Actually, Travel Times Are Faster on I-66, VDOT Says

Image credit: Virginia Department of Transportation

Many Northern Virginia motorists and politicians seem to be having mental breakdowns over the opening of HOT lanes on Interstate 66 inside the Beltway. Most notably, they point to the first-day, one-way $34.50 peak toll as an outrage against the driving public. Ironically, though, morning and afternoon commutes were faster during the first four days of HOT lane operation than the same period last year, asserts the Virginia Department of Transportation.

The average toll price during morning rush hour was $10.70 and during evening rush hour $3.80, stated VDOT in a press release issued yesterday evening. Only 39 vehicles paid the posted highest toll of $34.50. A third paid less than $10. And average travel times for the 10-mile route were 10 to 12 minutes compared to 15 to 30 minutes last December.

VDOT analysis also showed that of the 13,307 vehicles that used I-66 Inside the Beltway between 5:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. Monday, 5,082 were carpoolers who traveled free. Traffic was heavier but travel times were comparable during the evening commute the other direction.

“Contrary to the continued political rhetoric of critics, I-66 Inside the Beltway Express Lanes tolls have been based on sound planning and with the ultimate goal of improving travel for everyone,” said Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne. “We want to move more people, improve connectivity and provide additional travel choices. This is about unlocking gridlock on I-66 as Governor McAuliffe pledged.”

VDOT also noted that, except for an incident that closed two or three lanes of traffic on Route 50 Monday evening, travel on parallel roads such as Route 50, Route 29, and Route 7 were “either similar or improved compared with last December.”

The VDOT statement did not address observations that serious delays occurred at points accessing I-66 inside the Beltway.

Bacon’s bottom line: Assuming VDOT is not cherry picking its data, it appears that the HOT lanes are working as advertised, and that the people who are most upset by the HOT lanes are those who were prepared to be upset by HOT lanes to begin with. However, any conclusion is preliminary until the public has had a chance to review and critique the travel data.

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51 responses to “Actually, Travel Times Are Faster on I-66, VDOT Says”

  1. As TBill noted on Wednesday, “I don’t think the slug lines have developed yet for I-66, so that is not a current option. Slugging never took off on I-66, interesting to see if that happens now.” I had a couple of reactions to that: First, why didn’t they? What was it about the I-66 HOV experience that caused it to be — well, more benign than I-95? And second, what if anything is VDOT doing to promote them now, particularly with the countdown to HOV-3 already ticking? Promoting carpooling at least would help shame the SOV drivers making all the fuss.

    1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      Acbar – I think one of a material factors is how easy it was to cheat on I-66 pre-tolls. It’s my understanding that VDOT and state and local police estimated at least 25% of the HOV period drivers were SOV not heading to or from IAD. They really didn’t need to form a car pool with such lax enforcement.

      And from talking with a person on Supervisor Foust’s staff last evening, I learned there still are a large number of SOVs driving on I-66 without transponders – hoping somehow they won’t be caught. I also learned VDOT is working with the people who are involved in the I-95 slugging operation to find safe places for I-66 slug lines.

      As far as the tolls are concerned, a big problem is VDOT led the public to believe high tolls would be in the $11-13 range. Bad job of creating unachievable expectations. But we still have less than a week’s data. It’s too early and probably not the right season to have reliable data upon which to make decisions. But dollars to doughnuts, McAuliffe is happy this one goes to Northam.

      1. djrippert Avatar

        So, good old Virginia politicians and government workers …

        1. Too lazy and stupid to enforce the law.
        2. Too lazy and stupid to organize alternatives to commuting.
        3. Too lazy and stupid to manage a subway system properly.
        4. Too lazy and stupid to accurately estimate tolls.

        Thank God we have the Imperial Clown Show in Richmond and the Fairfax County Board of Stupidvisors.

        Amazon: Stay away from Virginia. You will regret even considering this shit show of a state.

        1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

          Makes our decision to retire to North Carolina seem more sensible all the time.

          I think Mom has made a good point below. Too many transportation projects are done at the behest of landowners who make big campaign contributions.

          1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
            Reed Fawell 3rd

            “Too many transportation projects are done at the behest of landowners who make big campaign contributions.”

            You are a gentleman, and so perhaps understate matters.

            I’ve suggest that the old boys have been buying Virginia politicians since after the original Harry Byrd, who was to powerful to be bought by anybody. Today pretenders to the Crown likely feel they have no choice but to deal with the devil, campaign money being only one of many reasons to tap into Virginia’s Deep State, its old boy network, still a modern version of Virginia’s landed gentry pulling levels from behind the curtain. Its a highly orchestrated dance, built on long ritual, much cunning, and raw fearless power.

            Note how the deals made up front in secret long before have a way of raising their most ugly heads right after each election, and often too just at the end of each Governor’s term.

    2. HOV-3 is safer. I-95 has had more predictable travel times. 5000+ Bus/VRE parking spaces along I-66 are coming in the next five years.

    3. I forget all the history, but a long time ago they had to reduce I-66 to HOV-2 vs. HOV-3 on I-95. I am thinking it was as high as HOV-4 in the old days, but that did not work. So HOV-2 was perhaps less supportive of slugging, and of course the hybrid exclusion was there when Manassas and farther out were developing here in the last 15-years, whereas I believe I-95 slugging came first and then hybrids were allowed on (but it was resented and cut back by 2006 on I95).

