ACST Opposes I-66 Widening

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I-66 Inside the Beltway:
Top Ten Reasons Why WIDER Isn't BETTER


I. Traffic congestion needs a regional, comprehensive solution - not a cosmetic "quick fix."

II. Those who have proposed widening of I-66 have not yet fully studied the more sensible, cost-effective alternatives that could be implemented as part of a comprehensive plan to address congestion.

A. Increase parking capacity at Metro lots, increase number of Metro trains and cars per train, publicize Metro Check and promote its use by employers in the targeted zones (Tyson's, Dulles, etc.) to increase Metro ridership.

B. Extend rail connections (Metro/light rail) to developed centers (e.g., from West Falls Church (WFC) Metro to Tyson's Corner, from WFC along the Dulles corridor, from Vienna Metro to Centreville, and along Columbia Pike, Route 7, and Route 1).

C. Implement Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) or priority/express bus service: solutions that can be implemented rapidly to address congestion (e.g., West Falls Church to Dulles and Centreville, and along Columbia Pike, Route 50, Route 7, Route 1, and I-395).

D. Enhance HOV through:

E. Promote alternatives to single occupancy vehicle transportation:

F. Other ways to address congestion long term:

III. Regional experience and recent research demonstrate that adding capacity to existing roads fails to resolve long-term traffic congestion.

Increasing highway capacity2 typically has only a temporary and limited impact on congestion, 3 as demonstrated by recent experience and research. Maryland's I-270 offers a classic example of a road widening project that provided only short-term relief (five years). Traffic on some segments of the highway already exceed levels not projected to be reached until 2010.4 I-270 is not an isolated case. The pattern of road expansion = more traffic has been borne out in many communities around the nation.

Many studies illustrate the limited beneficial effects of expanding capacity to deal with congestion. The Texas Transportation Institute's 15 year study of congestion in 70 metropolitan areas determined when road capacity is expanded near congested routes, drivers take advantage of the new facility to save time. The result is an overall increase in the total amount of driving and the total number of automobile trips in the region.5 At the metropolitan level, a 1% increase in new lane-miles generates a 0.9% increase in traffic in less than 5 years. Studies by UC Berkeley concluded that "with so much induced demand, adding road capacity does little to reduce congestion."6 Statistical analysis conducted by the US. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Policy has demonstrated that the hypothesis of induced demand is valid. "Increased capacity clearly increases vehicle miles traveled beyond any short run congestion relief that may be obtained."7

IV. Where will the additional volume of vehicle traffic go?

I-66 directs traffic flow to major regional traffic bottlenecks in both directions. In one direction, I-66 outside the Beltway and I-495 have already been identified as congested routes (without a wider I-66 inside the Beltway). At the other end, I-66 traffic is directed to the Roosevelt Bridge and to DC's Constitution Avenue. Expansion of I-66 inside the Beltway will further increase the congestion at each of these bottlenecks. Additional road capacity that simply moves bottlenecks a few miles down the road is not a solution - short-term or long-term.

V. Construction will increase the amount of time spent in traffic with little ultimate payoff.

The typical project to improve traffic flow removes only seconds or, at best, minutes from a daily commuting trip.8 A recently released study indicates that once improvements to the Springfield I-395/I-95/I-495 interchange ("mixing bowl") are completed, commuters can expect to save only 30 seconds per commute.9 Drivers will spend more time in construction delays associated with the interchange project that they will likely ever make up from the increased road capacity.10 These projects give little confidence that a significant relief in commuting time will result from a widened I-66.

VI. Widening I-66 will negatively affect the environment and the community's quality of life.

Regional air quality will suffer, since more traffic equals more air pollution. [Note: the region is already in violation of federal EPA air quality standards.] Increased runoff from additional paved surfaces will eventually end up in the local streams and then the Bay - as well as in Bluemont Beaver Pond. Additional traffic will increase noise pollution in the area. Bike trail and community parks and recreation areas may be adversely affected (e.g., VDOT's "concept plan" for widening I-66 would eliminate the bike trail between Patrick Henry Dr. and Jacksonville St., etc.).

VII. Widening I-66 could create a safety hazard

Many regional road capacity expansion efforts, including those on I-66 outside the Beltway, have included conversion of shoulders/breakdown lanes into traffic lanes. This conversion of a breakdown lane into a traffic-bearing lane has killed drivers forced to stop their vehicles in an active traffic lane (as recently as January 2000). Further, emergency response by police and fire vehicles would be hampered if there were no shoulder for their use.

VIII. The high cost of widening I-66 is a waste of scarce taxpayer dollars that would be better spent on a comprehensive regional response, as described above.

Widening I-66 in both eastbound and westbound directions between Spout Run and the Dulles Access Rd. is currently projected to cost between $80million-$120million.11 According to the Maryland DOT Capital Beltway Studies, one light rail line (e.g., trolley) can move the equivalent of eight freeway lanes of traffic.12 One heavy rail line (e.g., Metro) can move the equivalent of 17 freeway lanes.13

IX. Metro - the expansion of which would be an effective alternative to I-66 widening -is better for the region's economy.

X. Widening I-66 violates the Coleman Decision and associated agreements between the USDoT, Virginia, and local residents.

The Coleman Decision, rendered by then-USDoT Secretary William Coleman on January 5, 1977, was an historic compromise that allowed I-66 to be created inside the Beltway by "guaranteeing" a four-lane limit. Further breaching this compromise would show nationally that highway agency promises to communities are worthless.

1 "Widening 66 Won't Solve Congestion," Washington Post, January 2, 2000.

2 Highway "capacity" is defined as, "the maximum hourly rate at which persons or vehicles can reasonably be expected to traverse a point or uniform section of a lane or roadway during a given time period under prevailing roadway, traffic, and control conditions." Transportation Research Board, Highway Capacity Manual, (1985) p. 1-3.

3 Conservation Law Foundation, Take Back Your Streets, How to Protect Communities from Asphalt and Traffic, May 1995, p. 46.

4 "Widen the Roads, Drivers will Come,|" Washington Post, January 4, 1999.

5 An Analysis of the Relationship Between Highway Expansion and Congestion in Metropolitan Areas, Surface Transportation Policy Project, p. 5, November 1998.

6 Ibid., p. 5.

7 Relationships Between Highway Capacity and Induced Vehicle Travel, Robert B. Noland, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Policy, revised June 28, 1999.

8 Conservation Law Foundation, Take Back Your Streets, How to Protect Communities from Asphalt and Traffic, May 1995, p. 47.

9 "No Net Gain," Fairfax Journal, September 24, 1999.

10 "Mixing Bowl Work Questioned," Fairfax Journal, September 23, 1999.

11 "Widening 66 Won't Solve Congestion," Washington Post, January 2, 2000.

12 Maryland DOT statistic.

13 Maryland DOT statistic.