to the process and the Governor’s announcement that the Administration was willing to finance, build and operate the entire project without a private sector partner, Virginia received two bids that were far more financially competitive than the original analysis.

The proposal announced today will require zero public investment and will actually result in an upfront payment from Express Mobility Partners of $500 million to fund additional improvements in the corridor. Additionally, the comprehensive agreement will require Express Mobility Partners to pay $800 million for transit service in the corridor and $350 million in other projects to improve the I-66 corridor over the next 50 years.

Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne added, “I am proud to say that, under Governor McAuliffe’s leadership, Virginia has learned the lessons of previous poorly-negotiated projects and established a P3 process that is more competitive, transparent and accountable. Those reforms have strengthened Virginia’s negotiating position for this project and resulted in a significantly better deal for taxpayers. I look forward to overseeing the completion of this partnership agreement and undertaking this project so that Virginia families and businesses can benefit from reduced congestion and increased options in the I-66 corridor.”

The following are business terms between the state and Express Mobility Partners:

  • Express Mobility Partners will have the right to collect and set dynamic tolls on the 66 Express Lanes for 50 years;
  • Express Mobility Partners will be responsible for all costs to design, build, operate and maintain the 66 Express Lanes, without any upfront public contribution;
  • Express Mobility Partners will provide $500M at financial close as a concession payment to the Commonwealth;
  • Express Mobility Partners will contribute $800M over the next 50 years to build and operate transit projects in the I-66 corridor;
  • Express Mobility Partners will provide $350M over the next 50 years to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority for future additional projects to reduce congestion in the I-66 corridor;
  • The Commonwealth has agreed to provide compensation to Express Mobility Partners if the WMATA Orange Line is extended during the next 10 years or if additional general purpose lanes are added to I-66 in the project limits. Neither project is likely to happen within that timeframe; and
  • There are no restrictions on HOV usage or alternative facilties.
  • Project description:
  • Multi-modal improvements to 22.5 miles of I-66 corridor from I-495 in Fairfax County to University Boulevard in Prince William County.
  • Two express lanes alongside three regular lanes in each direction, with space in the median for future transit  (vehicles with three or more people travel the express lanes for free and all other drivers have the choice to use the express lanes when paying a variable toll,  general purpose lanes free to all traffic)
  • 13 new and improved transit routes and more than 4,000 new park-and-ride spots
  • Corridor-wide bike and pedestrian improvements
  • Safety and operational improvements at key interchanges throughout the corridor

“VDOT has a strong track record in working with the private sector through the complexities of delivering a massive project safely, on time and on budget,” said VDOT Commissioner Charlie Kilpatrick. “The public will have more travel options and a reliable trip on I-66 Outside the Beltway. We have worked extensively on the environmental study of this project, so we have the right project that will yield the greatest benefits.  We are ready to deliver.”

Delegate Chris Jones said, “I am proud of the major bipartisan reforms we have made to the Commonwealth’s P3 process. These improvements have increased competition which will save taxpayer resources and result in better transportation projects that benefit our regions and the Commonwealth as a whole.”

Virginia Senator David Marsden added, “The Governor’s announcement on I-66 Outside the Beltway promises to make significant improvements to the quality of life and business climate for Northern Virginia.  I am proud to support the Governor’s historic bipartisan agreement reached during session to unlock I-66 and his P3 reforms which have allowed the Commonwealth and Northern Virginia to stretch transportation dollars to more and more projects. This Administration has handled our transportation policies and resources in a very responsible and forward thinking way.”

Supervisor Martin Nohe, Chairman of the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) and Prince William County Board of Supervisors said, “The Governor has partnered with Northern Virginia localities to transform I-66 Outside the Beltway. Today’s announcement is a game changer for our region as it will not only unlock I-66, but the increased competition of the P3 process which was championed and implemented by the Administration is going to result in huge savings that will allow us to make even more major transportation improvements throughout the region.”

VDOT is expected to sign a comprehensive agreement with the team in early December, with financial close in mid-2017. Project construction to begin in 2017 and the express lanes will open to traffic in mid-2022.

Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne will give a detailed update on the project to the P3 Advisory Committee Meeting Briefing later this afternoon from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the VDOT Central Office Auditorium, 1221 East Broad Street, Richmond, Virginia. There will be no public comment. The meeting will be live-streamed here.

For more information, please visit www.transform66.org.

