Widening Roads, Quieting Planes

Widening Roads, Quieting Planes

MCA Board adopts two resolutions at monthly meeting.

The McLean Citizens Association approved a resolution supporting further study of a proposal to widen Route 66 during its meeting in early May.

A study, conducted by the Virginia Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration recommended the addition of one westbound lane on Route 66 between the Rosslyn tunnel and the Dulles Connector, but also suggests that toll lanes or "managed-use" lanes, such as HOV or HOT lanes, may reduce the amount of traffic congestion on one of the area’s busiest highways.

"The overall proposal was already voted on by Congressman [Tom] Wolf and [Tom] Davis," said Bill Byrnes, co-chairman of the association’s transportation committee. "The proposal is a compromise for [the addition of] a single westbound lane on Route 66 to reduce gridlock and help meet standards of the Clean Air Act," he told the Association.

The project is estimated to cost between $112 million and $233 million, Byrnes said, depending on the inclusion of managed-use lanes independent of or combined with express buses.

The additional lane would be between 16 and 20 feet in width and could be constructed in the existing right-of-way, Byrnes said the study noted.

"We’ve attempted to add further subtlety to the environmental impact study that this may not have considered," he said. "The use of hybrid cars, for example, may change the dynamics of the amount of pollution produced. They have substantial increases in fuel efficiency," he said.

The incorporation of a HOT or HOV lane on Route 66 has been of interest to the transportation committee, he said. "We’d like to use adjustable pricing to reflect the state of traffic," which would increase or decrease the toll depending on how congested the road was at certain times. Theoretically, the system could also be set up to charger lower fees for those drivers who have hybrid cars, he said.

"This report is part of a study in progress," Byrnes said.

Board member Adrienne Whyte said she liked the ending of the report, "but I think there’s a sense of immorality in widening that road," she said. "It’s sheer stupidity adding a lane near the Metro rail out there that’s just begging for money."

THE LACK OF a "concrete proposal" for what the work would entail also concerned Whyte, who questioned the ability to construct an additional lane in the current right-of-way and small shoulder area on Rt. 66.

"I cannot imagine making lanes on Route 66 any narrower than they already are," she said. "It’s one of the most unsafe roads in the entire Commonwealth, and to suggest eliminating what little shoulder is there" is troubling, she said.

"The study seemed to focus on rush hour, but the traffic problem on 66 is much bigger," said board member Mike Clancy. "It’s a seven-day-a-week problem."

The board voted to approve a resolution that would recommend some modifications to the report, revisiting the environmental impact an extra lane would create and crediting the work of citizens for their part in the study.

Additionally, the board adopted another resolution regarding the noise created by planes flying overhead in McLean en route to National Airport.

Pilots who do not follow the line of the Potomac River and stray over residential areas are creating noise pollution, said Paul Wieland, a member of the MCA’s Environment, Parks and Recreation committee.

"We want to support a study that would allow pilots to follow the line of the river in all weather conditions by the use of GPS [global positioning system] technology," Wieland said.

An average of one aircraft per minute departs from National, he said, and about half of those planes take off to the north, with McLean in their direct flight path.

"This has been a growing problem for a few years now as pilots and air traffic controllers have directed them away from an area over the river," said Frank Crandall, chair of the Environment, Parks and Recreation committee.

Whyte said she would rather not force pilots to fly over the river during thunderstorms or other inclement weather. "There are times when pilots need to be rerouted," she said.

The resolution requested Congressman Tom Wolf to ask the Federal Aviation Administration to "fast track" approval of noise-abatement measures in flights to and from National Airport along the Potomac River.