Reaction has been mixed to the Feb. 10 news that the McAuliffe administration and leaders in the General Assembly have agreed to a framework proposal that would have a four-mile eastbound stretch of the highway from the Dulles Toll Road to Ballston widened sooner rather than later while retaining many of the other components the administration’s earlier plan that would bring toll lanes to the highway in 2017.
Arlington County Board Chairman Libby Garvey (D) said her government was “disappointed with the news” that widening – using $140 million in state-budget funds – would occur sooner rather than later.
But Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova (D) said the compromise would “advance this critical project” by avoiding a showdown in the General Assembly.
“We thank Gov. McAuliffe for keeping this project moving forward,” Bulova said in a statement put out shortly after word of the compromise plan emerged.
Republicans and some Democrats in Richmond were working to kill the tolling proposal outright. Some of their measures already had been killed in committee, but others looked likely to find success – progress that forced McAuliffe to decide whether he should take a stance of confrontation or compromise.
He chose the latter.
Among those generally pleased with, if somewhat equivocal about, the decision was state Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31st), whose district runs from Arlington through northern Fairfax and into Loudoun County.
“I support the governor’s efforts to improve I-66 and provide relief to Northern Virginia commuters,” Favola said. “However, we need to ensure that the localities directly affected by widening I-66 are part of this conversation.
U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th) was more in the unhappy contingent, saying that the decision changes the longstanding understanding that I-66 would not be widened inside the Beltway.
“My initial reaction is one of concern,” Beyer said. “But I continue to learn details of the proposal and to listen to constituents on all sides of the issue.”
Environmental and transit groups largely were unhappy with developments.