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To view the published release, please visit: https://goo.gl/oSNi9m

 

“Markham truck rest area plan suspended by VDOT”

By Don Del Rosso
Fauquier Now Staff Journalist

The Virginia Department of Transportation has shelved plans to open a truck driver rest area along westbound Interstate 66 near Markham.

Citing a range of potentially negative effects, area landowners and residents strongly objected to the proposal.

Because of that, VDOT decided to “suspend” the project and to study “other alternatives,” Warrenton Resident Engineer Mark Nesbit wrote in a letter to Fauquier County Board of Supervisors Chairman Chris Granger (Center District).

But, Mr. Nesbit stated in the two-page letter: “This decision should in no way be taken to indicate the Department does not consider the truck parking shortage a serious public safety issue and opening the rest area remains one of the viable solutions to solving the parking shortage.”

Alternatives could include a public-private partnership to create more truck parking spaces elsewhere and a system to provide “accurate real-time information” about places drivers could stop for rest, Mr. Nesbit wrote.

But, if those measures fail to “improve” conditions, VDOT would reconsider the Markham site and other state-owned properties, he wrote.

The proposed truck rest area would provide about 22 parking spaces for tractor-trailers to help address a statewide deficiency, according to VDOT.

But, opponents argued the project would be incompatible with the rural area and would do irreparable environmental, scenic and wildlife damage. They also said VDOT failed to justify the project’s estimated $800,000 cost. The rest area would use about five of the 30 acres the state owns.

The proposal called for 27 light poles, each 40 feet tall, a dumpster, three or four portable toilets, several trash cans and an 8-foot-tall privacy fence along the property adjacent to Belle Meade Road.

Opponents voiced concerns at a VDOT public information meeting in the Marshall Community Center on Aug. 31.

About 100 people attended the meeting; 84 of them provided their names on a sign-in sheet. As of Sept. 10, the department had received 69 comments opposing and 19 comments supporting the project, according to Mr. Nesbit.

“I think VDOT’s made the right call to explore other options,” said Supervisor Mary Leigh McDaniel (Marshall), who represents Markham. “We want a solution. I don’t think anybody knows what that solution is at this point.”

“I don’t think the rest area made sense, in light of the issues,” said Thomas D. Peterson, whose family owns about 45 acres near proposed the proposed site. “To the extent there’s a safety issue, it’s not one that links directly to a VDOT facility on I-66.”

VDOT’s decision did not surprise him, said Mr. Peterson, president of the Center for Climate Strategies and a Johns Hopkins University adjunct professor who teaches climate and energy courses.

“They understood this was not adding up,” he said. “We think it’s time to move on.”

The 2015 Virginia Truck Parking Study (at bottom of story) identified the need for more than 500 spaces on the I-66 corridor for truckers during their required safety breaks.

Without a dedicated rest area, truckers park along road shoulders and interstate ramps, which more quickly wears out pavement and causes safety and line-of-sight concerns for other motorists, according to VDOT.

But that report lacks “site-specific” information that would demonstrate whether the proposed Markham truck stop would address such issues, according to the Piedmont Environmental Council.

“It causes some questions as to whether a truck rest area at that location is warranted and would solve whatever problem they were holding up,” said Dan Holmes, director of state policy for the Warrenton-based organization. “If that project were to come back, I would hope that level of information is available.”

VDOT’s decision “certainly doesn’t suspend the need for spaces in the state of Virginia and that area,” said Virginia Trucking Association President P. Dale Bennett.

Truckers need more designated places to stop and rest to ensure their safety and that of other drivers, said Mr. Bennett, who attended the Aug. 31 VDOT meeting at Marshall.

The transportation department’s proposed alternatives hold “promise,” he said.

“We’re committed to working with VDOT and local government to address this serious problem,” Mr. Bennett added.

VDOT in the late 1970s finished site work for a full-service rest area on its Markham property.

The agency constructed turn lanes, an entrance, an exit and a paved parking area.

But, for reasons VDOT officials can’t explain, the state never completed the project, which would have served passenger vehicles and trucks.

Fauquier’s transportation committee on Feb. 27, 2013, unanimously approved a resolution (at bottom of story) endorsing the project, provided VDOT satisfied a number of conditions, including:

• “Downward focused lights” and “minimal signage.”

• Fencing and landscaping to screen the area.

• “Minimal facilities” to “discourage automobile use.”

A member of transportation committee at that time, Supervisor Holder Trumbo (Scott) voted for the resolution.

