McAuliffe Adminstration Gives P3s a Second Chance

Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne. Photo credit: Daily News.
Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne. Photo credit: Daily News.

by James A. Bacon

The McAuliffe administration has spent much of its first two years unwinding the legacy of botched and controversial public private partnerships inked by the McDonnell administration: radically truncating the plan to to build a U.S. connector between Petersburg and Suffolk, and revising significantly the tolling for Norfolk’s Midtown-Downtown tunnel project. Now, after the enactment of significant legislative reforms, the McAuliffe transportation team is turning to the P3 tool to help fund and/or operate its ambitious plans for Interstate 66 in Northern Virginia.

Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne is confident that he can avoid the pitfalls of the previous administration, and that a public-private partnership can make a major contribution to improving mobility along a transportation artery that Governor Terry McAuliffe variously described Thursday as a “parking lot” and “the most congested road in America” at the 2015 Governor’s Transportation Conference in Virginia Beach.

“We’ll be a big supporter of P3s,” elaborated Layne in his own remarks to the conference. “We need to share risk with the private sector. [Virginia] will very much continue to be a leader.”

The I-66 initiative essentially consists of two separate plans: one for inside the Beltway and one for outside the Beltway. The outside-the-Beltway plan entails widening the Interstate, installing HOT lane tolls and ramping up commitment to mass transit. The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has generated 13 responses from private-sector players on how to structure the P3.

Where Sean Connaughton, Layne’s predecessor as transportation secretary, regarded P3s as a way to leverage finite public dollars with private investment, thus maximizing total dollars invested, Layne emphasizes the role of P3s in allocating risk. That feedback has been invaluable in surfacing cost and risk issues that VDOT had not considered. “Transparency is the way you have price discovery and risk discovery,” he said.

One set of risks revolves around building a major project on budget and on time. Another major risk is “demand risk” — the likelihood that traffic and revenue forecasts will materialize as projected. There also are risks associated with operations and maintenance. Layne is open to assigning those risks to a private-sector contractor. He has been far more skeptical, however, of relying upon private-sector capital. Private-sector demands for higher financial returns on investment can add hundreds of millions of dollars to the price of a project.

Layne’s approach is to establish public policy first — what does the Commonwealth want to accomplish along I-66, and how? The administration has made it clear that the I-66 corridor will be multi-modal, including transit, and that the state will not agree to covenants that would restrict for decades construction on other roads that might divert traffic, as the previous administration did in the Downtown-Midtown tunnel project. Those parameters are non-negotiable, except perhaps at the margins. Once those guidelines have been established, he said, the private-sector input can be extremely valuable.

In other remarks, Deputy Secretary of Transportation Nick Donohue told the conference that Virginia and California lead the country with their P3 laws, and that delegations from other states frequently visit the Old Dominion to see what has been done here. Stymied by transparency laws from talking to private corporations “off line,” he explained, other states cannot enact laws like Virginia’s. And that curtails the ability to put together deals like Virginia’s.

An open and transparent process is critical to Virginia’s P3 law, said Donohue, but so is the ability to engage in confidential negotiations. He believes that Virginia has done a good job, based upon its extensive experience with P3s, in threading the needle between transparency and confidentiality. “Steps we have taken in the last couple of years have addressed a lot of problems” with Virginia’s law, he said.

The decision-making process for the I-66 corridor will put the administration’s faith in P3s to the test. The issue of inside-the-Beltway tolls has exploded into a political furor. More controversy is bound to follow as the administration moves from the concept stage to specific proposals.

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42 responses to “McAuliffe Adminstration Gives P3s a Second Chance”

  1. LarrytheG Avatar

    What should be roundly condemned here is the partisan politicization of this issue.

    Just like most everything else – the political vandals of our time have turned yet another issue into one of left and right – when there not only was no need to but it will almost surely poison it the same way other issues haven been – that had and have some hope of addressing if we could keep the focus on the issue itself.

    it seems we cannot deal anything any more without recasting it in political terms.

    We had an opportunity here to make progress on something that is not easy even when not partisan.. and now the same idiots are doing their best to turn this into yet another intractable issue.


    1. Ha ha. Gotta love LarrytheG – when the Dems do something stupid like suggest $17 round-trip tolls on an existing road two years after a huge tax hike to “solve the transportation problem” passes it shouldn’t be a “partisan issue”. That’s rich! Let’s see – no Rt 29 bypass, no Rt 460, a huge tax hike for transportation and we still need to soak people in Northern Virginia to drive.

      What happened to the transportation taxes? What happened to the increased sales tax (only in NoVa and Tidewater) that was meant to fund transportation? Why does McAuliffe think it’s clever to run a half billion dollar budget surplus while simultaneously looking for $17 per day tolls? Why is arch-liberal Kathleen Murphy back pedaling away from McAuliffe and his ridiculous toll plan as fast as her little feet will go?

      This as partisan as it gets. I can only imagine that McAuliffe wants to take the increased tax intake from the transportation bill and slosh it around on things other than transportation. Maybe a shovel of cash for the teachers’ union, another shovel of cash for the state government employees. Buy some votes for Hillary. Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of libs?

  2. Sec. Layne is a Republican serving in a Democratic Administration. He sold bonds for the 460 Mobility Partners debacle before becoming SOT and being allowed to read past P3 contracts, like 460.

    Chris Jones is a Republican Tidewater legislator. He specifically looked into how the Republican McDonnell Administration used P3s to lose in excess of $400 million Virginia taxpayer dollars on the ERC (or Midtown-Downtown Tunnel) and 460 projects and devised the new reforms which — hopefully — will control the massive waste of taxpayer dollars on P3 projects.

