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Note to VDOT: That T doesn’t just mean “highways”
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I-66 in Fairfax County. Twice as wide yet more congested than I-66 in Arlington. Maybe congestion isn’t caused by lack of lanes.

I’ve returned from San Francisco. Obviously. Those of you who follow the BeyondDC Twitter feed know about how things went. I had a lot of fun, saw a lot of interesting things, and took a crazy number of pictures. I’ll post about the trip, and about the federal stimulus (there *is* actually discretionary money), when I have time to catch my breath. Regular updates to the Newsfeed will start up again on Thursday.

In the mean time, topical news: The long fight over VDOT’s I-66 Spot Improvements project took an interesting and unexpected turn at today’s meeting of the Transportation Planning Board (TPB). The board was scheduled to take a routine vote to approve the Air Quality Conformity Assessment (AQCA), a technical step necessary to list projects in the regional Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). By Federal requirement, projects have to be in the TIP in order to be built. Since the I-66 project would affect air pollution in the region, it is part of the of AQCA.

Today’s twist came when TPB member (and transit champion) Chris Zimmerman asked VDOT representative Jo Anne Sorenson to update the board on the status of the I-66 corridor transit/TDM plan that VDOT agreed to pursue in coordination with the highway widening. Turns out the transit/TDM plan is still in its very early stages, and has no money attached to it for implementation (compared to the well-funded, shovel-ready highway widening). VDOT, it seems, wants to complete the highway widening as quickly as possible and isn’t really interested in making transit or TDM a priority in the corridor.

Zimmerman, who knows a thing or two about the necessity for more transit and whose constituency is overwhelmingly against the highway widening, then moved to amend the approval for the AQCA to remove the I-66 project until the full findings of the transit/TDM plan are available. Zimmerman argued that the board should know all the mobility options in the corridor before it approves anything, and that VDOT needs to take the transit study seriously.

A bunch of voice votes, two roll call votes, a jurisdictional weighted-by-population vote, and a failed compromise amendment later, the TPB approved Zimmerman’s amendment and struck the I-66 widening from the list of approved projects.

The widenings could still happen; they aren’t blocked for good. But using stimulus money on them is now probably out of the question, and if VDOT wants to carry them forward they’ll have to actually do the legwork promised and make something of this transit study.

This story will probably hit the mainstream news Thursday (yup: Biz Journal, WTOP). In the mean time, the Post’s Dr. Gridlock Get There blog has more.

February 18th, 2009 | Permalink
Tags: environment, transportation



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