The Feb. 27, 2013, Transportation Committee minutes state that former Supervisor Peter Schwartz (Marshall), although not a member of the panel, also backed the project, provided it resembled the Front Royal truck rest area “with context-sensitive features, including lower lighting.”

Mr. Schwartz retired in 2015, after eight years on the board.

The board of supervisors has not considered a resolution to endorse or oppose the project.

Markham Truck Rest Area Resolution by Fauquier Now on Scribd

VirginiaTruckParkingStudy_FinalReport_July2015 by Fauquier Now on Scribd

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“1st I-66 toll revenue project breaks ground in Loudoun Co.”

By Kathy Stewart | @KStewartWTOP 

 

Loudoun County supervisors, VDOT representatives and members of the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission break ground on a $6.1 million commuter lot in Aldie on Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016. Revenue collected from tolls on Interstate 66 inside the Capital Beltway will help cover the cost of the 300-space lot, which will provide express bus service to Downtown D.C. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)

Loudoun County supervisors, VDOT representatives and members of the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission break ground on a $6.1 million commuter lot in Aldie on Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016. Revenue collected from tolls on Interstate 66 inside the Capital Beltway will help cover the cost of the 300-space lot, which will provide express bus service to Downtown D.C. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)

 

ALDIE, Va. — Northern Virginia officials broke ground Tuesday on a new park-and-ride lot in Loudoun County that will be partially paid for with Interstate 66 toll revenue.

The 300-space commuter lot in Aldie will provide express bus service to McPherson Square Metro Station in Downtown D.C. Bus service is set to begin on the same day that the I-66 tolls kick in — expected next July — for rush hour commuters traveling alone east of the Capital Beltway.

Toll revenues will provide more than $1 million for the $6.1 million parking lot project.

<Full Story>

“Fairfax Co. wants trucks blocked from new I-66 lanes, citing noise, higher tolls” – WTOP

By Max Smith | @amaxsmith | 

Interstate 66 in Fairfax County, Virginia. (WTOP/Dave Dildine)

Interstate 66 in Fairfax County, Virginia. (WTOP/Dave Dildine)

WASHINGTON — Just before plans are solidified for new toll lanes on Interstate 66 outside the Beltway, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is asking the state to keep trucks out of the lanes due to concerns about toll rates and noise.

A letter to Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne notes that reviews and public hearings assumed there would not be trucks in the lanes, and the option for private companies to include a provision for trucks was only added in late July.

There is a particular focus on the Vaden Drive ramp near the Vienna Metro and Oakton High School.

“The Board is requesting that the Commonwealth reconsider this decision,” the letter stated. “Potential impacts to the communities adjacent to the 1-66 Express Lane corridor need to be evaluated, especially the anticipated increase in noise and air quality impacts to nearby neighborhoods.”

An additional concern is higher tolls for people driving alone or with just one other person in the car if more trucks choose to use the lanes. Vehicles with three or more people and an E-ZPass Flex switched to HOV mode will ride free.  <Full Story>

“Drivers ask what’s ahead on Washington region’s highways” Washington Post

Columnist August 27
Highway commuting is often described as a grind, the same ol’ same ol’. But many of those who do it daily are sensitive to change. This column addresses some of the concerns that travelers have raised this summer, starting with the setup now underway on Interstate 66 for the high-occupancy toll lanes.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Will you please clarify the occupancy rules for the HOT lanes inside the Capital Beltway? Does HOT allow single-occupancy vehicles to drive during rush hour as long as they pay, or are they subject to fines and tickets?

You noted that with the end of the Dulles Airport exemption, single-occupancy vehicles going to the airport can use an E-ZPass on I-66. Hope that doesn’t apply to all traffic.

Also, will HOV2 or HOV3 be toll free with E-ZPass Flex?

— Ben Feldman, the District

When the HOT lanes open on I-66 inside the Beltway next summer, solo drivers can use them if they pay the toll via their E-ZPass transponders. This is the same deal the soloists have right now on the Beltway and I-95 express lanes.

HOV2 drivers, which means drivers with at least one passenger, can get a free ride if they have an E-ZPass Flex transponder in the “HOV” setting. Here again, that’s the same deal drivers get on the other HOT lanes.

But that is set to change in 2020, when the free-ride carpool standard will toughen to HOV3, meaning a driver and at least two passengers.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

In regard to the new I-66 HOT lanes inside the Beltway: Is every lane inbound and outbound going to be HOT requiring an E-ZPass? Will anyone traveling inbound or outbound have to have a transponder in their vehicle at all times?