  2. djrippert Avatar

    Dear Amazon:

    Please consider this letter as the formal cancellation of our proposal to have you host your East Coast headquarters in Virginia. The simple fact is that we are too stupid and too corrupt for your fine company. The latest example of our stupidity and corruption is charging $34 for a one way commute in a region where we recently levied “the largest tax increase in Virginia history” for transportation and where we also have various surcharges for transportation. The money taken from this region under the guise of improving transportation is wasted down state on a variety of idiotic projects that never accomplish much of anything. Your company has enjoyed great success over the past 10 – 15 years. Coming to a state as badly run as Virginia has a significant chance of derailing your success. That would be a shame since we spend much of the money we steal on products ordered through your web site.


    The Governor and General Assembly of Virginia

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      DJ – just about every single city that is in the running for Amazon has HOT lanes! It’s becoming a standard feature for most large urban regions.

      1. djrippert Avatar

        They don’t have $34 one-way HOT lanes and they don’t constantly hike taxes “for transportation” only to hideously over-charge the same taxpayers with HOT lanes. The citizens of Virginia are overtaxed so that the Clowns in The Imperial Clown Show in Richmond can hand out unending freebies to their corporate puppeteers. Those freebies cost us $12,5B per year according to JLARC. And nobody has any idea whether the gifts from the clowns to the crony capitalists do us any good at all.

        Sorry Larry but this state is fast disintegrating disaster being destroyed by a criminal operation called the General Assembly.

        Amazon: Stay Away from Virginia!

  3. LarrytheG Avatar

    Wait One! Here comes the inevitable ” VDOT is a lying sack of excrement”!

    and/or ” elected officials , just wait until the next election, you are OUT”

    But this is more a story about folks who want what they want and to hell with everyone else.. including VDOT and elected officials (who have predictably and fecklessly promised to “make” VDOT reduce or remove the tolls).

    Credit VDOT with standing their ground and demerits to the Virginia GOP for demagoguing and politicizing yet another issue rather than dealing honestly with the realities and the shrill cries and threats from the SOV ignorati.

    The simple reality is that there are too many people driving at peak hour and it overwhelms the capacity of the road network. Many of them are folks who DO drive solo – the VERY same route every day from home to/from work.

    This is what they want – and woe to anyone who gets between them and that want.

    There is no “alternative” reality or facts here.. that’s the simple truth.

    Voting elected out of office or having them …. ignorantly force VDOT to remove the tolls or alter how the tolls are charged – won’t change that fundamental underlying reality of just too many cars for the capacity available and many of those cars solo. Economic growth – under these conditions – means gridlock and to allow that to happen would be grossly irresponsible.

    The absolute most optimal way to allocate acceptable levels of free-flowing traffic is classic supply and demand – the very same way we currently do airline capacity or gasoline prices, kumquats, etc. People will decide what is of value most to them beyond even money or time.

    What IS different about dynamic tolling is the speed at which the price – changes.. sorta like checking airline fares or gasoline prices and 3 minutes later the price has gone up.

    That DOES upset people but slowing the tempo of changes also means the road could get overloaded and gridlock and all those toll-paying folks would feel they got cheated so it’s the less of the two evils.

    Over time – the prices of the tolls will stabilize and become more predictable and people will know at a given time that tolls are going to be at a certain level – and at peak hour – the tolls are going to be awful.

    What does VDOT hope to achieve with this?

    To change driving behaviors. A simple proposition – not so simple to achieve.

    To encourage some folks to not drive solo all the time especially at rush hour.

    To encourage others to shift the hours they do drive outside of the most congested times.

    To encourage others to change their schedules.. work from home ,etc.

    To encourage others to take mass transit, carpool, etc.

    Perhaps re-think where you’d take a new job or buy a new house.

    That’s way more “choices” that just a flat static toll… or no toll.. and gridlock.

    I predict that VDOT is not going to fold on this and that the elected officials making noise will quiet down or if they do submit legislation that the rest of virginia is not going to smile nicely on raising gas taxes to pay for more solo commuting in NoVa.

    1. Larry, we usually disagree. But this is a rare instance in which you are consistently logical. (I would bicker only with your suggestion that only Republican politicians are demagoguing this issue.)

      1. djrippert Avatar

        What a shame to see a one time fiscal conservative like Jim Bacon crawling into the B League swamp of Richmond. He’ll be able to slither around in the slime and ooze with other fake conservatives who endlessly babble about oversized government while quietly supporting the “biggest tax increase in Virginia history” for transportation and then $34 one-way tolls imposed by VCRAP. Blah, blah, blah, land use. Blah, blah, blah driving behavior. If VCRAP is going to charge $34 per ride then The Imperial Clown Show in Richmond ought to roll back “the biggest tax increase in Virginia history for transportation”.

        Amazon: Stay away from Virginia. You will regret even considering this mis-managed state!

        1. Don, Northern Virginia has gotten loads of money from “the biggest tax increase in history” (which I opposed, incidentally). It has gotten its share of the extra state taxes raised, and it has gotten 100% of the money it raised through the local-option taxes. The money invested in HOT lanes has been over and above conventionally funded projects, of which there have been plenty.

          NoVa’s fundamental problem, as you well know, continues to be a massive regional imbalance in the location of jobs, housing, and amenities. For that, you have your local governments largely to thank. Don’t blame the VDOT, the General Assembly or downstate Virginians for that problem.