    Their disgust with what Virginia’s “model” — as the privates put it — P3 program has brought us is NOT due to any partisanship. It is due to finally financial stewardship.

    Sec. Layne told me that IF the state builds, maintains and runs the I-66 toll road itself without any of the so-called private dollars, we taxpayers will save $1 billion… in a project with a total projected cost of $3 billion. That’s right, VDOT’s present analysis shows that going with a P3 will increase the costs by one-third!

    This corresponds to the world experience and it’s time taxpayers began paying attention.

    Across the OECD, a half dozen analyses have said clearly that P3s have cost “far more” than public financing, as one report put it.

    In Ontario, the auditor-general studied 74 P3s over a decade and announced early this year that Canadian taxpayers had paid $8 billion MORE than if they had built the infrastructure themselves.

    In Australia, two state governments fell last year as their taxpayers finally looked into the true costs of P3 transportation projects in Melbourne and Brisbane. Previously, Australia was a center of P3 construction and even today two of the financiers running American P3s, Transurban and Macquarie, are Australian.

    The White House, in its 2015 budget, predicts that four in 10 American transport P3s will go belly-up eventually and already there are at least a dozen who have “restructured the debt” or are already in bankruptcy court. (Who pays off the huge loans that Uncle Sam gave these private “partners” and who pays the “private activity bonds” for the $6 billion in P3s issued by the McDonnell Administration in 2012 alone? PABs and TIFIA loans from Uncle Sam are where the real “private dollars” reside in P3 contracts.)

    After looking at English P3s, here’s what three University of Manchester Business School professors wrote:

    “At best, partnerships have turned out to be very expensive with the inevitable consequences for future service provision, taxes, and user charges. Not just for today but for a long time to come. These projects may burden government with hidden subsidies, diversion of income streams and revenue guarantees whose impact on public finance may not become apparent for many years and may all be triggered at the same time, precipitating a major fiscal crisis.”

    While I pray that Secretary Layne and the new reforms manage to control P3 “privateers” — as another researcher put it — and keeps them out of Virginia’s public purse, the data gives me pause.

    1. Salz, I spoke to Layne only briefly about the I-66 P3. My sense is that he’s skeptical about using private-sector financing but that he thinks P3s have value for managing certain types of risks. I expect the state will line up its own bond financing for the project but that private sector concessionaires will be seriously considered for design, construction, operation and/or maintenance.

      1. That is my sense (but probably stronger than your’s, Jim). He said specifically that IF the privates could beat the state’s cost for building, operating I-66 toll lanes, he’s willing to let them. Indeed, look at the reforms. If there is a toll P3, the secretary must certify that the deal is equivalent or better than VA producing our own project. Strangely, though, to advance I-66, it’s not the secretary making that initial claim, it’s your old friend, Charles Kilpatrick, who was so questionable NOT telling CTB that the Corps of Engineers had issues with the 460 wetlands…though this would not be the final verification, only that it’s reasonable to ask privates if they want to consider an I-66 project.

  3. With tolls of up to $17 round trip McAuliffe is poised to do something I would have thought impossible – turn NoVa Republican! People up here are furious with McAuliffe and his Democratic cronies. McDonnell jacked up taxes to “solve the transportation problem”, McAuliffe is running a half billion dollar budget surplus as a result, we canceled one new road project after another. And what does McAuliffe and the Dems want to do? Drop $17 round-trip tolls on I-66.

    I got a robo-call from Del. Kathleen Murphy’s campaign the other night. The caller breathlessly told me how much Murphy opposed McAuliffe’s I66 tolling plan and how courageously she was “standing up to her own party”. She’s toast.

    The Republicans up here are shoving the idiotic I66 toll plan down the local Democrats’ throats. At least half of the “median strip political signs” around here are directly targeting McAuliffe’s silly plan.

    NoVa Dems better hope for a very low turnout next Tuesday or this could be a blood-bath.

  4. Don: Here’s the missing info in the I-66 “Inside the Beltway” project. There is literally no more room to expand I-66 and by turning each lane into a toll lane, but only during so-called rush hours, the seemingly expensive toll will — VDOT argues — cause drivers to 1) take transit; 2) carpool; 3) drive at different times. A major part of the Outside Beltway I-66 project is bus rapid transit from five new park-n-ride lots which will also lead, VDOT hopes, to similar “slugging” from those lots. Why? As is illustrated along I-95 south of D.C., or especially in Oakland CA, when drivers face large tolls, they FIND someone(s) to ride with them when they need to travel during peak hours. We call it “slugging.” Californians call it “Casual Carpooling.” In Oakland, the toll across the Bay Bridge into San Francisco decreases dramatically when a vehicle arrives at known corners and picks up folks heading in the same direction. You can see these “sluggers” all over downtown D.C. around 5 p.m. They are lined up at bus stops because if some driver heading south on I-95 doesn’t pick them up and, therefore, avoid the toll, they have the bus to fall back on.

    When/if I-66 lanes are all three tolled, how many drivers will either set up their own carpool for the commute to-from the west or pick up sluggers? How many will decide to park in Haymarket’s “park and ride” lot and read a book on the fast transit ride into D.C.? How many will get out of their cars and decrease our congestion, greenhouse emissions, “need” to frack oil and potentially ruin our water supply, spend $30 million a DAY ensuring the Strait of Hormuz stays open?

