I-66 Corridor Coalition
GET I-66 ON THE RIGHT TRACK - THE TRACK TO TRANSIT!
Another big project may bring big changes to the Accotink Creek watershed, none of them likely to be good. The I-66 Haymarket-to-495 project crosses 5.1 miles of the Accotink Creek watershed, passing over the tributaries of Long Branch (north), Bear Branch, Hatmark Branch, Hunters Branch, and the headwaters of the Accotink north fork.
July 8, 2016: Transit-first solutions urged in Washington Post opinion section by founder of coalition member Transiters.
Scroll down to reports from public meetings and other I-66 news.
Limits of the I-66 project
January 2016 Virginia Assembly alert:
Several bills have been introduced to cause the I-66 project to wreak even further environmental damage.
Date: October 18, 2015, The Washington Post
"...a way of thinking that went out with the Gran Torino: If you're not adding lanes, you're not adding capacity. That's a transportation plan for the mid-20th century." - Dr. Gridlock
Date: September 29, 2015, Coalition Letter to Supervisor Bulova
In advance of public meetings, the Coalition communicates it's position to Fairfax County, once again speaking out on transit-first solutions, pedestrian accommodations, community impacts, and protection of watersheds. Our letter
Date: June 2, 2015, Board of Supervisors Discussion
The Fairfax Board of Supervisors discussion is worth listening to:
Major emphasis from Supervisors McKay, Smyth, Hudgins on incorporating transit in project. Supervisor McKay wants a firm written commitment to fund transit capital and operating costs. Does not want a repeat of the 95 HOT lanes.
Supervisor Smyth asked for firmer assurance that public will be apprised of design changes especially in the 495 area before plans are finalized. Designs seem to be changing by the day. Accelerated pace of the process is a great concern. Concern that VDOT might move forward with plans/impacts that are unnecessary -- for example, on stormwater facilities, they may be planning ponds that are redundant because there are already existing facilities (privately managed, by HOAs, condos) that VDOT doesn't seem to be aware of.
Supervisor Gross referenced the I-66 coalition in her question and asked how our letter is reflected (or not) in the county's. Bob Kuhns of FCDOT said the main difference is the county's letter is not going to address land use. - Douglas Stewart
Date: June 2, 2015, Haymarket Public Meeting
I attended and spoke at the Haymarket hearing last night. Although there were HOV-2 Alliance signs all around the school, only a few speakers spoke to the HOV-3 vs. HOV-2 issue. Many speakers had a pro-transit message, and several spoke to the need for improved bicycle and pedestrian facilities. Several were pro-public-private partnership vs. public tolling.
Four electeds were there, Del. Marshall and three Prince William Supervisors (Nohe, McCandland, Lawson). McCandlon's remarks focused on the fact that traffic congestion problems are largely a result of western Prince William being overbuilt with residential, very consistent with our message. - Douglas Stewart
Date: May 27 & 28, 2015, Public Meeting Comments by members of I-66 Corridor Coalition:
- "Current and projected transportation requirements can be met, without adding fifty new miles of pavement, by including high quality high volume public transit. Such a project can be developed based on the Tier 1 Record of Decision that has already been completed. I ask that VDOT develop a true multimodal project." Stu Whitaker, Transiters, FULL TEXT
- "We stand with the I66 Coalition in calling for a Tier 1 Assessment that would show the true costs and impacts of this project." Kris Unger, Friends of Accotink Creek FULL TEXT
- "On a larger point: Our planet is on fire! However much we wish it would go away, Climate Change is real - it is happening." Philip Latasa, Friends of Accotink Creek VIDEO
Date: May 21, 2015, Chairman Bulova's response to the I-66 Corridor Coalition letter on I-66 Tier 2 EA
Thank you for contacting me on behalf of the I-66 Corridor Coalition to share your thoughts and concerns about the proposed improvements to I-66 Outside the Beltway.