          1. djrippert Avatar

            You have no accounting of where the biggest tax increase in Virginia history was spent (and continues to be spent). You have no such accounting because you accept big, bloated corrupt government (as long as it’s based in Richmond) and demand no such accounting. You rail at the federal government but excuse The Imperial Clown Show in Richmond. Instead of demanding that the Rico violation known as Virginia’s state government stop handing out $12.5b per year to their crony capitalist friends you say things like, ” … continues to be a massive regional imbalance in the location of jobs, housing, and amenities.” Nonsensical pablum. Northern Virginia’s problem is that the criminal asshats in the General Assembly give away $12.5b per year in company-specific and industry-specific tax breaks to their friends and then don’t have enough money to operate a proper transportation system.

            How much better would our transportation systems be if even half of the Clown Show’s never ending tax giveaways were collected and spent on transportation.

            You can’t run from the $12.5b number Jim – no matter how much your fellow swamp dwellers in Richmond like those mindless giveaways.

            I guess crony capitalism is bad unless it’s being practiced in your own backyard.

      2. LarrytheG Avatar

        geeze.. my “logic” has been the very same for as long as I have offered an opinion here on tolls… it has never varied…

        and strangely enough .. I use similar logic in things like health care … and college tuition..

        yes.. the GOP DID demagogue EARLY ON by calling out McAuliffe and claiming this is a “Dem” solution and people deserved what they voted for.

        I can supply the gory details to back this up if you insist. It’s all over Twitter… in all it’s gory detail…

        The Dems.. yes.. some of them folded fecklessly in response to the GOPs opportunistic and illegitimate bum rush. Where exactly is the GOP now that they’ve come out against dynamic tolling? Can we now expect them to dictate to VDOT what to toll or not and how – and basically destroy the concept of dynamic tolling? Shame on them. This was the one time they should have stood up and been honest with folks.

    2. djrippert Avatar

      VDOT is a buffoon-fest. They have to give away roads to corporations because they are too stupid and lazy to build the roads themselves. Hell, they can’t even design the roads. Look at the Beltway HOT lanes. How long did VCRAP claim it would take to build? And how long did it take a private company to build?

      VCRAP is an endless money pit that sucks up ever increasing taxes and creates absolutely nothing of value.

      Do you remember 2013, Larry? The largest tax increase in Virginia history … for transportation … maybe this will help …

      Billions per year in additional money for transportation and all VCRAP can do is charge ridiculous tolls on roads that have already been built and paid for?

      VDOT SUCKS OUT LOUD. It is really that simple Larry.

    3. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      VDOT will probably need to set tolls to a reduced speed of say 45-50 mph. The high tolls are simply not politically acceptable.

      Having said that I-66 inside the Beltway is not a good candidate for tolling since, unlike, the other HOT lanes, no general purpose lanes remain. The general purpose lanes are other east-west roads not designed for the added traffic. In several meetings with VDOT, I never heard a good explanation of that problem. But I don’t see tolls going away and they do encourage other means of transportation, including slugging.

  4. The tolls at 5:30AM start high (~$10) to dissipate the potential “free” users that did not make the deadline. The toll then lowers in the 5:45-6:15 timeframe.

    Also, due to the lack of commuter parking and poor reliability of I-66 condition inside the beltway, PRTC bus service is not provided from 8-9AM when the tolls are highest.

  5. LarrytheG Avatar

    re: ” How much better would our transportation systems be if even half of the Clown Show’s never ending tax giveaways were collected and spent on transportation.”

    I’m looking at the other 50 or so Urban Areas in the US and how NoVa is different – and it’s simply not.

    DJ’s response has no alternative solution – per the other critics.. just vitriol and blame…. you need an alternative to have a legitimate criticism in my view.

    The $35 tolls are one days worth of experience and not truly representative especially since some are saying that one third or more of the cars do not have transponders.

    re: ” Having said that I-66 inside the Beltway is not a good candidate for tolling since, unlike, the other HOT lanes, no general purpose lanes remain.”

    I just don’t see what you’re going to do as traffic continues to grow and from what I can see there are limited options for expanding I-66 in that area.

    No tolls is going to surely lead to gridlock at peak hour… and putting static tolls is going to impose the same impacts on people – with less benefit if the tolls are too low .. you still get gridlock and now you pay a toll also.

    the only real way to affect the level of congestion is to key the tolls to the level of congestion and vary with it – …

    1. djrippert Avatar

      My alternative solution is clear – roll back 1/2 of the 12.5b per year company-specific and industry-specific tax cuts. Spend that $6.25b per year on transportation until the transportation problems are solved. Toll nothing. Widen Rt 66 whether the commies in Arlington like it or not. Fix Metro. Implement some real forms of mass transit in Richmond and Tidewater. Build and outer beltway with minimal exits to route long distance traffic around DC.

      $12.5b per year handed out like Halloween candy to friends of the clown show. Are you kidding me? And it goes on forever?

      The RPV could make real headway in NoVa by making these tolls a point of contention for Democrats. In fact, the Republicans nationally ought to play “pin the tail on the jackass’ by making these Rt 66 tolls a hallmark of Terry McAwful’s tenure as governor. President? I wouldn’t vote for him as dog catcher. His political career needs to be ended.

  6. There is a logic and math disconnect somewhere in VDOT’s passel of crap (and yes Larry VDOT is historically a lying sack of excrement) and Bacon seems to be cherry picking the data to obscure it.