    Slugging and BRT are, by far, the cheapest ways to increase capacity of our highways and that should be a Republican concept. It’s certainly fiscally conservative. Addressing all the above issues should be Democratic concepts. It’s certainly socially liberal.

    But, regardless of cost or politics, there is literally no more room to expand I-66 inside the beltway. If we are ever going to corral the incredible waste that our single occupancy vehicle driving creates — according to one analysis 54 cents per average mile — something like this HAS to begin.

    In 2000, for the very first time, the Census Bureau began tracking something called the “long commute” in its household analysis. The “long commute,” believe it or not, is in excess of 100 miles per trip. People are driving in single occupancy vehicles from West Virginia into downtown Washington!

    How can we stop this insanity? A congestion charge zone, perhaps? That’s worked for Stockholm and London and in each case increased the pool of money for building alternatives transportation. MWCOG (D.C. area council of governments) did a big study comparing tolling vs congestion charging a few years ago and discovering citizens want tolling first.

    Let’s just please not let the private financiers get their hands in the public till yet again.

    1. Then put tolls on every congested road in the state. All of them. Put tolls on the parking lot like roads in Short Pump (Henrico County), put tolls on Rt 29 in Manasses and Charlottesville, put tolls all along Rt 81. Then, reduce the motor fuels tax and drop the sales tax in NoVa and Tidewater back to the state average.

      As for there being no way to widen Rt 66 inside the Beltway – I don’t buy it. There is a running trail along the north side of Rt 66 that I used to run on daily when I lived in Arlington. Maybe time to pave over the running trail. I heard that there was no way to widen the Beltway. Then the inept employees of VDOT got out of the way and Flour – Transurban designed the toll road in about 9 months.

      You want more people to ride the Metro? Build parking garages at Dunn Loring, West Falls Church and East Falls Church. Unless you can walk to those Metro stations or are willing to waste lots of time on a Metro bus you can’t park there on any weekday.

      Put $17 tolls on I-66 and people won’t carpool. They’ll drive down Old Dominion to Lee Highway, they’ll come down the GW Parkway, they’ll pour through Arlington’s convenient street grid.

      This is just another example of the dishonesty and incompetence of big government. On the dishonesty front, where did the heroes of democracy decide to hold the two day meeting to approve (or reject) the I66 tolling idea? Virginia Beach! 200+ miles from I66. Well, that’s one way to stifle citizen input. As for competence count the number of parking spaces at the Metro stations.

      I have no stake in this personally. I own a 2008 hybrid which came with original “Clean Air” plates. I am grandfathered to use the HOV lanes as long as I drive that car. I am sure other drivers think I am one of those mysterious scofflaws who the police can’t see!

    2. I don’t have any stake in it personally either. I drive a 2001 Prius and don’t commute, or regularly, drive along I-66. Mostly, though, I bicycle.

      Your concept about tolling every congested road in the state, while reasonable from a couple of directions, is impossible from a practicality direction. It costs millions in install tolling infrastructure. But it cost billions to install separate toll lanes while leaving some free lanes. There has to be connectability between toll lanes on, for example, I-495 and toll lanes on (future) I-66; connectability between toll lanes on I-495 and free I-66 lanes (and vice versa). The flyovers growing ever higher to make all the connections also grow ever more expensive and, of course, generate ever greater noise pollution to the folks who live in the vicinity. There is no way to put up sound walls to knock any sound when the highway is 200 feet in the air (but sound walls actually have very little real effect on decreasing noise. They mostly have an emotional effect on humans behind them.)

      Remember, those folks — as urged by public policy for the past quarter century — paid extra to live close to their jobs. Building ever higher flyovers punishes them (but makes it easier for drivers living further out) for doing what was a) better public policy and b) more expensive for them. They have a right to have some peace and quiet in their own backyards.

      Apparently, Don, you, like most of us, believe that we “users pay” for our driving through gasoline tax and toll roads and registration fees. The reality is we come no where close and a recent Atlantic Monthly article explained why we don’t. It didn’t, however, note that in 2006 a very conservative thinker, concerned mostly with the cost of defending oil, ran the numbers and concluded that we drivers should be paying $10.06 additional per gallon tax to cover the again mostly defense-related externalities our driving dumps on society. Yet, his analysis did not include the cost of the Iraqi War as if that conflict had taken place in North Korea or somewhere else with a brutal dictator where there wasn’t oil.

      Before we build any roads anywhere, we should raise the gasoline tax significantly BUT that doesn’t work unless the raise is national. Do you ever buy gasoline in the District, Don? I’d be willing to bet that you don’t. You always plan it so you’re buying it in Virginia and even, most likely, try to ensure you don’t need to fill up while you’re in Maryland. Why? We naturally migrate to purchase X where it is cheaper and the one way to make things cheaper is a lower tax on it. The difference between the three jurisdiction gas prices is literally the tax. Since D.C. has highest gas tax, few of us buy gas there. We work it to fill up in Virginia. Only when the “time tax” is too high do we compute the overall cost and purchase the higher priced product. So, to be effective, only a national gasoline tax hike would work BUT please remember that virtually ever single voter is a driver and no politician wants to come across as attacking his/her voters. The pandering to driving is unbelievable. Remember, that in the 2008 presidential campaign, the Republican front-runner, John McCain, and the Democratic front runner, Hillary Clinton, BOTH said they would rebate our meager 18.4 cent federal gasoline tax.