Please know that I share your concerns about the impacts of this project, both on neighborhoods and the community as well as our natural resources. I also agree that transit, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure must be directly addressed by any improvement project in this corridor. As you pointed out in your letter and as the Tier 1 assessment demonstrated, it will take careful orchestration of several travel modes to address the challenges that exist in the corridor.
These concerns are reflected in the comments Fairfax County sent on the Tier 1 and Draft Tier 2 Environmental Assessments. County staff are currently reviewing the revised plans and additional documents which VDOT made available last week. I expect the Board of Supervisors will approve comments on the revised environmental documentation at our June 2 meeting.
I-66 serves a critical corridor in Fairfax County and in the Commonwealth of Virginia and this may be the only opportunity to address these challenges in the foreseeable future, so we need solutions that are forward thinking and will have a lasting benefit. Thanks again for taking the time to write. I will keep your comments in mind as the Board considers a position.
Date: May 20, 2015, Comments before the Commonwealth Transportation Board Public Hearing
- "...the actual project plan, which is of primary importance, has been presented as a fait accompli. Three general lanes and two toll lanes, with projected public transit ridership of only 10%." - Stu Whitaker, Transiters FULL TEXT
Date: May 19, 2015, Virginia Seeks to Ensure Transit on I-66 - WAMU
"After ceding future toll revenue on the I-495 and I-95 Express Lanes to the private-sector firm that built those highways in Northern Virginia, officials announced on Tuesday the results of an internal analysis on whether planned toll lanes on I-66 from the Beltway to Haymarket should remain under state control."
Date: May 18, 2015, Second I-66 Corridor Coalition Letter to Virginia Secretary of Transportation - Tier 2 Environmental
"The Coalition will support Virginia’s efforts to implement long-term solutions ... to incorporate high-capacity transit, improved biking and walking connections, and land use scenarios for more compact, mixed-use communities..."
Date: May 13, 2015, VDOT reduces property impact of I-66 plans - Fairfax Times
"With a series of engineering tweaks, the Virginia Department of Transportation has significantly reduced the number of homes that might be claimed by widening Interstate 66.
However, the changes are not enough to assuage the many residents and environmental groups that would like to see VDOT take a different approach entirely and not widen the road."
Date: April 27, 2015, Letter from Delegate Bulova to I-66 Corridor Coalition
I would be very concerned about any cutback in terms of VDOT's responsibilities to meet the new stormwater management requirements. That said, I am also very concerned (and disappointed) that VDOT's initial plans rely so much on traditional ponds that will result in the loss of several homes along the I-66 corridor. I am preparing a letter to VDOT that, among other things, addresses the stormwater issue. Specifically, I am recommending that for water quantity they place any required detention underground. As you know, this is common in developments where space is at a premium. On water quality, while I understand that it might be difficult to squeeze that into the I-66 footprint, there is no reason why they shouldn't be able to provide mitigation in the same watershed -- or, as a very last resort -- purchase nutrient credits that will at least help with the overall Chesapeake Bay restoration effort.
Date: April 23, 2015, FACC makes the news!
Washington Post coverage
Date: April 23, 2015, Update from Vienna
Last night heard the following at the Providence District Council Richmond update meeting (speakers: Sen. Saslaw and Delegates Keam and Simon):
The widening will happen (Saslaw). VDOT is working on alternative 2C (Saslaw). The flyover at Dunn Loring Village is being replanned closer to office buildings than the single family homes (Saslaw). There are 18-19 companies interested in the project (Saslaw). The decision to build and how will be made by the Commonwealth Transportation Board, not VDOT (Saslaw). There is concern about "giving away" revenues aka the HOT Lanes (all three officials). Community feedback is critical to this process (Keam took a stack of letters to the governor). The environmental will be grandfathered to reduce the need to take property for stormwater improvements. That would mean that the project has to deal with what will be added in impervious surface but not everything that has previously been paved...Cheers, Vivian
Date: April 21, 2015, I-66 Corridor Coalition Letter to Virginia Secretary of Transportation
"This is our opportunity to collaborate on a plan for better transit, a healthy environment, and livable communities, and we should invest the time and resources necessary to ensure we do it right. Therefore, we ask you to reopen the Tier 1 study on I-66 Outside the Beltway, to allow development of a better plan for the I-66 corridor."
