Arlington County is seeking to delay (or possibly derail) a project designed to ease congestion and add new lanes to Northern Virginia’s clogged 95/395 corridor. Arlington has challenged the Categorical Exclusion (CE) granted by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), which allowed the project to move forward without a full environmental analysis.
Arlington is concerned that the new lanes will increase congestion throughout the corridor, and lengthen travel times, especially for transit. Buses, carpools (HOV-3), motorcycles and emergency vehicles will have free access to HOT lanes.
Drivers with fewer than three occupants will be required to pay to access the lanes. Fully electronic tolling on the HOT lanes will allow customers to pay tolls with E-ZPass - eliminating the need for toll booths.
Tolls will rise with congestion, following a strategy known as congestion pricing that has been embraced with great success in San Diego and Orange County. As the price goes up more people exit the lanes, maintaining free flow of traffic.
Fluor-Transurban, Virginia’s private sector partner charged with building and managing the new lanes, is no stranger to set-backs. Fluor has been doggedly pursuing HOT Lanes in Virginia since 2002.
Northern Virginia’s congestion woes are a serious concern - only Los Angelinos lose more time in traffic each year, according to the Texas Transportation Institute’s 2009 Urban Mobility Report. This lawsuit will likely focus pressure on the I-495 HOT Lanes project to prove the viability of the congestion pricing model for the Washington Metro Area.
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