Letter: No to HOV Ramp

To the Editor:

The Virginia Department of Transportation is proposing to remove large numbers of trees, and other vegetation, along I-395, between Seminary Road and Sanger Avenue. The removal is needed, says VDOT, to widen I-395, so that there will be room for ramp from the HOV lanes, going northbound, to connect to Seminary Road. More than 6,000 feet of sound walls are to be built, including some near the Winkler Botanical Preserve. Along North Van Dorn Street, the more than 3,500 feet of soundwalls will, on average, be 29 feet high.

VDOT is proposing the ramp to "to address the high volume of employee travel originating from south of Mark Center," traffic going to the BRAC-133 building. But VDOT has not stated how many vehicles would be expected to use the ramp. Estimates by residents, using available information, are that less than 100 cars going to the BRAC building would use the ramp each way (a.m., northbound; p.m., southbound). That's a very small number for a project costing of $80 million. Moreover, because the BRAC building has only 3,800 parking spaces for 6,400 employees, it's almost guaranteed that so many employees will prefer driving themselves (compared to HOV and mass transit) that any spaces freed up by more HOV commuters will simply be claimed by other employees. In other words, there will always be 3,800 vehicles going into the BRAC parking lots on any day (minus drivers on vacation, sick, etc.), even with a new HOV ramp.

Though the ramp will not reduce BRAC-related traffic, it will put additional vehicles onto Seminary Road, since HOV traffic headed to other locations (such as Skyline Towers) would have a much better exit than Springfield or the Pentagon. That means that intersections near the BRAC building, expected to be badly impacted once all 6,400 employees are in place there, will be even worse — a perverse result for a project that is supposed to reduce BRAC-related traffic problems. Not surprisingly, the Department of Defense does not support (and certainly will not help pay for) the HOV ramp.

There are far better ways for the State of Virginia to spend $80 million than on this project. I encourage readers to learn more about what VDOT wants to do (see http://www.alexandriava.gov/tes/brac/default.aspx?id=50568 ), and to sign the online petition that residents have created that documents the reasons why the VDOT Environmental Assessment is unacceptable (see http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/395ramp.html ).

John Broughton