If I occasionally want to travel on I-66 into the District from Northern Virginia, would I need a transponder? What about tourists driving in from the west who don’t have a clue how the E-ZPass works?

— Lee Handley, Takoma Park

This is complicated, and there won’t be anything else quite like it in the nation. During the peak time in the peak direction, all the lanes in that direction will be under the HOT rules. So all drivers will need some type of
E-ZPass, either to pay the variable toll or to claim the free ride as a carpooler.

On the other highways in Northern Virginia where HOT lanes exist, drivers can choose to stick with the regular lanes, where there’s no tolling and no need for an E-ZPass.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Can you explain the reasoning behind Virginia exempting motorcycles from paying tolls in HOT lanes and not hybrids?

— Dick Tobey, Annandale

Motorcycles are permitted by federal law to use HOV lanes, according to the Federal Highway Administration. The rationale is that it’s safer to keep two-wheeled vehicles moving in the HOV lanes than to have them travel in stop-and-go traffic in the regular lanes.

That federal free pass for motorcycles continues in Virginia’s HOT lanes. The state government created the temporary exemption for the hybrids in the HOV lanes on the condition that it would not gum up traffic for carpoolers.

The government had been planning to allow that to expire anyway as traffic speeds in the HOV lanes deteriorate. HOT lanes have to meet the same average traffic speed standards the HOV lanes do.

<Full Story>

“Commentary: Doing Nothing on I-66 is not an Option” – InsideNOVA

Drive Interstate 66 inside the Beltway during rush-hour just one time and you’ll quickly discover congestion is terrible. Drive it every day for years, there is no question something has to be done. I-66 is ranked among the most traffic-clogged roads in the country.

Given this obvious reality, I find it utterly baffling that a recent opinion piece in the Sun Gazette would ask what problem the state is trying to solve with I-66. The answer is simple: reduce congestion that has plagued the roadway for decades by moving more people. VDOT analysis shows the project will eliminate 30,000 person hours a day.  <Full Story>

“Arlington Co. willing to consider 395 express lanes extension” – Arlington Patch

By Amanda Iacone

In this file photo, traffic heads south in the HOV lanes on Interstate 395 in Arlington County. The new 95 Express Lanes begin and end at the Alexandria-Arlington line. (WTOP/Dave Dildine)

WASHINGTON — Arlington County is interested in Virginia’s latest pitch to bring tolled, express lanes through the county along Interstate 395, but officials in the urban community still have concerns about the impact to transit and traffic on neighboring, local streets.

The county’s board Chair Mary Hynes sent a letter to state transportation leaders last week outlining six concerns the board wants the state to address before any changes would be made to the commuter lanes on I-395.

“We’re at the very early stages. There’s a lot more to learn,” Hynes said.

The county sued to stop the original 95 Express Lanes project, effectively halting the now-operating tolled commuter lanes at the county line where they revert to traditional HOV lanes.

“We feel like this proposal has three key difference that make us open to at least considering it as it moves forward,” Hynes said.

The new version, announced by the McAuliffe administration in November, would review what impact extending the express lanes and adding a third commuter lane would have on local traffic within a mile to the north and south of the interstate.

The plan would also set aside some of the toll revenue to make improvements to the corridor and surrounding roads to ensure they adequately handle the traffic volume. The funding would also support additional transit service in the area.

The state also has agreed to study the demand for more transit options along the 395 corridor, including access for bicycles, Hynes said.

“You need to give the people who live closer reliable, regular transit options too so they won’t get in their cars,” Hynes said. She wants to give those who live inside the Capitol Beltway a “reason not to get on 395.”

According to the letter, Arlington officials are worried about disrupting existing transit and the size of the interstate’s footprint.

Arlington also wants state transportation officials to talk to D.C. about extending the tolled lanes all the way across the Potomac River.

D.C. currently does not toll any roads or bridges but has suggested that it might consider adding tolls to curb congestion in the future.

During a visit to WTOP in November, Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced that the state would extend the 95 Express Lanes deeper into Stafford County on the southern end and to the north, the lanes would be extended through Arlington to the D.C. line.

Arlington is home to some of the most congested stretches of interstate in the region. And the state has also been working with the county to treat Interstate 66 like express lanes during the rush hour. The county prefers tolling solo drivers to travel the interstate over widening the road.