      In 2010, MWCOG put on five public forums to try and figure out how D.C. area people could learn about the costs of driving and ways to address the congestion. I was the only reporter allowed in because MWCOG was worried, realistically, about how the discussion would play when shortened for mainstream media and, therefore, how demigods from the left and from the right could spin that shortened discussion. Very carefully explaining the issues in trying to address D.C. area congestion, the engineers illustrated that building any highways if they had the room (and generally didn’t) would cost an average of $40 million per mile. That the population was projected to increase 22 percent but, at best, all transportation funding could only increase 11 percent over the next half century. MWCOG presented three ways to address the congestion/cost issue in, and around, D.C. ONe, tolling. Two, congestion cordon charging. Three, vehicle miles driven charging. The people in those forums (and there were actually five of them), demographically chosen to match area populations and paid for their input, put tolling as by far the best (of the bad) solutions.

      Still, without raising the gasoline tax to a rational level as being one of the suggested solutions, the 300+ people in those forums — when complex reality was honestly explained to them — said “raise the gasoline tax first!”

      But still today, even as gas prices fall, no major politician puts forward that most rational method of dealing with American habitual driving! It wouldn’t cost the public anything as we already collect gasoline taxes and, hence, would not need to build additional lanes or a new bureaucracy.

      But politicians are terrified of being seen as “attacking their voters.”

      Please remember that the best description of American political leadership is “finding out which direction the parade is going and getting in front.”

      I hope that “we, the people” begin to understand the actual cost of our driving BUT the media is not explaining this to us and politicians, I’ve learned, certainly won’t. Remember during the entire three months of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico when it was an above-the-fold, daily story in every major newspaper in the United States and led most newscasts, never once did The Washington Post or The New York Times report where the oil was intended to end up — in our gasoline tanks. Remember, that still today during miles and miles of coverage of greenhouse emissions and global warming, the only time we read about vehicles is when we’re told that “doing X would be the equivalent of getting Y numbrs of cars off the road.”

      Yet, a third of American greenhouse emissions come from transportation.

      Let’s actually get some cars off the road. That’s a novel thought!

      Tolling is not the best way — and public private partnership tolling is a scam — but it is, according the research of actual human drivers, the best way that is at all politically feasible.

      If YOU are faced with a $17 round-trip toll, YOU, Don, being a reasonable person, will sometimes pay it but will more times find ways to avoid it if you are NOT totally time dependent. Those ways are 1) taking bus rapid transit; 2) finding a carpool, either formal or slugged; 3) waiting until after the rush hours. Instead of habitually getting in your car, hybrid or not, you’ll THINK about your options because $17 seems like a lot money, as you have pointed out.

      Here is a final fact: the research data (and there’s not enough in this particular niche) indicates that a five percent decrease in traffic equates to a 50 percent increase in traffic speed. It, therefore, follows that it will not take a huge number of reasonable drivers like yourself Don to chose 1, 2, or 3 for I-66 to again become what it was designed for…

      Excuse typos, etc. Off top of head.

      1. You logic doesn’t work for me. You want to get cars off the road (in part) to save billions in road construction costs. But you won’t spend millions to save billions. I’ll leave aside the imminent extinction of the human race due to global warming.

        Overhead gantries are used extensively in places like Singapore. When you drive on a stretch of road with an overhead gantry you are charged a toll. The amount flashes up on your in-car device. We don’t need separate toll lanes we need roads that are tolled. Or, at least sections of roads that are tolled. There is no need for tolls on Rt 29 in Ruckersville because the road is not congested in Ruckersville. But when you get to Charlottesville – you get the gantries and the tolls. If you don’t like the tolls work your way around Charlottesville on surface streets. If you don’t want that level of inconvenience – take a bus.

        This can be done fairly but fairness has nothing to do with McAuliffe’s plan. He wants the transportation tax money for things other than transportation and he’s perfectly willing to keep soaking NoVa (and, to a lesser extent, Tidewater) to get his “slush fund for social good”.

        1. Yes, I’ve been to and written about Singapore’s system. But two HUGE differences between Singapore and D.C.

          1) Singapore has an authoritarian style of government and has NEVER had a different party in power. It, therefore, can — and has — made many transport decisions with little public input. Yes, I agree with most of those decisions but they could not have been undertaken in the U.S.
          2) Virtually all of the traffic in Singapore begins and ends in Singapore, a small island. A huge percentage of D.C. traffic begins in Virginia and Maryland, different jurisdictions where D.C. gov’t has little sway. Some even begins in West Virginia. There are, for all practical purposes, no suburbs in Singapore and since the causeway to Malaysia — the only real traffic generating possibility — is controlled by government it is tolled aggressively to ensure it is not overwhelmed with traffic.

          Singapore, furthermore, tolls every road and every parking space in ways that “seem” to the population like it’s just a normal course of life. You, the driver, do not have to pull change out, credit card out, etc. The monthly total is simply removed from your bank account and you don’t “feel” the pain in any obvious way UNTIL you find out you’re overdrawn. By law you cannot operate a vehicle without the toll transponder and, by law, you pay virtually the cost of your vehicle for the right to buy it. A $30,000 Toyota, in Singapore, costs you $60,000, of which $30,000 is the “toll” you pay to the government EVEN before you drive a single mile.

          A more rational comparison is Oxford.

