[The complete list of organizations endorsing this opinion piece can be found at the bottom of it.]

Editor: As a coalition representing the vast majority of businesses and employees in Northern Virginia’s private-sector workforce, we would like to express our support for the Interstate 66 Outside the Beltway improvement project.

In order for our region to remain economically competitive, it is critical that we develop a 21st-century transportation-infrastructure system. Improvements to Interstate 66 are central to the development of that transportation network.

Developing a state-of-the-art transportation network complements ongoing efforts to attract new businesses to Virginia to grow and diversify our economy.

As Northern Virginia businesses continue to see a reduction in federal spending, these efforts are especially important to the long-term success of our region. To remain economically competitive, we must continue to be aggressive in attracting investment, building new infrastructure and strengthening our workforce.

Gov. McAuliffe’s July 2014 announcement of a multi-modal I-66 outside the Beltway with new express and conventional lanes and expanded transit options was applauded by the Northern Virginia business community. It means real relief to the thousands of commuters and businesses that suffer daily in I-66 congestion.  

With the Silver Line and the I-95 and 495 Express Lanes open for business, it is now time to turn our focus to reducing congestion and improving travel times in this critical east-west connector.

The Interstate 66 project presents a unique opportunity to attract private investment to Virginia. Properly structured, a public-private partnership will enable the commonwealth to leverage its scarce state and federal transportation resources in the I-66 corridor on other important projects, to improve the entire transportation network. By utilizing a public private partnership, the commonwealth can also transfer a substantial amount of the risk associated with the project to the private partner.

The transfer of risk is an important benefit to the taxpayer, because it preserves Virginia’s finite debt capacity and protects the commonwealth from any financial losses associated with the project.

Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of developing I-66 as a public-private partnership is the ability to harness private-sector innovation to develop a project that minimizes the impact to communities along the I-66 corridor. As we saw with I-495, VDOT’s first proposed plan required taking more than 300 homes and a cost in excess of $3.6 billion. Through a public-private partnership, the private sector constructed the project at a fixed cost of $2 billion and only took eight homes.

In short, we strongly believe that upgrading I-66 with new express and conventional lanes and transit options as part of the properly structured public private partnership is essential to our region remaining economically competitive long into the 21st century.

Signatories to this letter include:

  Associated Builders and Contractors  – Virginia chapter

Committee for Dulles

Dulles Area Transportation Association

Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce

Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce

Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce

Heavy Construction Contractors Association

Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce

NAIOP Northern Virginia, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association

Northern Virginia Association of Realtors

Northern Virginia Building Industry Association

Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance

Prince William Chamber of Commerce

Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce

Washington Airports Task Force

(1) comment

Allen Muchnick

Widening I-66--even if the new capacity is just one managed lane in each direction--is NOT a sustainable 21st Century transportation solution. Rather, it's a failed, 20th Century, cars-first proposal that will only produce more auto-oriented sprawl and highway congestion.

VDOT failed in the past to properly accommodate and support bus transit and ridesharing on I-66 by not building a barrier-separated HOV facility and by not increasing the HOV occupancy restrictions and hours over the years to keep the HOV lanes uncongested. Simply separating the HOV lanes and keeping them free-flowing would provide an express-bus and carpool facility at minimal cost.

Expanding highway capacity will reduce transit ridership and fare revenue and ridesharing and increase public operating subsidies for bus and rail transit. Widening I-66 would also preclude the I-66 regional bikeway called for in the trails element of the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan. VDOT's current proposal should be scraped in favor of a more modest and phased TRANSIT-FIRST approach.

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