    According to VDOT a total of 13,473 vehicles used I-66 Inside the Beltway between the hours of 5:30-9:30am of which 5,082 or 38 percent were carpoolers who traveled free, implying that 62% of the traffic was not of the carpool variety. VDOT then asserts that travel times were 10-12 minutes compared with 15-30 minutes last December.

    If the assertion that according to VDOT, state and local police is that previously at least 25% of the HOV period drivers were SOV not heading to or from IAD a conservative estimate of those legitimate carpoolers/hybrid vehicles using the lanes would fall at roughly 60-65%. The number that is missing, and I suspect intentionally omitted, is the total average number of vehicles last December, leading to the question if carpoolers account for half the total vehicles now as opposed to last December who is using the road and where did the carpools go.

    Given the faster travel times, presumed to be the result of less traffic, leads to one of two conclusions, 1. the net throughput of I-66 has diminished making it less efficient in move traffic volumes, or 2. VDOT is full of shit.

    Having been one of those SOV on Route 50 Monday and Tuesday and I can state quite affirmatively that travel conditions were NOT “either similar or improved compared with last December” or last week for that matter. As a result, I would suggest that VDOT is full of shit and that while they may have found the key to unlocking gridlock on I-66, they have done that by shifting the gridlock to parallel roads, a neat trick that allows VDOT and their contractor to pocket millions.

  7. LarrytheG Avatar

    Mom – this might be exactly the data you seek:

    I seriously don’t think chewing on the data numbers is going to prove much except correct some estimates.. etc..

    In the end – the point of what VDOT is doing is to – as they have stated – move more people.

    I doubt seriously that over the longer term – diverting to surface streets is going to be satisfying or even time saving for most.

    It’s more of an act of defiance… that if you don’t like what VDOT did – you’re going to go crap up someone else’s world.. and that’s not a winning formula as I suspect changes will be made to the surface streets to make them even less inviting for anti-social behaviors.

    The similar reality is there is more traffic than I-66 can accommodate and still deliver an acceptable level of service to those who use it. No amount of blame will change that. And the only way to really add contiguous lanes is to not only buy developed property but re-do every overpass and access ramp… something that would take a billion dollars or more and years – and would actually result in even MORE surface street traffic because adding that capacity would actually encourage MORE SOV commuting… not discourage it.

    that’s the reality. I’ve yet to hear ..past the vitriol and blame game.. a real “fix”… it’s just the nature of current commuting in the Wash Metro area; people will commute SOV until and unless it no longer “works”.

    Same deal in many other cities… check out Charlotte and Atlanta.. Houston…etc.. it’s the car-centric preference of most all of us but it’s coming to an end.. people need to think HOV for home to/from work commuting.

  8. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    How many times have I seen this kind of official responses by the Virginia Department of Transportation to traffic gridlock in Northern Virginia over the past nearly 40 years?

    “Don’t worry, what you see before your eyes is an illusion. We are fixing things now. Here are our statistics to prove it.”

    Why can Virginians stuck with this horrible problem most every day now for well over 30 years reply: “Sorry fellows, we don’t believe you anymore. Your gig is up.”

    Why is this so hard for citizens of Virginia to say, much less do anything about? This is the great mystery. Quite frankly it is why the State leaders year after year, decade after decade, get away with playing their incompetent and/or corrupt games that they now are so chronically addicted too. Only citizens can change this behavior by demanding change, by their actions.

    What are some of the obstacles to this happening? I wrote this earlier this year here on this website:

    Today it is far too often too hard to maintain our grip on the reality of any particular issue or problem in Virginia. Today this often results from information overload.

    We have so much information today. Some good, some bad, some too general, some too detailed, some relevant but hidden by the nature of its transmittal, and some total red herrings caused by how we get it, process it, and judge it. But collectively all of this overload now boils around us to hopelessly clutter up our senses while it fools us into false confidence that leads us to wrong thinking that ends in ill advised actions that makes matter far worse as we head off again and again in the wrong direction, claiming small gains that might benefit a few but make all the rest of us who are taxed to pay the bills far worse as time goes on within the dysfunction of a sick system that should be apparent to us but no one seems to see or admit too.

    The result is that the system our government deploys is built to leave us forever lost in the forest. AND IT WORKS. Our solutions forever hidden within thickets of snarled, nonsensical and irrelevant, and over cooked information. How do we step back and re-orient ourselves to be enlightened by the obvious in the real world that otherwise would be plainly obvious, unavoidable in front of our nose, if we knew how to see it, and connect it with other things whose relatedness we can now too also see?

    How thus can we keep stepping back, and moving around, collecting and linking up dots that at last are relevant one to the other until finally we have the big picture of what is really going on in the world we live in?

    For, only then, so armed with the general dynamics of the big picture, can we next zoom in, see and navigate though, and link up insights that take us to solutions to particular problems. Then so armed with the inter-related dynamics of the big picture and our new found experience with relevant particulars – having gained a sense of how they move, interact, and generate consequence on small but cumulative scale – we can for the first time generate workable strategic plans for solutions then tactical plans for achieving “real and meaningful results that solve real problems and replacing them with things that what really work for people, instead of pretending to.

    One way to regain our lost grip on reality is to step back, take a deep breath.