          In Oxford, in the U.K., to deal with the democratic style of government, what the city did was force every single parking space be paid by physical pounds. You literally have to carry change enough to ensure you have some way to park in the city limits. Why? To remind you that you are being charged and give you another practical reason to chose alternative transport. “Damn, I don’t have XXX pound coins!” Oxford also, in the early 1990s, closed a bunch of downtown streets and opened a ring of park and rides so that “out of jurisdiction” commuters were incentivized to drive to the park-n-ride and then bus, for (when I was there) 1 pound (or about a third of what it cost to park in the downtown lots), into the city center. During certain hours on those city streets you literally are barred with steel barriers from taking a car down them. Within months, daily downtown traffic in Oxford was down about 20,000 vehicles per day and the parking toll was paying for the bus routes — which ran about every 10 minutes from the park-n-rides into town.

          You can still chose to drive into Oxford should you so desire but most people — being rational — chose to bike, walk (with huge health benefits) or take the park-n-ride buses which are now, due to the income from parking tolls, so constant there is virtually no delay. That did not happen overnight obviously but the same thing has happened in London where the congestion charge “nudges” people to consider their driving.

          That is the equivalent of tolling I-66. The Singapore analogy, no matter how much I like or appreciate it, has little relevance to the hodgepodge of governments involved in trying to deal with D.C. area traffic.

          By the way, I personally wish no one had to use these “push” methods but until Americans begin actually trying “pull” methods, like Australia does, it seems to be the only possibility.

          1. I am still not buying it. As for the “hodge podge” of governments – all the streets in Virginia are state property. That’s one government. As for DC and Maryland – they should do what they think appropriate for their locales. Maryland has no problem charging me a toll to go over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. So what if traffic originates in DC or Maryland – once you enter Virginia you start paying tolls. I could drive north and avoid the Chesapeake Bay Bridge but I don’t. It would add hours to my trip.

            I think the Oxford analogy has merit to an extent. Closing off the streets in Reston or Old Town Alexandria to automotive traffic works for me. But I’d close it off to all private vehicles – even for those who live there. If you want to own a car leave it in one of teh secured edge parking garages and take a but to and from the garage to get your car. Of course, the government would need to push for much higher density in those places. I lived in the loop in Chicago and in Manhattan. No need for a car in either of those places.

            As far as the two party system – yeah, that’s a challenge. You see – this is very partisan!

            The key for Singapore and Oxford is consistency. It’s not one road here that gets an exorbitant toll while the road next to it gets no toll. Tolling in Virginia is arbitrary and capricious. Here is what I found for toll rates in Richmond:


            You see any $9 tolls?

            Fredricksburg and Charlottesville both have traffic snarls – you see any $9 tolls there? Any tolls at all?

            This has nothing to do with transportation funding. That tax hike happened during the McDonnell Administration. This has nothing to do with traffic quiescence. If that were the goal then sky high tolls would be popping up all over Virginia. No, this is just another wealth transfer. Another way to soak NoVa for money to spend elsewhere in Virginia.

  5. LarrytheG Avatar

    still not understand why I-66 is a McAuliffe centric deal.

    isn’t the toll path that Va is on – one that started in the prior administration?

    Didn’t the I-95 HOT and I-495HOT start in the McDonnell administration.

    I do not recall the Dems making the tolls a partisan issue with McDonnell..

    perhaps my memory is bad.

    I say again -making this a partisan issue is stupid but not too surprising.

    you cannot build any more free lanes in NoVa even if you had the right-of-way and the money to buy it. All you’d end up doing is encouraging more folks to drive – solo at rush hour.

    and yes we have to make this about partisan politics..anyhow,. eh?

    1. Ridiculous.

      McDonnell proposed tolls in Tidewater, tolls on I-460, etc. McAuliffe has gone back to “soak NoVa”. Whether you liked McDonnell’s road construction plans or not he was using transportation funds for transportation and using an even handed approach to tolling. McAuliffe is once again trying to soak NoVa in order to buy votes elsewhere with “free stuff”. Classic Criminillary Clinton business as usual.

      As for not enough space to widen roads in NoVa – again, ridiculous. There was no way to add capacity to the Beltway until Flour – Transurban added capacity. There was no affordable way to expand the capacity on the Beltway until Flour – Transurban designed an affordable solution. The problem isn’t space or money, it’s VDOT’s lack of competence. Maybe we should just outsource VDOT to Flour – Transurban.

      McAuliffe’s ham fisted I66 toll idea is backfiring badly –

      McAuliffe has missed two important points in deciding to push his idiotic $17 toll plan ahead of this election:

      1. Pete Snyder – Mr. Snyder is a graduate of William & Mary and a successful technology entrepreneur. He is also an ardent Republican. Snyder appears to have revamped the RPV’s electronic and social marketing capabilities. As a consequence, the $17 toll absurdity is being thrust into the forefront of Northern Virginia voters. While McAuliffe plays the fool yelping about “the greatest this” and “the greatest that” in meetings Snyder’s inserted ads are taking their toll (pun intended). Favola, Murphy and Foust – the three horesemen of the Democratic apocalypse – are all back pedaling away from McAuliffe. The problem is that no NoVa voters believe they will continue to oppose McAuliffe after the election is over. They have no credibility.

      Sequestration – The cuts in Defense spending hurt NoVa. H0wever, the economy seems to have stabilized. There is only one way that happens (absent a population exodus) – a changeout of public sector jobs for private sector jobs. People who no longer benefit from the lagrasse of other people’s money start to realize that it’s now their money being taken to buy votes elsewhere. As this happens NoVa shifts from blue to purple to red.