But revenue from the tolls could eventually pay to expand the narrow highway, which is hemmed in by houses, office buildings and local roads.

Hynes said the county board is expected to discuss the revamped 395 express lanes proposal during its meeting Tuesday afternoon.

“We hope people in our community stay tuned.”

www.wtop.com/arlington/2015/12/arlington-co-willing-to-consider-395-express-lanes-extension/

Follow @WTOP on Twitter and WTOP on Facebook.

“Here’s how Virginia plans to pay for the I-66 HOT lanes” – WP

December 8, 2015

The Virginia state government has decided to enlist a private partner to build and operate the high-occupancy toll lanes on I-66 outside the Capital Beltway.

That’s the same concessionaire style of project development that the state used to set up the HOT lanes on the Capital Beltway and on I-95/395. But for I-66 outside the Beltway, the state also considered using a more traditional building and operating approach in which the state would take primary responsibility.

The announcement during Tuesday’s Commonwealth Transportation Board does not tell us who the private partner would be. That decision is likely to be made during 2016, based on bids the state will receive. VDOT expects that the maximum public contribution the project would be $600 million. The private concessionaire would bear the financial risk if the traffic volume in the HOT lanes and the resulting toll revenue fails to meet its expectations.

The state would be required to compensate the private concessionaire if either of these two things happened: If the state added regular lanes to I-66 within the outside the Beltway corridor; if the Orange Line were extended west within the first decade of the concession.

There would be no provision in the contract for compensating the concessionaire if free carpooling in the lanes went beyond a certain percentage of the total traffic.

The decision about using the public-private partnership approach does not affect the design of the project. Under the plan, I-66 would be rebuilt to have two HOT lanes and three regular lanes on the outside the Beltway portion by 2021. Also unchanged by this announcement is the plan for the state to develop the I-66 HOT lanes project inside the Beltway, without this partnership approach.

Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne said he saw no problem synching the two portions of the project. The state plans to convert the High Occupancy Vehicle lanes inside the Beltway to HOT lanes in 2017.

Layne also said that the state should retain the option of going for a publicly financed project outside the Beltway until a contract is signed, to ensure that the potential private partners maintain the favorable progams they have laid out for the state in their preliminary discussions.

Those discussions, which have not been in public, had led Virginia officials to conclude that they can save money by enlisting a private partner and still get the support system they want for carpooling, commuter buses and other forms of transportation that allow people to leave their cars behind before traveling on I-66.

“We always said we were going to follow the numbers,” Layne said. However, he said, the commonwealth is prepared to do the project on its own if a snag develops in private negotiations.

www.washingtonpost.com/news/dr-gridlock/wp/2015/12/08/heres-how-virginia-plans-to-pay-for-the-i-66-hot-lanes/

 

“VDOT: HOT lanes plan is best congestion-buster” – WP

December 8, 2015 

Virginia’s top transportation officials say a new study shows that their HOT lanes program represents the best bet for commuters in the heavily congested Interstate 66 corridor.

This report will be part of several presentations about the HOT lanes program the officials make on Tuesday and Wednesday to the Commonwealth Transportation Board, Virginia’s policy-making panel on transportation projects. The board is meeting at noon Tuesday and at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center on Seminary Road.

One of the Tuesday presentations will focus on the inside-the-Beltway portion of the I-66 program. The board is scheduled to vote Wednesday on several aspects of the evolving plan. Another presentation on Tuesday afternoon will focus on how the state plans to finance and operate the outside-the-Beltway portion of the I-66 system.

[Transportation chief makes pitch for I-66 HOT lanes]

Together, the I-66 projects represent the biggest people-moving program under active discussion in the D.C. region. Neither Metro’s Silver Line extension nor Maryland’s Purple Line light rail, or any other highway project likely to unfold in the next few years, has the potential to affect the transportation network to the extent the HOT lanes will.

The debate over them has matched their significance. The public portion of that debate will continue Tuesday night at a forum scheduled by the Commonwealth Transportation Board. The session will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. at George Mason High School, 7124 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church.

While each of Northern Virginia’s HOT lanes projects has been the subject of intense debate, none has been as controversial as the plan to convert today’s I-66 High Occupancy Vehicle lanes inside the Beltway to high-occupancy toll lanes at rush hours. Other HOT projects on the Capital Beltway and on I-95/395 involved adding lanes when the tolling system was added. On I-66 inside the Beltway, the administration of Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) hopes to open the HOT lanes system in 2017, but would delay any widening of the interstate pending a study of how well the HOT lanes system is doing as a people-mover and how much impact the system is having on other commuter routes in the corridor.