    Try to clear our heads of all the clutter and fervor of today’s modern world. Free our minds from the endless stream of today’s words and rhetoric. Its far too often stuffed full of irrelevant numbers, useless equations, and fake assumptions that too often we have built into closed circuits of circular reasoned theories. So over the decades this trash masquerading as skilled expertise builds like plaque into our brains and emotions, inducing a kind of dementia that is daily reinforced into so many of today’s “experts, and the professions and political structures they build to guard their prejudice and self interests at the expense of others over which their experts claim special prejudice on the backs of those they mislead. All this over time builds and maintains bad habits that catch us in their web, while it also robs our experts who operate the system of the capacity for creative and independent thought necessary for self-correction. Instead these experts too often keep marching off lock step again and again in the wrong direction on the same fool’s errand that has for generations now left so much damage in their wake.

    The wreckage left behind is obvious everywhere – for example, the massively expensive dysfunctional road system in Northern Virginia. Or the human carnage left behind by LBJ’s great society is another. The damage is now ubiquitous, strewn about in endless variations, but we, wondering lost in the forest of details, are incapable of fixing the obvious problems.

    To elaborate on this threat that we face from our elite experts losing touch with their ability to marshal common sense and practical insights from the realities of everyday experience of folk who live in the real world, lets imagine this. Many a serious athlete knows that by exercise, say running or cycling intervals properly, he will over time go further faster. Why? He’s got too. Working muscles demand that his body build ever more capacity to perform its task. This includes its ability to circulate blood through working muscles and nearby flesh and, in so doing, to deliver this blood wherever needed in ever greater, cleaner and better volumes, if the athlete is to have the best chance to keep improving his performance to his full potential. The key is pumping in, delivering and disbursing around the new blood wherever it is needed while simultaneously carrying away old blood, and doing it all with ever more efficiency, power, diffusion and effectiveness. This is key.

    Obviously heart, lungs, arteries, and veins play critical rolls. But capillaries have learned special tricks since they’re where the rubber meets the road. In athletes they grow and build expanding networks that are wider and deeper and more refined than usual, all done under pressure. As capillaries lengthen and spread, going ever more places they carry ever better and richer blood to nourish, fuel and repair the body’s working parts and carry off their waste. Serious athletes know the sense of this, if not the details, so exercise.

    Why cannot our traffic experts know this common sense and use it to fix gridlock unaddressed in Northern Virginia for nearly 40 years now?

    Indeed the problem and the cure of both, and the chronic refusal to address both, are worthy of great study. Not least, these problems arise from how the human species most always acts collectively in groups and nations as they fail to deal honestly with issues and their real solution. When confronted with most difficult circumstance, we typically work to compound and hide the problem that confronts us so as to gain the personal advantage of the few of us in control, using false claim and methods to achieve private gain and advantage that make matters worse for must everyone instead of fixing their root causes so as to benefit everyone.

    (Reed, this is true of so many situations in the Commonwealth: “… using false claims and methods to achieve private gain and advantage that make matters worse for most everyone instead of fixing their root causes so as to benefit everyone.” So what do you see as a way to break up this pattern? Asks Carol Buva.)

    There is something wrong deep within the warp and woof of Virginia’s psyche, society and culture that fuels this chronic corruption that so often in Virginia ties political and private commercial interest together into covert (In Camera) deal making that manipulates public assets and prerogatives to serve private interests to the Public’s disadvantage and expense.

    For example, again and again, its been said that socially responsible developers come into Virginia for the first time and, once there, they quickly learn how to operate in socially irresponsible ways. As if you pay the right set of expert to act on your behalf, you can get for yourself goodies you can get nowhere else, or that even in failure, you can ultimately win. Witness the latest efforts to blow out the west side of Dulles for massive new sprawl, including industrial development, across the historic Virginia Piedmont all the way to the Blue Ridge, after all that has happened to date in N. Va. … The same applies in my view to the horribly unfair and counter productive dynamic toll regime. These terrible costs also need to be shifted over to tolls beneficiaries instead of its victims. This will require the public in Virginia to rise up and take action to expose what is going on in their Commonwealth with its corrupt and weak leaders. And for them in so doing to expose those leaders and private interests to a public shaming that forces them to change their habits and do the right thing for all citizens, instead of for the local power structures they are now beholden.

    All of this will require a newly found commitment to public involvement by all Virginians. This too will mark a great change in the habits of most Virginians who for far too long have shied away from local public affairs. Like Virginia’s power structure and its attitudes, the standoffish attitudes towards public service of most Virginians have deep roots going back to the beginnings of the Commonwealth. This needs to change. Or nothing will change.

  9. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    So what if it costs $70?

  10. Jesus Larry, with that attitude you should ask Northam to appoint you Secretary of Transportation.

    It is all about the numbers with Transportation and VDOT and if you don’t believe chewing on the data numbers is going to prove anything then why do we expend the time, effort and money for things like Smart Scaling.

    Similarly, if the numbers aren’t crunched how can we determine whether is actually moving more people or simply moving a select number of people with the financial wherewithal more quickly.

    Forget Secretary of Transportation, you should run for Congress (presuming you have the requisite skeletons in your closet).

    Diverting to the side streets is not generally an act of defiance but a stratagem defined by time, economic and efficiency considerations. You seem to be suggesting that if tolls aren’t enough to change behavior then more draconian measures should be devised to make “the surface streets to make them even less inviting for anti-social behaviors”. Please tell me when you have finished your version of the Little Red Book so I can compare it to the original. Bear in mind that She Who Must Be Obeyed has failed to change my behavior despite twenty-seven years of effort.