      This is all about partisan politics. It’s about McAuliffe trying to hoard the transportation money to give away free stuff in an effort to buy votes for Criminillary Clinton next fall. He presumes she’ll win NoVa so he feels comfortable screwing NoVa to be able to buy votes elsewhere. And if, heaven forbid, she wins – who knows? Secretary of Commerce? VP? Ambassador to Ireland? The world becomes McAuliffe’s oyster.

  6. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    I agree generally with DonR and salz.

    Gotta big laugh out of:

    “In other remarks, Deputy Secretary of Transportation Nick Donohue told the conference that Virginia and California lead the country with their P3 laws, and that delegations from other states frequently visit the Old Dominion to see what has been done here. Stymied by transparency laws from talking to private corporations “off line,” he explained, other states cannot enact laws like Virginia’s. And that curtails the ability to put together deals like Virginia’s.”

    What a howler, that is.

    I-66 is the monster that incompetent local government built. Meanwhile the people who drive and ride continue to pay through the nose for government incompetence and corruption. The story goes on for generation after generation. Meanwhile Virginia continues to be the ‘national leader’ in wasting the Commonwealth’s most sacred assets, prominent among them – Virginia’s land, its natural beauty, and the time and money of its citizens.

    1. “I-66 is the monster that incompetent local government built. ”

      Too true. I was living in Arlington when I-66 inside the beltway opened. “Why on Earth did they only build two lanes in each direction” was the most common comment of the day.

      1. I lived through it also. I-66 is the road the State finally built after Arlington and others delayed it 20 years and won a court order that forbade a wider-than-two-lanes road for at least 10 more years. Yes, it was obvious from the get-go that 2 lanes was inadequate for rush hours, and you can’t blame than on VDOT but on Arlington County. Moreover DonR is right, the land is there for a wider road; in fact the property for 6+ lanes had already been condemned and cleared when I-66 was constructed; it was Arlington that pressed hard to have the ROW “re-narrowed” in places and otherwise fully occupied by sound walls and bike trails and even playgrounds and such, mainly to make it hard as possible ever to widen in future. Unlike Oxford, UK, Arlington didn’t propose any alternative plan to deal with people’s real transportation needs, like park-n-ride lots with buses. That’s because the destination of all that I-66 traffic wasn’t Arlington, at least in those days it wasn’t, but in to the District, and whoever heard of Arlington helping to facilitate commuter access from beyond its boundary into the District? Arlington closes streets at its boundary to prevent cut-throughs brought about by its anti-expressway policies; how well do you think Arlington would tolerate, let alone facilitate, the additional surface traffic brought about by tolls?

        1. Thank you, Acbar, for pointing out the hodgepodge of governments, each with it’s own agenda (and often multiple agendas), affecting all the decisions.

          Unfortunately, as Winston Churchill once put it, something like, “Americans will always do the right thing after they’ve tried everything else.” Part of that is that Uncle Sam’s generally cannot do more than bribe state or local governments; hence no DOT can demand that some city give up its parkland or bike trails or small streets or housing to build ever larger interstate-style highways. VDOT, which is inevitably accused of being an organization loving to build highways, says there is no more room to expand I-66. Since they want to build highways, they probably have good reason for saying that.

          Don wants to toll everything. Okay, but it’s not going to happen in the American political culture. Politics, after all, is the art of the possible and we’ve all grown up with “free” sparkling super highways taking us everywhere. That’s the legacy of President Eisenhower as are suburbs and exurbs and folks living in West Virginia and working in D.C. That didn’t happen overnight and it won’t be “solved” overnight.

          As Don’s own concept is illustrating, even tolling one, very much overwhelmed highway is politically difficult — and might yet be defeated by some very astute, caring and insightful folks living along I-66 who don’t want ever higher flyovers dumping sound into their homes. Their legislators, supervisors, councilors do not have to care about the greater good of the state but do have to care about the greater good of their constituents.

          Transportation, especially in a culture with a “love affair with the automobile,” is a “wicked problem,” as the researchers call problems where every “solution” causes a necessary re-evaluation of the “problem,” and yet Americans want to put our entire philosophies on bumper stickers? The I-66 situation is complex. There is no, and will not be, any simple solutions, whether those ideas come from Democrats in Republican Administrations or Republicans in Democratic Administrations or Democrats in Democratic Administrations. Whether those ideas emit from state, federal or local governments, it ain’t going to be simple.

          But world experiences indicate that drivers who shout at the introduction of something like tolling that it’s unfair or too expensive or… very quickly recognize that, as in this situation, they can carpool, they can take transit, they can drive at different times — as this I-66 program is designed by a Republican in a Democratic Administration. And in many of their individual situations, after all the original complaining, many of those drivers find themselves better off. How many great books could a far, far West driver read annually if he/she parked in the Haymarket park-n-ride daily and took Bus Rapid Transit the rest of the way to his/her job in the District? How many more chatty emails — or long comments on Bacons Rebellion — could he/she post?

  7. LarrytheG Avatar

    McDonnell did not do tolls on I-495 and I-95?

    you know, it’s a huge problem when folks can’t deal with the realities and have to make up what they want to believe.

    McDonnell had nothing to do with any of this?


    and from that – we KNOW this is a “liberal” scheme?

    no wonder our politics are so screwed up!