The status of I-66 inside the Beltway was controversial long before the HOT lanes program came along. In fact, it may be the most fought-over 10 miles of urban interstate in the nation. Much of that earlier, decades-long debate focused on whether there should be an I-66 through Arlington County, whether the highway should then be widened and whether it should be open to all travelers rather than restricted to carpoolers under the HOV system.

Even though the state plan would open the highway to solo drivers willing to pay a toll, the debate has picked up on many of the old themes about widening and access rights. Political opponents and skeptical commuters have asked how the HOT lanes system could have more impact than an immediate widening or alternatives that don’t involve tolling for those who aren’t carpooling.

So the Virginia Department of Transportation had various travel options studied in accordance with one of the project scoring programs approved by the Virginia General Assembly in recent years. This one is known as HB 599, for House Bill 599, the original title of the legislation passed in 2012.

The legislation requires that all significant transportation projects in Northern Virginia be evaluated to develop a rating that measures the degree to which the project is likely to reduce congestion and improve regional mobility in the event of a security emergency.

You can see the results of the state study in the chart below.

The scores on these Northern Virginia transportation projects reflect their anticipated impact by 2040. The top ranking project is the outside-the-Beltway portion of the I-66 project, which would create two HOT lanes and three regular lanes in each direction between the Beltway and Haymarket. The inside-the-Beltway HOT lanes project is in the middle of the pack. The lowest ranking in this group is a straightforward widening of the interstate for four miles between the Dulles Connector Road and Ballston, a project that VDOT estimates would cost $100 million.

By 2040, the state’s version, the one that uses the designation “Transform66,” also would include the widening. The differences between the HOT lanes program and the straightforward widening include the HOT lanes traffic management system accomplished through an adjustable toll and the use of toll revenue to enhance carpooling, commuter buses and other alternatives to solo driving. The 2040 plans also assume that the carpool standard will have been raised from HOV2 (at least two people per vehicle) to HOV3.

The toughening of the HOV standard is based on an agreement reached with the regional Transportation Planning Board, which is responsible for monitoring the transportation system’s compliance with federal air quality standards. The HOV3 standard would be imposed in 2020.

Using another measure of congestion relief, the collective reduction in “person hours of delay,” VDOT says its inside-the-Beltway plan would reduce daily delay by an estimated 26,200 hours. A straightforward widening would reduce collective delay by an estimated 5,700 hours per day.

These results will be reviewed by the Commonwealth Transportation Board on Tuesday. I’ll have further reports based on the board sessions Tuesday and Wednesday, and on Tuesday night’s public hearing.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/dr-gridlock/wp/2015/12/08/vdot-hot-lanes-plan-is-best-congestion-buster/

VDOT COMMISSIONER SELECTS TOLL CONCESSION PROCUREMENT TO DELIVER I-66 OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY IMPROVEMENTS IN NORTHERN VIRGINIA

ALEXANDRIA – The project to move more people and provide new travel choices on I-66 outside the Beltway in Northern Virginia will be privately financed under a partnership between the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and the private sector under the Public Private Transportation Act.   VDOT Commissioner Charlie Kilpatrick informed the Commonwealth Transportation Board today that it’s in the public’s best interest for the private sector to finance, design, build, maintain and operate the project with oversight from the commonwealth.

“Thanks to Governor Terry McAuliffe’s leadership and in working with Delegate Chris Jones to reform the P3 process, the commonwealth was able to increase competition and get interested private sector parties to agree to terms that minimize risk and maximize benefits for taxpayers,” said Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne. “To make sure the commonwealth is in a position of strength in negotiations, we will keep the public financing option on the table until a contract is signed.”

Commissioner Kilpatrick added, “My decision is based on the facts and what’s in the best interest of the public.  The commonwealth put the new P3 law into action by closely evaluating risk and what would make the best business sense for the commonwealth.  We developed business terms that would bring the greatest benefits to the public.  This attracted healthy competition from 13 private sector proposals from five teams, all of them fully engaged.”

All three of the private sector teams for a toll concession indicated they could meet or beat the commonwealth’s terms for this project. Those terms include the following:

  • Maximum public cost of up to $600 million;
  • Private financing of remaining construction costs;
  • Support for transit capital and operating over the term of the deal; and,
  • $350 million in net present value provided back for corridor improvements over the term of the deal.

