Ideas sought as I-66 improvement project begins

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Falls Church, Va. — There’s a long wait ahead for improvements to Interstate 66 eastbound between the Dulles Connector and Ballston towards Washington DC, the new lane isn’t set to be ready for drivers until 2020.

That gives anyone the power to add their thoughts to the project which is still in the development phase.

Project leaders presented the plan intended to ease congestion and improve safety on the busy highway during a public information meeting Wednesday night.

The project manager told the crowd that one reason the additional lane is needed is because more cars are using I-66 after it merges with the Dulles Connector than anyone estimated previously. A study found that before the merger an average of 35,000 cars daily. That traffic is combined with the 30,000 average cars that use the Dulles Connector, almost doubling the average car count in the concerned area to 65,000 cars.

Improvements are targeted to a 4-mile stretch but, according to Falls Church city councilman Dave Snyder, part of the estimated $140-million project will also go towards upgrading non-interstate travel.

“Widening the lanes without improving trails and supporting non-traditional modes of travel is like taking aspirin for a chronic disease,” said Snyder. “It may make you feel better but it won’t help fix the problem.”

Others at the meeting aren’t sold on the benefit of converting I-66 to a toll road to pay for the improvements.

“We’re not opposed to the project, we are concerned,” said Jim Robertson, a McLean resident who also works on transportation projects for the McLean Citizens Commission. “It’s sort of watch and wait.”

Project leaders are hoping citizens do more than that though. A design has yet to be finalized and this is the time to voice concerns.The input could be worked into the final plan for on-and-off ramp interchanges, sound walls and other components of the interstate.

Some of the concerns brought up at the meeting were over the potential impact of the toll road on neighborhoods. This project will all be done on VDOT land and not expand into the city or county lands.

The next step is an environmental assessment of the project that should be complete late this year. After that, public hearings on the project will be set. Construction is not expected to begin until early 2018.

You can add your thoughts or learn more about the project by visiting transform66.org