    You really need to understand that your protestations aside, the geography, infrastructure, demographics and dispersed nature of the employment centers make the Washington Metro area dramatically different than most if not all of the exemplars you care to throw out.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      Mom – I think the numbers ARE important but right now they are preliminary and estimates that you wish to condemn them over without further ado.

      The numbers.. even once they get more accurate are not going to change the reality that there are more cars than there is road for… whether it’s 1000 or 10,000 is not really going to change much.

      re: ” Diverting to the side streets is not generally an act of defiance but a stratagem defined by time, economic and efficiency considerations. ”

      not when it all it really achieves is avoidance of the toll – at a cost of time. the mindset of folks that do this is that they hate tools so much that they will do anything to get out of them. And yes.. the folks they impact do have a right to push back. You would not want it where you live I bet.

      re: ” You really need to understand that your protestations aside, the geography, infrastructure, demographics and dispersed nature of the employment centers make the Washington Metro area dramatically different than most if not all of the exemplars you care to throw out.”

      you’ve not really made that distinction at all. NoVa walks and talks like most every urbanized area in the country.. same congestion, same hatred of tolls and same blame game politics.

      Go read about the complainers in Charlotte or Atlanta.. a very familiar refrain.

    2. I’m wondering what Mom considers to be a practical alternative for improving mobility in Northern Virginia. If not HOT lanes, then what? And where does the money come from?

    3. I’m wondering what Mom considers to be a practical alternative for improving mobility in Northern Virginia. If not HOT lanes, then what? And where does the money come from?

  11. Here’s a thought for both of you. Step one is to engage in the funding of real engineering, and yes Larry that includes improved ramps and overpasses, that might provide solutions to the existing and future problems.

    In order achieve step one VDOT and the local jurisdictions need to stop wasting tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars on projects that divert funds from projects that are too expensive (VDOT and NVTA’s typical plaint) to be constructed with existing funds. Yes that will mean that we won’t spend significant amounts on illuminated signage that tells us we are rolling at 45 mph when our gauges tell us we are in park or bike paths alongside I-66 that only a handful of lunatic eco-warriors would view as a viable commuting alternative (until the first snow or code red air day). It would also mean that we aren’t spending millions on the development of new roads like the Bi-County Parkway, Buckland Bypass, etc. that not only siphon off funds but create development circumstance that exacerbate the existing problems. Ahh, but then you would negatively impact the most favored of most favored special interests, the development community. Heaven forbid upsetting Til Hazel and Company. To that end, the first thing the Governor should do is fire every one of the members of the hopeless conflicted and corrupt CTB and replace them with appointees that are both competent and ethical. Of course that means looking outside of NOVA and RVA as people with those qualities are in scarce supply.

    At the end of the day the argument VDOT, CTB, NVTA, etc. all use against real solutions is that those solutions are too expensive and they lack the funding. As a result, they nibble around the edges as they waste a significant portion of the available funding on pet projects or window dressing. When given additional funding in the form of the transportation tax, they simply up their game and waste more.

    You want a concrete example, look at the plan they have devised to “alleviate” congestion on Rt. 28 by building an extension of Godwin Road in Manassas. Millions to be spend on a new road that would do nothing to alleviate the congestion on Route 28 South of Bull Run but would instead dump a shit ton of new traffic on Route 28 north of Bull run, effectively making that portion to the south MORE congested as a result of dumping more traffic into the flow. Why would they do that, because they are morons and NVTA Chairman “I’m Marty Effing Nohe” needs to satisfy the needs of his development buddies and make it easier to open up as yet undeveloped areas and encourage even greater sprawl to the South.

    You want another solution, one that would fit nicely within the narrative of your Little Red Book, firing squads, lots of public firing squads.

  12. The plan for Route 28 is eight lanes between Bull Run and Route 29 in Farifax County and two four lane roads south of the Bull Run (Godwin Dr Extension and existing Route 28) in Prince William County.

    I-66 will be 14 lanes between Route 28 and the Fairfax County Parkway. (4 HOT, 6 GP, 4 Aux).

  13. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    “Heaven forbid upsetting Til Hazel and Company.” Gotta love it.

    Actually it was Til Hazel that truly spurred me to become a citizen activist. I had written a letter to the editor of Fairfax County newspaper critical of the Outer Crossing. Hazel wrote me a letter in return advising me I was ill-informed and ignorant. Needless to say that got me pretty PO’d. That was about 15-16 years ago. I’m still opposing the Outer Crossing. And since I’m not alone, it still doesn’t exist.

    Turning to VDOT. The Agency should be required to provide raw data about the I-66 tolls and impacts on traffic there and on alternative routes, as well as transit use. Then a variety of others can analyze the data and argue whether or not the data support VDOT’s conclusions.