Kilpatrick will brief the Transportation Public-Private Partnership Advisory Committee of his decision on Dec. 14 in Richmond.  The meeting, which begins at 2 pm at the VDOT Central Office in Richmond, is open to the public.

VDOT expects to select a private sector partner in the fall of 2016 with financial close scheduled for spring of 2017.

Project Background: 

Work is under way to transform Northern Virginia’s I-66 outside the Beltway into a multi-modal corridor that moves traffic and people quicker and in a more reliable way. VDOT and the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation are actively evaluating improvements that would provide added capacity, and new options with more predictable travel times. Under the proposed plan, I-66 would be improved to provide:

  • Three regular lanes in each direction
  • Two express lanes in each direction
  • High-frequency bus service with predictable travel times
  • Direct access between the express lanes and new or expanded commuter lots

In July 2014, the team kicked off a year-and-a-half of environmental study and community involvement. By the end of 2016, the team is working to complete environmental work and begin construction in 2017.

Online resources:

Commissioner Kilpatrick’s presentation:

http://www.ctb.virginia.gov/resources/2015/dec/pres/Presentation_I66Outside.pdfProject

Project information:

http://outside.transform66.org/

P3 information and documents:

http://www.p3virginia.org/projects/interstate-66-corridor-improvements/

Contact: Tamara Rollison 804-786-2715

“Northern Virginians to pick how toll money is spent” – WP

December 4

The Northern Virginia Transportation Commission has approved a deal with the Virginia state government that will give the commission control over spending toll revenue from Interstate 66 inside the Beltway HOT lanes.

The commission’s 13-7 vote on Thursday night means that the state will not turn over the toll revenue to the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation in Richmond for distribution to various carpooling and transit programs.

Keeping those decisions in the hands of Northern Virginia representatives seems like a no-brainer. So what’s with the seven “no” votes? The issue on the table wasn’t whether to create high-occupancy toll lanes I-66 inside the Capital Beltway and it wasn’t whether or when to add a third eastbound lane to the highway. The issue was, if the state goes ahead and does the HOT lanes, who decides how to spend the toll money in a way that benefits the toll road users?

[See details of the agreement]

Virginia House Del. Thomas Davis Rust (R-Herndon), a commission member who favored the deal, framed the vote this way: “Do we want to be a part of the decision-making?” Sharon Bulova (D), the Fairfax Board of Supervisors chairman and a commission member, had made a similar statement in support of the agreement, adding: “This body is not approving the Transform I-66 project [the state’s name for the HOT lanes program] inside or outside the Beltway.” It’s the Commonwealth Transportation Board, the transportation policy-making panel for Virginia, that makes those calls — and it’s scheduled to make some of them next week.

Del. Randy Minchew (R-Leesburg) summed up the opposition viewpoint when he said that if the commissioners approved the agreement on spending toll revenue, “We’re accessories before the fact.” Some of the opponents are General Assembly members who this fall campaigned against the McAuliffe administration plan to create HOT lanes inside the Beltway until the eastbound side of the highway is widened.

“What we really ought to do is start over,” said Del. Jim LeMunyon, a Republican whose district includes portions of Fairfax and Loudoun counties. “That’s what the people want.”

It’s certainly not what all the people want. With some exceptions, the voting reflected traditional political battle lines on how to address traffic problems on the heavily congested 10 miles of I-66 inside the Beltway. Broadly speaking, representatives of Washington’s outer suburbs want to add more lanes inside the Beltway. Those representatives tend to be Republicans. Those who represent communities closer to the region’s core tend to favor plans that manage traffic and provide commuters with alternatives to driving their own cars. They tend to be Democrats. Some are reluctant, to say the least, about widening the highway through Arlington County.

“While some have chosen to vilify Arlington, this is in fact a change in our approach,” commission member and Arlington County Board Chairman Mary Hynes (D) said of the agreement. The state’s plan, described in the agreement, would convert today’s HOV lanes to HOT lanes at rush hours in 2017. The Virginia Department of Transportation later would evaluate the performance of the lanes and determine how traffic on other routes in the I-66 corridor was affected. If one of several thresholds is crossed, showing that travel conditions have deteriorated, the state would add a third eastbound lane between the Beltway and Ballston, where most of the eastbound traffic exits.

