The Sully District Council would like to take this opportunity to offer its comments on the proposed alternative actions associated with the Tier 2 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Transform 66 Outside the Beltway project. As one of the Fairfax County District Council areas whose member communities would be most directly impacted by any of the proposed “action” alternatives currently under consideration, we offer these comments in a spirit of cooperation and coordination with all of the involved federal, state, and local public agencies and the residents of Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William counties who regularly use the I-66 transportation corridor.
First, the Sully District Council would like to formally express its strong support for the continuing planning, design, and implementation of an integrated system of major, multimodal transportation facility improvements within the I-66 corridor limits of I-495 on the east and US Route 15 / Haymarket on the west. Given the observed increases in travel demand in this corridor over the past 20 years, and the projected continuing increases in travel demand over the next 20-25 years, an appropriate scale of physical and operational system improvements to this corridor is essential. We believe that such improvements should include an appropriate mix of general use highway lanes, managed travel lanes, public transit services, and bicycle and pedestrian system elements.
We further acknowledge that these improvements will require the expenditure of substantial public funds, both in terms of capital construction costs and continuing operations and maintenance costs. We also acknowledge that the implementation of any of the proposed action alternative system improvement elements currently under consideration will result in some level of physical impacts to a number of communities over the length of the I-66 corridor. While never a desirable outcome of any transportation system improvement action, such impacts must, on occasion, be accepted as inevitable in order to obtain an appropriate level of safety and mobility benefits for the larger regional community.
With that said, the Sully District Council would like to formally go on record as supporting only the Alternative 2A I-66 cross section option. As described on the “Alternative Typical Sections” page of the Transform 66 Outside of the Beltway web site, this concept would consist of a “Flexible Barrier with Buffer and Median for Future Center Transit.” In the opinion of the Sully District Council, the Alternative 2B cross section option of a “Flexible Barrier with Buffer and No Median” is totally unacceptable and most definitely should not be considered to be the “Preferred Alternative” proposed by the EIS process. We base our support for the Alternative 2A (“Median for Future Center Transit”) concept on the following factors:
- The “Existing and Proposed Transit Service in the I-66 Corridor” page of the project website states that “Potential Future Transit” in the I-66 Corridor could include: Bus Rapid Transit, Light Rail Transit, Metrorail Extension, or VRE Extension. It is further noted that these “Potential Future Transit” services “Could be advanced as part of future projects, separate from the I-66 Corridor Improvement Project.” While this is technically a true statement, it is the considered opinion of the Sully District Council that adoption of the I-66 cross section Alternative 2B (the “No Median” option) would essentially preclude from future serious consideration the Bus Rapid Transit, Light Rail Transit, or Metrorail Extension options in the I-66 Corridor. If the existing I-66 median area is converted into “Express Lanes” and shoulder area as is proposed by cross section improvement Alternative 2B, the Sully District Council does not believe that any future federal, state or local agencies would support the demolition of this portion of the facility to allow for the implementation of any type of fixed guideway transit service. Moreover, if such an action were to be taken, the entire I-66 corridor would have to once again be widened, further impacting those communities which would be affected by Alternative 2B in order to create the Alternative 2A basic facility cross section.
- The Transportation Element of the currently adopted Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan has, since at least the early 1970s, included a recommendation for the extension of the Metrorail Orange Line service from the current terminus station at Vienna/Fairfax/GMU to the Centreville area west of the I-66/Route 28 interchange. Given this long term transportation policy commitment by the Fairfax County government to an extension of the current Metrorail Orange Line service, the adoption of cross section Alternative 2A is the only reasonable option to pursue.
- The “Locally Preferred Alternative” (LPA) recommendation developed by the I-66 Corridor Major Investment Study which was jointly conducted by the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) in the late 1990s further validated and explicitly included the Metrorail Orange Line Extension called for in the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan as a fundamental element of the LPA.
- Over the intervening 15-plus years since the completion of the I-66 Major Investment Study, travel demand in the corridor has continued to grow and projections call for continuing growth in the future. On what reasonable basis can it be justified to exclude the potential implementation of some type of fixed guideway transit option in the I-66 corridor west of the Vienna Metrorail Station?
For these reasons, the Sully District Council wishes to formally go on record as supporting only the Alternative 2A I-66 cross section improvement option, as described on the “Alternative Typical Sections” page of the Transform 66 Outside of the Beltway web site to be a “Flexible Barrier with Buffer and Median for Future Center Transit.”
The Sully District Council appreciates having this opportunity to comment on the proposed “action” alternatives currently under consideration as associated with the Tier 2 EIS for the I-66 corridor outside of the Capital Beltway.
Approved by the Board of the Sully District Council of Citizens Associations
Submitted by Lewis G. Grimm Second Vice President 2ndVP2015@SullyDistrict.org