    1. I can already see the response to any such request (because I have already seen the rationale applied to similar projects):

      “The requested data is the proprietary data and trade secret of the contractor, the release of which might injure the contractor and is thus exempt under Section 2.2-3705.6.11(b) of the Code of Virginia, see below:

      b. Information provided by a private entity to a responsible public entity, affected jurisdiction, or affected local jurisdiction pursuant to the provisions of the Public-Private Transportation Act of 1995 (§ 33.2-1800 et seq.) or the Public-Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act of 2002 (§ 56-575.1 et seq.) if disclosure of such information would reveal (i) trade secrets of the private entity as defined in the Uniform Trade Secrets Act (§ 59.1-336 et seq.); (ii) financial information of the private entity, including balance sheets and financial statements, that are not generally available to the public through regulatory disclosure or otherwise; or (iii) other information submitted by the private entity where if such information was made public prior to the execution of an interim agreement or a comprehensive agreement, the financial interest or bargaining position of the public or private entity would be adversely affected. In order for the information specified in clauses (i), (ii), and (iii) to be excluded from the provisions of this chapter, the private entity shall make a written request to the responsible public entity:

      1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

        Mom – isn’t the Inside-the-Beltway project owned and operated by VDOT? And I struggle to believe a good argument can be made that the number of cars on I-66 or other roads at any particular time constitutes a trade secret for a private entity.

        And let’s see the new “Open-government” gang of Democrats in the GA take this one on.

        1. Since when does reality or transparency have anything to do with the manner in which any Virginia agency or jurisdiction responds to a request for information that they would prefer not to release.

      2. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
        Reed Fawell 3rd

        My oh my. I thought this trick had been solved on the last go round claiming to clean up the corruption and incompetence in the earlier VA. Private/Public Partnership infrastructure legislation.

        1. Bwahahaha, that’s why I keep a boilerplate template at the ready so I simply have to fill in the appropriate blanks and file a Writ of Mandamus. Those annoy the hell out of them.

  14. Seems we do have a fundamental logic issue though…
    we have a major Highway I-66 to the exburbs, and then Arlington says we only allow 2 lanes through our backyard. The HOT_lane conversion says you cannot use the remaining 2 lanes, except by special rules and high cost.

    It’s nice to be an idealist and say there should not be anyone commuting in SOV vehicles anymore. But geez…I once had a minister who said your philosophy has be like good plumbing, it has to hold water. We got a major thoroughfare here serving millions of people.

    Somebody was asking me if politicians (DC/Richmond) got free HOT Lane use. I said I did not think so, but maybe they get reimbursed?

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      TBill –

      You can be pretty confident that those who proposed and pushed through this toll initiative are greatly enjoying its conveniences and advantages personally and commercially without care personally as to the amount of the tolls. For them these tolls are likely “expensed off’ by their businesses, and chump change for them and their friends personally in any event. Best of all for them, they have by and large, if not totally, likely solved their personal commute problems, and its attendant inconveniences to their travel, and that of their family and friends, and close business associates and cohorts.

      1. Indeed…I decided to expense my non-profit community band members so they can make a concert on time next week.

  15. P.S.- For those who say Virginia needs to be more like California (I won’t mention names but LtG) nobody car pools out there. HOV lanes are essentially totally set aside for Plug-In car users (sans Hybrids). That’s a big part of why plug-ins are more popular there.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      I’m not in favor of SOLO hybrids getting a free ride.

      but lookee here:

      ” Express Lanes Have a Popularity Problem”

      ” But as Americans drive more miles than ever before, express lanes are facing a challenge: they are too popular. So many drivers of all kinds are using the lanes that it is increasingly difficult for transportation officials to keep them speedy.”

      ” Average speeds are now below 45 mph on nearly half of the San Francisco Bay Area’s carpool lanes. As a result, drivers of electric vehicles who have a state-issued tag to drive on express lanes are now barred from some Bay Area lanes during peak congestion times, up to an hour each morning. Transportation officials say similar restrictions may be put in place on other Bay Area highways.”

      hybrids are losing that exemption more and more on toll roads – and should.

      One thing that VDOT would probably do if forced to stop dynamic tolling – they’d raise the fixed toll price to the level that kept the lanes free-flowing all the time…. it won’t be $24 but it may well be $10 or some such. Perhaps that’s what people would prefer if given that choice.

  16. Once it was true that VDOT undertook transportation projects at the behest of landowners, and that explains a lot of why we are in the mess that we are in. While I haven’t followed VDOT as closely as I once did, and therefore am not totally up to speed on all projects, I get the sense that VDOT’s new project-scoring tool is working pretty well. Projects aren’t getting funding unless they make sense.

    1. It’s just another tool they use to game the system and justify projects they favor. Nothing new, same game.

    2. LarrytheG Avatar

      Yup. If you look at the approved Smart Scale projects – you’ll see few if any of these typical developer/locally inspired projects because they simply do not score well on performance metrics but even the ones that score well on performance , in order to get funded – usually require some level of local funding which has resulted if very few such projects approved.

      VDOT is actually focusing on metrics like congestion relief, accident numbers, access to jobs… etc…

      Here are the NoVa projects that got approved. it’s a hefty list that includes many projects in and around Loudoun – and many of them “widenings”.

      Mom’s attitude is fairly common down Fredericksburg way. Many who commute solo to/from work don’t want to hear about other projects .. etc.. they want I-95 widened with free lanes and the heck with the HOT lanes!!!

      I-395 is next… for HOT lanes.. and I understand that Maryland is going forward on their side with more HOT lanes.

      None of these projects are really about more revenue although they do get it. They are more about shaping congestion and basically stopping true gridlock and encourage the use of other modes than SOV.

