N.Va. Transportation Commission OKs I-66 framework

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova (D) supported the Interstate 66 framework agreement during the Dec. 3, 2015, vote, while Loudoun County Supervisor Ken Reid (R-Leesburg) opposed it.

In a vote that was contentious but whose result never seriously in doubt, members of the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission on Dec. 3 approved a framework with the McAuliffe administration to determine how revenue from the controversial plan to add tolls to Interstate 66 inside the Beltway will be spent.

NVTC members voted 13-7, splitting largely but not entirely on political and geographic lines, to support a partnership agreement that is headed to likely approval at the Dec. 9 meeting of the Commonwealth Transportation Board.

The question in front of them, said Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova (D), was whether the local region would be delegated the power to determine how toll revenue was spent, or whether that authority is retained in Richmond.

“Do we want to be at the table to make those decisions – or do we not want to play that role?” said Bulova, who supported the proposal. “A ‘no’ vote means we’re not at the table.”

But opponents of the tolling plan, which would allow single-occupant vehicles to use the highway at rush hour but only if they paid for the privilege, said turning down the framework agreement was the only way to stop tolling from moving forward.

“You’re greasing the skids for a project that, as far as I’m concerned, is a scam,” said Loudoun County Board of Supervisors member Kenneth Reid (R-Leesburg), who believes the proposal will take money from the pockets of outer-suburbs commuters and funnel it into transportation improvements that benefit inner-suburb residents.

Reid attempted several procedural motions to water down the agreement, but was outvoted each time. An effort by Del. David LaRock (R-Loudoun) to put off action until after the 2016 General Assembly session also was shot down.

Both sides in the battle acknowledged the document to be signed between NVTC and the Commonwealth Transportation Board represents a compromise between the interests of the inner and outer suburbs. Whether that was a good thing depends on whom you ask:

• “This is a good step forward,” said Arlington County Board Chairman Mary Hynes (D). “We [in Arlington] understand the frustrations of the rest of you. We are trying to do our part.”

• “It was compromised so much, now none of it works,” countered Fairfax County Supervisor John Cook (R-Braddock). “We need it done differently. Let’s not lock it in with this deal.”

Under the framework agreement, the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission will be able to recommend how to use the toll revenue on transportation projects, with the Commonwealth Transportation Board serving largely as a rubber-stamp of those decisions.

The total revenue that would be available annually remains unknown, with estimates ranging from $1.5 million to $10 million. Projects would have to have a direct impact on reducing gridlock for I-66 commuters, something defined broadly enough to include everything from purchase of commuter buses to development of bike paths.

The agreement also effectively puts off until at least 2022 the widening of I-66 eastbound from the Dulles Toll Road to Ballston, something those in the outer suburbs want to see sooner, if not immediately.

Critics said that without the widening, the McAuliffe administration’s plan does little but serve to raise revenue.

“It doesn’t add the capacity the road really needs,” said Del. Jim LeMunyon (R-Fairfax/Loudoun). “What we really ought to do is just start over and come up with a plan that is much more ambitious.”

(LeMunyon has introduced a measure for the 2016 General Assembly session that would prohibit tolling on I-66 without the legislature’s consent. While the bill conceivably could pass both houses, it likely would not survive a veto by the governor.)

Perhaps sensing that the administration had the upper hand both with NVTC and the Commonwealth Transportation Board, Virginia’s deputy secretary of transportation used the Dec. 3 meeting to play a little hardball.

If the regional transportation body didn’t sign on, deputy secretary Nick Donohue noted, it would be the Department of Rail and Public Transportation in Richmond that would pick projects to be funded through the tolls.

Acknowledging the contentious nature of the proposal, Donohue defended it as “balanced, pragmatic and implementable.” Even Del. Randy Minchew (R-Loudoun), who voted against the proposal, called the final version “far better than I thought it would be.”

The proposal has drawn mixed reviews from elected bodies across the region – both the Arlington and Fairfax boards were split, while the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors opposed it. Prince William County is not represented on the NVTC, but its Board of Supervisors also expressed opposition.

If approved by the Commonwealth Transportation Board, the McAuliffe administration aims to have tolling up and running by 2017.

SCOTT McCAFFREY

Staff Writer

In a vote that was contentious but whose result never seriously in doubt, members of the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission on Dec. 3 approved a framework with the McAuliffe administration to determine how revenue from the controversial plan to add tolls to Interstate 66 inside the Beltway will bespent.

NVTC members voted 13-7, splitting largely but not entirely on political and geographic lines, to support a partnership agreement that is headed to likely approval at the Dec. 9 meeting of the Commonwealth Transportation Board.

The question in front of them, said Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova (D), was whether the local region would be delegated the power to determine how toll revenue was spent, or whether that authority is retained in Richmond.

“Do we want to be at the table to make those decisions – or do we not want to play that role?” said Bulova, who supported the proposal. “A ‘no’ vote means we’re not at the table.”

