I-66 Inside the Beltway
I-66 Inside the Beltway is heavily congested throughout the day and often on weekends. The Alliance believes that such congestion reduction can best be achieved by providing three lanes in each direction between the Dulles Connector Road and the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge.
A recent Transportation Planning Board newsletter summarizing the public comments received regarding VDOT’s I-66 improvement proposals claimed that “A majority of the comments sought more details and greater commitments from VDOT that the multimodal aspects of the proposals, especially the new commuter and rapid bus services, would indeed be implemented.” Not quite A review of […]Read
I-66 Inside the Beltway Overview
During the 2016 General Assembly Session, Governor McAuliffe announced a bi-partisan compromise on the I-66 inside the Beltway project to accelerate the widening of I-66 eastbound, adding a third land between Dulles Connector Road and Ballston by 2020.
The original proposal introduced in the spring of 2015 called for VDOT to begin to study widen no earlier than 2022, with widening occurring no earlier than 2025. The compromise came as a result of much legislative action that would have either killed or legislatively changed the scope of the I-66 inside the Beltway improvements.
The bipartisan agreement to add a third I-66 inside the Beltway between the Dulles Connector Road and Ballston transforms to reality the Alliance’s longstanding position on this matter.
The estimated $140 million widening project will utilize additional transportation funds made available with the passage of the 2015 federal transportation funding bill (FAST-Act) and will not utilize future toll revenues to construct.
Background of I-66 Eastbound Project
In the spring 2015, Governor Terry McAuliffe’s administration announced a proposal make improvements to I-66 inside the Beltway with the stated purpose “to move more people and enhance connectivity in the corridor by improving transit service, reducing roadway congestion, and increasing travel options.”
The original proposal would:
- Convert I-66 inside the Beltway to a high-occupancy dynamic toll (congestion based pricing) lanes (HOT lanes) during rush hours in the peak travel direction (5:30AM- 9:30AM eastbound, 3PM-7PM westbound)
- Provide multi-modal improvements throughout the corridor, such as new and enhanced express and commuter bus service and improved access to Metro
- Widen I-66 EB from Dulles Connector Road to Ballston only when studies conducted after 2020 could demonstrate that the new transit services had not reduced congestion. This in effect meant this eastbound portion of the roadway would not be widened before 2025 at the earliest.
VDOT studies show that these improvements will:
- Reduce more than 26,000 person hours of delay by 2040
- Move 40,000+ more people through the corridor by 2040
- Improve travel time reliability by providing reliable travel speeds of at least 45 mph during rush hours in peak direction
- Reduce congestion
- Increase travel choices for Single Occupant Vehicle drivers and transit users
- Improve travel conditions on local roads
The compromise proposal keeps toll revenues within the corridor to pay for:
- Debt service for dynamic tolling implementation
- Operations, maintenance and life-cycle of tolling equipment
- Multimodal components of the project selected by Northern Virginia Transportation Commission could include:
- Expanded bus service
- Park-n-ride lots
- WMATA improvements, including access to stations
- Roadway operational improvements
- Other transportation demand management strategies
Estimated Project Timeline
- Mid-2017: Begin HOT-2+ during peak periods in peak direction; initial multi-modal improvements begin
- By 2020: Widen I-66 eastbound from Dulles Toll Rd to Fairfax Drive (near Ballston)
- In 2021: Begin HOT-3+ during peak periods in peak direction
- In 2040: Expand HOT-3+ during peak periods in both directions
- By 2040: Widen I-66 westbound from Sycamore St to Washington Blvd
I-66 inside the Beltway is one of the region’s major transportation choke points.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
Planned in the 1960s and early 1970s as an 8-lane (4 in each direction) facility with a link via the Spout Run Parkway to a new Three Sisters Potomac River Bridge to the Whitehurst freeway, this facility was politically compromised and reduced to two lanes in each direction with no new bridge.
Today’s I-66 inside the Beltway regional chokepoint is another example of the price the region is paying for parochial politics prevailing over good state and regional planning.
Strong Public Support Exists for Widening
A September 2009 Alliance-commissioned survey finds 78% of area residents support adding one additional lane in each direction if it can be done within existing sound walls. Of the 22% who were opposed, 48% would support adding a new lane if it could be done within the existing right-of-way and without taking any new homes. The study also found that of Arlington residents surveyed, 70% support adding one additional lane in each direction.
2012 VDOT Multi-Modal Study Confirms Widening Is Key
Inside the Beltway Multi-Modal Study looked at a range operational, transit, bike, pedestrian, and highway solutions to reduce highway and transit congestion and improve overall mobility.
The study results showed that the multi-modal packages that add a lane in both directions provide the most multi-modal flexibility and do the most to reduce congestion, improve vehicle and transit travel times and reduce diversion onto parallel routes and neighborhood roads.
VDOT has completed construction of two of the three proposed westbound Spot Improvements between Spout Run/Lee Highway and the Dulles Connector Road.
Project Description: I-66 Spot Improvements (Westbound)
Spot 1 – Extension of westbound acceleration lane from Fairfax Drive to Sycamore Street, from 2 to 3 lanes. (1.5 miles)
- Completed: December 2011
- Cost: $19 million
Spot 2 – Extension of westbound acceleration lane from Washington Blvd. to the Dulles Access Road, from 3 to 4 lanes. (1.6 miles) A new hardened shoulder will also be constructed.
- Completed: December 2015
- Cost: $33 million
Spot 3 – Extension of westbound acceleration lane from Lee Highway/Spout Run to Glebe Rd, from 2 to 3 lanes (1 mile), is planned but funding has not be allocated for construction.
- Estimated Cost: $24.8 million
- Estimated Construction Start: TBD
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Transportation planning is dispersed at multiple levels (state, regional, sub-regional, and local) and further by mode of travel. No one entity or level has ultimate responsibility for planning. More about transportation planning in the DC Metro Area.