    1. McDonnell was ready to put tolls on congested roads and bridges all over the state. When that was thwarted he pushed through an overall transportation tax hike. I supported the tax hike then and I support it now. After the tax hike I didn’t hear McDonnell calling for $17 tolls on existing roads. He assumed the extra money from the motor fuels tax increase and the additional sales tax surcharge in NoVa and Tidewater would fund transportation. McAuliffe is getting the transportation money. He’s running a half billion dollar budget surplus while simultaneously calling for $17 dollar tolls on an existing road. He says he wants to add to the rainy day fund, improve water quality, give state workers a raise – pretty much everything except transportation.

      Where has the money from the transportation tax hike gone? McDonnell wanted to build transportation projects. He was willing to put tolls on roads across the state. McAuliffe seemingly wants to keep the transportation tax increase money, add sky high tolls only in NoVa and do something other than transportation with the proceeds.

      The RPV owns the House of Delegates but the Senate is close. This $17 toll fiasco could cost the Dems in the Senate. If so, McAuliffe’s reign of socialist terror will be short lived.

      McAuliffe would do well to remember that Robin Hood was murdered by his cousin after taking the cousin’s land unfairly. McAuliffe’s political career may suffer the same fate.

  8. Here is the citation from The Atlantic about cost of driving… business/archive/2015/10/ driving-true-costs/412237/

    1. I have no problems paying the true costs of driving for every mile I drive. Just make everybody in the state pay the true costs of their driving. Put a transponder in every car and record where and how far the car drove. Estimate the costs of driving on particular stretches of road and divide by the miles driven. Charge back the cost per mile to the owner of the car. Then, spend the transportation tax money in the transportation region where it was raised with no interference from Richmond.


      Let me guess – our incompetent, corrupt and witless state government can’t be expected to do something that straight forward?

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        not sure Don understands the rationale for tolling in NoVa and other urban congested areas.

        there is no fiscal or physical way – really to add real network capacity. You can add extra lanes in some places – but in other places -you cannot – unless you tear down developed properties.

        Even if you could do that – all you’d end up doing is incentivizing more solo driving at rush hour.

        As soon as you added capacity – you incentivize more drivers.

        the idea the tolls is NOT to collect money per se. It’s to MANAGE congestion – to put a price on congestion to incentivize carpooling and time shifting for those that can… or will.

        If you look at I-66 – you’ll see – there is no foreign toller – it’s going to be VDOT. there is no long term “give-away to a private company – it’s VDOT.

        not every trip at rush has the same economic value.

        Congestion tolling is not a “liberal” idea – it’s a Conservative idea advanced by the Heritage Foundation.

      2. Another good thought, Don. The U.K., about five years ago, advanced that “vehicle miles traveled” tax scheme and piloted it somewhere, I want to say, the Lake Country. Found out in practice it simply didn’t work due, not to the philosophy which is (my opinion) great, but due to the practicality of trying to track every mile driven. Do you charge extra for small roads which have been roads since before the Doomsday Book? Or less? Do you charge more/less for dirt roads? Do you charge/more less for English built cars? How do you ensure that the speedometer/odometer is giving realistic readings? What if drivers change the size of their tires (which changes mileage)? What if the mileage is for tax deductible volunteer work?

        The questions became virtually impossible.

        While we might all be able to be tracked today due to “autonomous vehicle” stuff and “cell phone”/”GPS”, even further compounding the issue — which England did not address — is the privacy thing and whether government has the right to keep records like this on citizens???

        You’ll note, I hope, the Snowden stuff and whther NSA should be able to keep much more generic phone data than what some gov’t would have to keep to do VMT taxing.

        Again, it works in Singapore because they have never had a truly “freedom” culture and have grown up on a small island where one can place transponders above every roadway and track where you drive and have done this for two generations. People don’t have the option there of moving to another jurisdiction. They have only the option of using transit and the vast majority do, therefore, use transit and, therefore, the transit is clean, fast and efficient. The system works, yes, but it works because it’s small; it’s authoritarian; people have never had, nor felt they had, the right to (truly) free speech. One of the most fascinating things in Singapore is the three alleys where graffiti is allowed! No where else. Just those alleys and the graffiti in them is “juried,” like an art show. It’s beautiful and brilliant art. But absolutely no where else do you see graffiti. Can you imagine Virginian graffiti “artists” agreeing to something like that? Can you imagine Virginian drivers agreeing to allow Uncle McAullife (or Uncle McDonnell) tracking everywhere we go?

        As I’ve tried to point out. This is all very complex. There aint’ no easy answer.

        1. Singapore has a population of 5.5m people. Virginia – about 8m people. Yes, there are big differences but the idea that you can’t toll by the mile is silly. The Waze mobile app (now owned by Google) could do all the tolling without the need for gantries.

          LarrytheG has no interest in paying his fair share of anything. He and Jim Bacon have long held the belief that others should pay for their costs but not Jim or Larry. Jim is a bit more subtle but fundamentally no different. You would think that the roads in Richmond are Fredricksburg are free to build, free to expand and free to operate. You’ll never hear them calling for tolls on themselves – only on others.

          And this becomes you fundamental problem Salz. If the Dems continue to penalize NoVa and Hampton to exclusion of everywhere else then the Dems will lose support in NoVa. Barbara Favola, Kathleen Murphy, etc are already trying to distance themselves from Terry McAuliffe over the I66 tolls. They know that their constituents aren’t nearly as “true blue” as has been rumored.

          And what happens if the Republicans tip the balance of power in Virginia in their favor by playing the I66 tolling card? Nothing. Nothing will happen. No mass transit. No new road construction. No slug lanes. Nothing. Had Cuccinelli been elected governor do you really think he’d be pushing for $17 tolls on I66?