But opponents of the tolling plan, which would allow single-occupant vehicles to use the highway at rush hour but only if they paid for the privilege, said turning down the framework agreement was the only way to stop tolling from moving forward.

“You’re greasing the skids for a project that, as far as I’m concerned, is a scam,” said Loudoun County Board of Supervisors member Kenneth Reid (R-Leesburg), who believes the proposal will take money from the pockets of outer-suburbs commuters and funnel it into transportation improvements that benefit inner-suburb residents.

Reid attempted several procedural motions to water down the agreement, but was outvoted each time. An effort by Del. David LaRock (R-Loudoun) to put off action until after the 2016 General Assembly session also was shot down.

Both sides in the battle acknowledged the document to be signed between NVTC and the Commonwealth Transportation Board represents a compromise between the interests of the inner and outer suburbs. Whether that was a good thing depends on whom you ask:

• “This is a good step forward,” said Arlington County Board Chairman Mary Hynes (D). “We [in Arlington] understand the frustrations of the rest of you. We are trying to do our part.”

• “It was compromised so much, now none of it works,” countered Fairfax County Supervisor John Cook (R-Braddock). “We need it done differently. Let’s not lock it in with this deal.”

Under the framework agreement, the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission will be able to recommend how to use the toll revenue on transportation projects, with the Commonwealth Transportation Board serving largely as a rubber-stamp of those decisions.

The total revenue that would be available annually remains unknown, with estimates ranging from $1.5 million to $10 million. Projects would have to have a direct impact on reducing gridlock for I-66 commuters, something defined broadly enough to include everything from purchase of commuter buses to development of bike paths.

The agreement also effectively puts off until at least 2022 the widening of I-66 eastbound from the Dulles Toll Road to Ballston, something those in the outer suburbs want to see sooner, if not immediately.

Critics said that without the widening, the McAuliffe administration’s plan does little but serve to raise revenue.

“It doesn’t add the capacity the road really needs,” said Del. Jim LeMunyon (R-Fairfax/Loudoun). “What we really ought to do is just start over and come up with a plan that is much more ambitious.”

(LeMunyon has introduced a measure for the 2016 General Assembly session that would prohibit tolling on I-66 without the legislature’s consent. While the bill conceivably could pass both houses, it likely would not survive a veto by the governor.)

Perhaps sensing that the administration had the upper hand both with NVTC and the Commonwealth Transportation Board, Virginia’s deputy secretary of transportation used the Dec. 3 meeting to play a little hardball.

If the regional transportation body didn’t sign on, deputy secretary Nick Donohue noted, it would be the Department of Rail and Public Transportation in Richmond that would pick projects to be funded through the tolls.

Acknowledging the contentious nature of the proposal, Donohue defended it as “balanced, pragmatic and implementable.” Even Del. Randy Minchew (R-Loudoun), who voted against the proposal, called the final version “far better than I thought it would be.”

The proposal has drawn mixed reviews from elected bodies across the region – both the Arlington and Fairfax boards were split, while the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors opposed it. Prince William County is not represented on the NVTC, but its Board of Supervisors also expressed opposition.

If approved by the Commonwealth Transportation Board, the McAuliffe administration aims to have tolling up and running by 2017.

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(5) comments

Allen Muchnick

Thank you for your detailed report of this meeting. A report so nice, you posted it twice!

Penny

Why will it take another 10 years to get VRE to Haymarket?

I blame the I-66 mess on Smart Growth ideologues who gentrified the working class and middle class out of Arlington and now want people who earn $10 per hour to pay $85 per week in tolls to work in 'vibrant' Arlington. What a bunch of insipid boloney facilitated by the chamber of commerce boosters who control the local media.

CEC

It will get worse. Smart Growth fanatics want to turn suburban residential streets into parks (aka 'complete streets') as multi-purpose activity areas for nearby mega-infill where 'open space' will consist of tiny plazas surrounded by upscale restaurants and retail.

CEC

PS...I never liked bicycles, even as a child. Especially after hitting bad pavement, falling off a bicycle, and breaking my arm when I was 11. Expecting people to ride bicycles in the winter and during periods of bad weather is insane.How about providing my neighborhood with reliable bus service as an alternative to driving everywhere for everything?

frank papcin

arguing about how to spend the money collected from tolls?--REALLY?
TOLLS ARE SUPPOSED TO PAY FOR THE ROADS THAT THE PEOPLE USING THEM paid to ride on them
NOT a piggy bank for our government to use as it pleases
NOT as a punishment for working in a place you DON"T live in
NOT to support the nicer things in life, like bicycle paths, or anything else
EVERYTHING ELSE is supposed to be paid for with taxes, paid for by all of the people that could use them
tolls should never have been imposed at all--it is just a revenue source imposed on people that are forced to live & work in 2 different places by politicians that decide where to build what
every single person benefits from roads--every single person should share the cost they generate

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