If the unusually pleasant temperature and absence of high humidity had you wondering if we’ve really entered the dog days of summer here in Northern Virginia, one tell-tale sign that it really is summertime in Falls Church is the number of road construction projects underway, both large and small.
From milling and paving on Idylwood Rd, to the installation of long sought sound walls on the Dulles Connector Road, to the grand opening of five Silver Line stations, summer construction season is in full swing across the region.
One new mega-project currently in the planning stages has the potential to have major impact on the quality of life of residents in the Falls Church and Merrifield corridor in particular. The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) recently unveiled their proposal to increase capacity and create new commuting options on Interstate 66 from the Beltway to Haymarket.
Under the proposed plan, I-66 would be improved to provide:
• Three regular lanes in each direction;
• Two express lanes in each direction (the existing high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane would be converted to an express lane and one new express lane would be constructed);
• High-frequency bus service with predictable travel times; and,
• Direct access between the express lanes and new or expanded commuter lots.
The proposed improvements will not preclude the addition of Metro, light rail, or bus rapid transit within the right of way on I-66 in the future.
As on the 495 Express Lanes and soon-to-open 95 Express Lanes, tolls would be congestion-based and motorists would have the choice of driving free in the regular lanes or paying a toll to use the express lanes. Carpools of three or more persons and buses would ride free. The current HOV-2 requirement would be raised to HOV-3 to be consistent with the region’s Constrained Long Range Plan which calls for HOV-3 by 2020. HOV-3 on I-66 would also match the occupancy requirement on 495 and 95.
The full scope of improvements, which will be refined over the coming months, is estimated to cost between $2 and $3 billion.
An Environmental Assessment is currently underway to evaluate site-specific conditions and potential effects the proposed improvements would have on air quality, noise, neighborhoods, parks, recreation areas, historic properties, wetlands and streams.
On a much smaller note, but still important to drivers who use the Beltway to access Inova Fairfax Hospital and Merrifield, VDOT recently implemented new flashing red right-turn arrows at the ramp from northbound I-495 to Gallows Road. The flashing arrows allow drivers to turn right after stopping and yielding to all oncoming traffic.
Finally, after an unusually harsh winter season VDOT crews and contractors have patched more than 146,000 potholes throughout the Commonwealth as of May 1st. Of these, 79,000 were in Northern Virginia alone. VDOT conducts pothole repairs year-round and will continue to address these roadway hazards. Repairs are prioritized based on severity and location. However, VDOT repairs potholes on state-maintained roads only, which include interstate highways and most primary and secondary roads. Local governments are responsible for repairing potholes on city streets. If residents see a pothole on a city street they should contact their local public works agency.
To report potholes and other road problems, motorists should use VDOT’s online form at http://www.virginiadot.org/travel/citizen.asp or go to VDOT’s home page at www.virginiadot.org and click “Report a Road Problem” at the top of the page. You also can call VDOT’s 24-hour Customer Service Center at 800-367-7623 (800-FOR-ROAD) to report road issues or ask questions.
Delegate Simon represents the 53rd District in the Virginia House of Delegates. He may be emailed at DelMSimon@house.virginia.gov