- The Washington Times - Friday, May 31, 2002

The Virginia Department of Transportation has presented its ideas on how to relieve traffic congestion to the displeasure of many motorists.

"You need to have a process where everyone feels a part of it," Tex Harris of McLean told VDOT officials at a hearing Wednesday night. "We are seeing form here. We are not seeing substance."

VDOT held three public hearings this week outlining its plans for the future. The meetings, held in different hotels, offered residents a chance to question VDOT officials about the plans, which have been under review since 1994. The plans cost $11 million to formulate and get to this point, Ken Wilkinson of VDOT said.

Motorists were also able to view different sketches of proposed changes to regional highways with the goal of alleviating congestion.

Five options were presented over the three-night period, but none contained a rail alternative, much to the dismay of many in attendance.

"Twenty-five years ago, everyone thought it was crazy to put rail underground in Arlington," said John Robertson of Arlington. "Today, the Beltway is Main Street in Fairfax, but no one would say [Interstate 66] is the Main Street in Arlington. Rail is Arlington County's Main Street, and there is no reason the same can't be done for Fairfax."

According to the information packet, only alternatives deemed "reasonably capable of meeting the identified needs" were included.

Others questioned why any plans were being considered without coordination between the other jurisdictions in the region.

"The idea that Virginia can come up with a solution without considering D.C. traffic problems and Maryland traffic problems is like looking [at the problem] through rose-colored glasses," said Rinaldo Campana of McLean.

The five alternatives VDOT presented include not changing anything at all. This option, while not seen as realistic, is being used by the department as a benchmark for other plans.

The other four scenarios call for widening lanes and expanding HOV high-occupancy vehicle access points across the region.

The "concurrent HOV" option would increase the Beltway from eight lanes to 10. VDOT would construct an extra lane to be used as a general-purpose lane, leaving one HOV lane for drivers in each direction.

The "Express/Local with HOV" option would add an additional lane to the highway in each direction, also creating 10 lanes. It would then reconfigure the Beltway for separate long- and short-distance trips. Access to the express lanes would be limited to specific entry points along the Beltway. One of the three express lanes created by the reconfiguration would be reserved for HOV traffic during peak hours.

The "barrier-separated HOV" alternative would expand the Beltway to 12 lanes by adding four additional HOV lanes. This option would also reconfigure the Beltway to separate general-purpose and HOV traffic with a high concrete barrier. Access to these HOV lanes would be limited to several interchanges along the way.

Finally, VDOT is considering adding new direct-access points for HOV traffic for each of the aforementioned ideas.

These access points would be located at Braddock Road, Interstate 66, Chain Bridge Road, and the Dulles Access/Toll Road interchanges.

Gov. Mark R. Warner, a Democrat, said earlier this week that funding was not available for any of these projects, and that any of these solutions are still years off.

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