      1. Yeah, I’ve seen it and all the supporting documentation, its a really pretty presentation and not much else. All those scoring numbers mean nothing if there is no funding for them or adequate ROI. Take the VRE Extension to Haymarket on Page , DEAD, DEAD, DEAD, the residents don’t want it, the ROI numbers don’t justify it and the county board killed it. A high-scoring $468 million project going nowhere, but only after tens of millions in local, state and Federal funds were spent on a project that was DOA from its inception 15 years ago. A perfect example of what I have been trying to describe to you.

        See , that’s the problem with you idealogues and your behavior modification strategies, you never consider those pesky things called fiscal constraints, ROI and most importantly, Reality.

        As to your example, I am all too familiar with how the gap is filled and newsflash, that gap is not filled exclusively by the supplementary regional sales tax as that is parceled out across multiple jurisdictions by Little Napolean Nohe and the NVTA. The remainder, assuming the projects actually get off the ground are paid for with local funds (absent any Federal support) derived from county bonds and the jurisdictions general and capital improvement funds, ie: other taxes.

        If you don’t know how the game is played and who the players are, I would kindly ask you to cease pontificating. I don’t know you from Adam but I have been, there, done that and come away with bruises from banging my head against the wall of stupidity. There is a reason VDOT, CTB, NVTA, County agencies, members of the Imperial Clown Show and various Secretaries of Transportation hate me, I ask the hard questions, drill down their numbers and don’t humbly accept the ration of bullshit they generally provide as an answer.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          re: ” If you don’t know how the game is played and who the players are, I would kindly ask you to cease pontificating.”

          Sorry – when you de-legitimate virtually everyone to include hundreds of people from VDOT, to the CTB, NVTA, Secretary of Transportation, etc. I’m in good company and sorry you really don’t know the truth from on high and others are “stupid”.

          geeze ..

          Here’s the bottom line on NoVa transportation. We’re not building more roads so more people can solo commute from the exurbs – especially in the Washington region is going to continue to grow.

          It’s a demonstrably failed concept. You need a Plan B. more asphalt is not the answer.

    3. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      I cannot speak from recent personal experience, but Mom’s comments immediately above make perfect sense to me.

      In addition, while VDOT’s new project-scoring tool is a very welcome development given the horrible track record that preceded it, this tool like any tool can easily be circumvented, just like all of the hundreds of bogus traffic studies in the past have been making fools of the truth in Northern Virginia for the past 40 years.


  17. LarrytheG Avatar

    The very first project on the HB2 list is the Route 7 widening.

    here’s the money numbers:

    Total Project Cost ………. $135,872,000
    HB2 Request ………. $77,307,000

    Note the difference between the two – which is what the region has to come up with … and they’re getting that money from their supplementary regional sales tax. The final “score” is determined by how much value is delivered – commensurate with the state funding. In other words.. NoVa can – and does “buy” their way onto the funded list.

    Other localities not as flush with local money don’t fare as well and there is some grumping going on with regard to that aspect.

    Smart Scale has some flaws.. and there are critics – but the process itself is open and transparent.. which riles some people up even more because they preferred the prior back-room political process.

  18. Thank you Larry, you have encapsulated the true root of the problem:

    “Sorry – when you de-legitimate virtually everyone to include hundreds of people from VDOT, to the CTB, NVTA, Secretary of Transportation, etc. I’m in good company and sorry you really don’t know the truth from on high and others are “stupid”.”

    Apparently you are not a believer in the old adage defining insanity. By your way of thinking we are to continue to rely upon VDOT, the CTB, NVTA, the Secretary of Transporation, etc., the very people who created the problem, to suddenly have some manner of ephiphany and find a miraculous new way to solve the problems they created.

    Thankfully there has been a bit of a sea change over the past few years, one that has resulted in those impacted and your garden variety type of resident questioning those entities and individuals, drilling down on their numbers, calling them out at public hearings, raising hell with their legislators, and occasionally going so far as to initiate litigation.

    You might believe they are somewhat infallible or have “our” best interests at heart, I would assert however that they are too conflicted, corrupt and sheltered in their cubicles to have any interests but their own or their perceived empires in mind.

    Were it no for increased public scrutiny and outrage, the 460 fiasco would be under constrution, the Bi-County Parkway constructed and the fiscal disaster that was the VRE extension, approved. Those projects would of course have siphoned off tens and hundreds of millions of dollars from the budgets of agencies that can’t even afford routine maintenance.

    Over the past fifteen years I have expended hundreds if not thousands of hours reviewing their plans, crunching their inflated numbers, grilling their experts and consultants, marking up their pretty plans with a grease pencil (yes, I am that old-school and still have one) and sitting through meetings and hearings late into the night.

    Those individuals and entities are criticize are the epitome of the Peter Principle as there are routinely promotions from within resulting in ever increasing dysfuntion. Secretary Connaughton was a prime example. As chairman of the PWC BOCS he laid the foundation for an ever increasing level of irresponsible growth. When faced with the electoral consequences he fled to Federal service only to brought back to the Commonwealth as the Secretary of Transportation, enjoying a term as perhaps the worst Secretary in the history of the Commonwealth, his failed projects serving as proof positive.

    No Larry, I don’t know the truth from on-high, I know it from the ground floor.

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      This too echoes events I recall from 1980s and early 1990s, as well as those I looked into in depth as regards goings on from 1998 t0 2011 in Northern Virginia as extended and, in many respects, acerbated by Gov. Bob McDonnell’s corrupt Department of Transportation from 2010 to 2014.

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