Date: April 17, 2015, Northern Virginia Congressional Delegation Letter
Representatives Gerald Connolly, Robert Wittman, Don Beyer, and Barbara Comstock express reservations on the I-66 proposal.
"We are also deeply concerned about the potential for this project to preclude future transit options in the I-66 corridor, including Metro or light rail. It would be shortsighted to allow this project to constrain our future choices."
Date: April 3, 2015, Survey Photos
Members of Friends of Accotink Creek made a quick survey of wooded habitat along the I-66 right-of-way likely to be reduced or lost in any widening. As might be expected, the quality of habitat was largely disappointing, with large numbers of invasive alien plants occupying only a narrow wooded buffer. Larger patches of better quality habitat are in the cloverleafs at Nutley street and Chain Bridge Road, in Southside Park in Vienna, and in the common property of the Four Winds community in Oakton. Degraded as it may be, even such small habitat areas have value that should be preserved.
Also found during the survey was evidence of erosion and sediment control failures that we may expect on a large scale from any project that goes forward along I-66. Friends of Accotink Creek documented many such failures during construction of the 495 Express Lanes. This time what we found was small, but flagrant - bare slopes left to erode, silt fences collapsed, and quantities of sediment in waterways. Our Reports to VDOT and DEQ seem to have gone the way such reports are usually handled. Typically in these cases, if any action is taken, the responsible party is merely told to begin doing what they should have done all along - no fine is levied and no remediation of damage is required.
Date: March 26, 2015, Report from Vienna
At the forum last night I spoke briefly with my senator Chap Petersen about getting legislation to make VDOT legally responsible for reforesting any areas damaged by widening I-66. His secretary, Kathy Nielson, called today for more information. Apparently she was at the meeting too, because she recognized FACC when I mentioned the group as a possible resource. She is now aware of the lawsuit re 495. [BTW, Kathy also was appalled at the destruction on 495 and laments the loss of old trees in her area.]
In addition to FACC, I gave her the contact information for Keith Cline, Urban Forest Division Manager for the county, who spoke to Invasive Management Areas on Saturday. He has a great slide presentation on Trees, although the roadway portion dealt with the value of trees in medians.
As I mentioned in an earlier email, Cline told the IMA group that in anticipation of legislation, VDOT has developed an internal process to deal with loss of trees and other vegetation. Knowing VDOT, we need laws on the books not just an internal process and promises. Kathy is starting a file for Chap now for follow up in the fall. I will also bring up this issue with Mark Keam. If others contact their legislators, we might be able to put pressure VDOT even without a law. It's certainly worth a try. If nothing else, it puts VDOT on notice that more people than Kris Unger will be watching them...Cheers, Vivian
Date: March 25, 2015, I-66 and our Neighborhoods
The Friends of Accotink Creek, in coalition with the Coaliton for Smarter Growth, Sierra Club, Transiters, & Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling, co-hosted a public forum to permit citizens to voice their concerns, questions, and opinions on the proposed widening of I-66 from 495 to Haymarket. An estimated 180 persons were in attendance, including several state and local elected officials. A panel of representatives from VDOT, Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transit, FCDOT, and Northern Virginia Transportation Board summarized the project, then responded to citizens. The citizen opinions offered many different approaches to transit, or conversion of existing lanes to HOV/HOT. We intend to carry on, making public officials aware of the need for alternatives to ever-spreading asphalt.
Date: Feb 4, 2015
I attended the I-66 widening meeting last night. My technical question was how were they handling the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). They indicated that they were doing a tiered Environmental Assessment (EA) building on the previous NEPAs that had been done. That is how they are going to fast track the project to start construction in 2017. I’m dubious that with the changes in regulations (new Particulate Matter, NO2, and soon to be released O3 National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS's), new Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) regulations (both for Chesapeake Bay and for Accotink Creek), …) and new conditions (I-495 HOT lanes, time …) I’m dubious that doing a tiered NEPA will fly, but I’m not the NEPA expert. I also asked how they were going to take care of construction issues in the NEPA document but they didn’t address that issue.