If the state’s measures show that the HOT lanes program hasn’t achieved its goals for moving people through the corridor, Hynes said, “we can probably live with the widening.”

Commissioners opposed to the deal introduced several poison-pill amendments that would have killed it. One, for example, would have postponed a commission vote to April 2016. Nick Donohue, the state’s deputy transportation secretary, had made plain to the commission at the start of the meeting that a vote to reject or delay the agreement would result in the state assigning management of the toll money to the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation.

LeMunyon, a supporter of the delay motion, said it would give the Virginia General Assembly “a chance to come up with something more ambitious” to solve the traffic problems on I-66.

Another commissioner, Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille (D), noted the decades-long debates over the future of I-66, and asked: “Does anyone in this room think the General Assembly can do that?”

All the amendments were rejected.

After the final vote to approve the agreement, commissioner and Arlington County Board member Jay Fisette (D) said, “I see this as a long, well-worked, hard-fought compromise.” The I-66 plan, he said, “will move ore people, not just more vehicles.”

What’s next
The Commonwealth Transportation Board is scheduled to meet in Northern Virginia on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Tuesday meeting, a noon work session at the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center, 5000 Seminary Rd., Alexandria, will include discussions of plans to add HOT lanes on I-66 inside and outside the Beltway. The board will hold a special session for public comment on the I-66 plans from 6 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday at George Mason High School, 7124 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church.

The board’s meeting on its action items is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, also at the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center. The action-item agenda includes authorization for tolling on I-66 inside the Beltway and a board vote to approve the same arrangement adopted Thursday night by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission. The board also will take public comments at the start of its Wednesday meeting.

“Why the Arlington County Board supports the I-66 plan” – WP

by Jay Fisette (Arlington County Board Member)

The Arlington County Board recently took a stance that some may find surprising: We voted to support the commonwealth’s plan to ease congestion on Interstate 66 — a plan that could eventually lead to widening I-66 inside the Beltway.

Since our community was traumatized by the building of I-66 right through some of our neighborhoods, Arlington has stood firm against any plans to widen I-66. So why did the board vote to support the Virginia Department of Transportation’s I-66 project inside the Beltway? Because this plan reflects a regional compromise that meets Arlington’s most important transportation needs. The project applies the same principles of smart growth that have served Arlington well for decades: to move more people — not just cars — faster and more efficiently through improved transit (slugging, carpools, commuter bus, eight-car Metro trains, etc).

By providing robust transit options, Arlington’s population has grown by more than 10 percent since 2006, yet vehicle miles traveled declined by nearly 6 percent in the same period.

Under the plan, only those driving alone during rush hour in the rush-hour direction would pay a toll. By 2020, drivers would need two passengers to drive for free, although the shift back to HOV-3 has been planned for many years and would be implemented with or without the tolls.

Unlike existing Virginia HOT lanes projects, this proposal would dedicate toll revenue to fund multimodal improvements in this corridor. All the money would stay in Northern Virginia. The corridor includes the parallel roadways from Lee Highway to Route 50. Any widening of eastbound lanes would not occur until the multimodal investments and any HOV changes were assessed after several years of operation. This is the most cost-effective approach and a big change from the typical knee-jerk reaction to just widening roads — leading to more cars with solo drivers and renewed congestion years later.

I voted to support the project because I feel strongly that it is important for the future of Arlington and the region. The staff and the citizen-led Transportation Commission spent a year in discussion with VDOT, and both recommended supporting the plan, as did the Coalition for Smarter Growth, the Virginia Sierra Club and the Arlington Chamber of Commerce.

This is a serious, smart and systemic solution to a congested corridor.  Arlington wants to be a constructive partner with the commonwealth in this effort.

The writer, a Democrat and member of the Arlington County Board, is vice chairman of the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission.

“Virginia Transportation Secretary challenged over I-66 numbers”

The Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance (the Alliance) has challenged Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne to release the entire I-66 study.Virginia transportation secretary challenged over I-66 numbers

Layne maintained that a design-build delivery model could deliver savings of over USD 1bn compared to a P3 during a presentation before the Commonwealth Transportation Board on 19 May.

The Alliance called on Layne to make the basis and methodology behind the calculations in a publicized release. Their release also asks questions of the availability of federal funding for such a project and the consequences if toll revenue projects come up short.  Full story>

by permission of Inframation Group / Daniel Davies – June 1, 2015