We will need to mount a full court press on this to make sure they consider all the environmental issues. If they are able to put through the project as a tiered EA we will have little input in the NEPA document and will not be able to see the EA document (as I understand NEPA). They announced last night that they intend to have an Environmental public meeting in May. So we should plan on having a full response prior to that.
For information on the project see http://transform66.org .
Flint Webb, P.E.
Date: Wed, Feb 4, 2015
VDOT held its third public information meeting last night. The attendance was higher than the previous two meetings. VDOT let the Sierra Club table at the event in front of their registration area, so we caught a lot of people coming in and going out. A lot of interest about the transit components and skepticism about the commitment to transit. Most people we talked to supported the alternative with Metro right-of-way. Some were not as supportive. Vienna is the terminal station and people like being able to get a seat on the morning train.
The concerns about property takings and community impacts were strong but not as vehement as I had expected. Several of the property takings are for stormwater ponds, and VDOT says they are trying to reduce the stormwater footprint. Kris Unger of Friends of Accotink Creek is monitoring the stormwater mitigation plan.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is preparing a letter to VDOT, and will consider it at their February 17 meeting. A staff member of Fairfax County DOT said that they expect to have a draft of the letter ready and posted on their website around President's Day.
Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling is organizing a big push for building parallel bicycle and pedestrian facilities (i.e. Custis Trail extension). VDOT says they are going to work with Fairfax County DOT on developing a trail alignment. Many people were also pushing for good bike/ped facilities as part of bridge reconstruction, especially on Nutley Street – important connection to W&OD – and 123 in Fairfax City (connection to Cross-County Trail).
Date: Feb 4, 2015
I ran into Douglas Stewart representing the Sierra Club yesterday at the VDOT hearing. So this was his summary - the Sierra Club is planning to focus on the public transit components. Doug was definitely interested in our position on stormwater and watershed impacts. There were 200-300 people there - a big turnout!
During the Q&A session, I got in a question, which went basically:
"As Friends of Accotink Creek, we documented and reported many construction-related impacts to Accotink Creek during the 495/HOT construction, mostly sediment-related. This went all the way to a stop-work order, and a lawsuit. In our discussions with VDOT, I'd often hear them say 'We're meeting our obligations'. We're concerned that we're going to see similar problems on the I-66 project. My question is, 'What has VDOT learned from the 495/HOT project, and what are they going to do better?".
I wasn't expecting much of an answer, I was mostly just registering Friends of Accotink Creek's concerns. FWIW, the response was
-"We're going to do this very carefully and responsibly".
-"We are vetting our contractors very carefully".
I think this is the beginning of an important campaign for Friends of Accotink Creek.
Date: Jan 30, 2015
Notes on I-66 Public Meeting 2015/01/29
Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation exists. Who knew?
There are two design options, 2A & 2B. 2B leaves more median space for future Metro, but 2A does not necessarily leave too little space. Neither design is far advanced and likely elements of both will be selected.
It appears several dozen homes will be condemned and many more will lose part of their property.
Many open spaces on HOA property will be affected.
Vienna parks are apparently untouched, although bordering I-66. Effect on Fairfax County Parks is unclear. The VDOT presentation said zero, but this does not seem correct from looking at their maps.
May 2015 - Environmental public hearing
Late 2015 - Final environmental plan
Early 2016 - Design public hearing
Dec. 2016 - Design public hearing
2017 - Construction start
2021 - Open to traffic
VDOT will “consider” upgraded stormwater controls that would go beyond accommodating new runoff and provide some compensation for previous less regulated construction, but only if requested by Fairfax County.
VDOT is to meet DEQ on the topic of stormwater controls.
I-66 goes about 5.1 miles through the Accotink watershed, more than the 495 Express Lanes (4.7).
VDOT will be opening a Facebook-like chat site for those who wish to discuss the project in such a format.
Comment at Transform66@VDOT.Virginia.gov