          McAuliffe’s inexperience is showing. He may have been a great fund raiser but he’s missing the bigger political point. By focusing ridiculously high tolls only on NoVa he’s alienating his strongest base. Drop some sky high tolls in Fredricksburg and Richmond and listen to Jim and LarrytheG howl. Hell, the state government tired to toll Rt 81 but ran like scalded dogs when the trucking industry complained. There were going to be tolls in Tidewater until the state government chickened out.

          How long do you thing Northern Virginians are going to support people like Kathleen Murphy, Barbara Favola, Scott Surrovell etc when they are members of the party that singularly penalizes the most economically successful part of the state in order to subsidize the rest of the state?

          Well, we’ll get a glimpse tomorrow. I suspect that Murphy and Foust are both toast over the toll fiasco. I imagine there will be some other casualties as well. Salz – good luck convincing a Republican legislature and Republican governor to do any of the things you want done.

          LarrytheG misses a lot of points. One big point missed is that the sky high tolls in Virginia are only in NoVa. Larry wants to debate tolls rather than the place where the tolls were placed or the absolute cost of the tolls. McDonnell did his best to put tolls where the congestion and new roads were needed – regardless of where in the state that happened. McAuliffe has gone right back to the Democrats “soak NoVa” philosophy.

          As far as the English effort to implement vehicle mile driven tolling – good Lord, what have the English done right in the last 40 years? I like the English people I know but they have screwed up that country to a fairtheewell. Not sure I would count their lack of success as evidence that success is impossible.

          1. Thank you, again, Don for underlining the complexity of transportation and why so many rational mitigators are politically difficult. I don’t have the time to explain why, and how, to help citizen voters understand so that they can indeed elect people — regardless of party, regardless of philosophy — who “see” and produce a better future. It’s happened, and is happening, in another car culture, a culture with as high a per-capita car ownership as we do. And it’s not primarily tolls, or indeed, any “push” method.

            I’d love to talk about it, TravelSmart, sometime but this is bad month for me. You sound like an insightful thinker, Don (seeing deeply into the political world) and I’d like to hear your brain intimately.

            Let me beg one point. Please don’t, Don or Larry or Jim or X, please don’t disparage a people, a culture, a community, a party, a religion with a blanket dismissal. Yes, we ALL are human and we all screw up. Sometimes it’s a whole culture screwing up together. BUT with those kinds of blanket (“damn stupid X’s) dismissals, we minimize the possibility of learning from their (whoever “they” are) experiences, whether those experiences be pluses or minuses.

            I promise this: there is no easy answer in surface transportation. We might not be able to get there from here. But we certainly can’t as long as we keep denying the deep reality that there are only complex trade-offs in surface transportation policy.

            We, Americans, don’t ALWAYS have to re-invent the wheel.

  9. LarrytheG Avatar

    $17 tolls .. ??? have you guys been awake when I-95 was converted to HOT lanes while McDonnell was gov?

    How about I-495? do you hink that happened while McDonnell was gov?

    did we say it was a GOP “scheme” when those toll roads were done?

    and now its a “dem” scheme?

    this is why we are screwed up politically these days.

    McAuliffe wants I-66 to be a VDOT-tolled road not a foreign company and it’s still a “liberal” scheme?

    good lord!

  10. To amplify Larry’s comment, I’ve been studying these so-called P3s for a while and the privatization of highways is a massive scam on taxpayers. The OECD outright says P3s cost “far more” money that publically built highways. The financial audits of them, like in Ontario, illustrate they cost “far more” money ($8 billioin more in that case) and — in this particular situation — Sec. Layne told a Democrat, Jack Trammell, and I (whose wife calls a Republican but I don’t think of myself that way) that if I-66 became a public private partnership toll road, that VDOT’s analysis was it would cost taxpayers $1 billion more dollars than if Virginia built the infrastructure itself. If, he said, I-66 project becomes a P3 the cost of it will climb by one third!

    The McDonnell Adminstration, at best, negotiated contracts for Capital Beltway Express, 95 Toll Lanes, Elizabeth River Crossings and the now-defunct 460 Mobility Partners which have cost us in excess of $400 million of literally disappeared dollars; which punish the public purse if state/federal or local governments expand nearby highways or install bus rapid transit; which punish taxpayers if people do begin to carpool; which make taxpayers pay any tolls if said highways are ever used for emergency evacuations!

    I often think I should shoot myself because I thought — before I began the research — that private enterprise is more efficient than public. What I’ve learned is that private enterprise is efficient primarily at scamming taxpayers because we do not pay close attention while they proclaim themselves, as the privates did in McDonnell-era P3s, “capitalists gifts to taxpayers.”

  11. LarrytheG Avatar

    the first thing to recognize/acknowledge is that the states move to P3 and tolls has been occurring over the last decade through several administrations with the explicit and implicit approval of the General Assembly.

    P3, as implemented is seriously flawed because the state can and does enter into long-term agreements with private and foreign companies without the public really knowing what has been agreed to much less given a legitimate opportunity to truly participate and oppose.

    This is not a “liberal” scheme. Trying to make it about partisan politics really just derails the ability for both GOP and DEms to be held accountable to do something about it – and instead we hand then them the perfect way to do nothing and engage in political food fights with each other – with little or no results.

    Tolls are inevitable because the state does not have the money to build more lanes , can’t borrow the money without affecting their AAA credit rating.

    it would, in fact, be irresponsible for the State to borrow more money and endanger their credit rating like other states have.

    The recent gas tax increase – that Don himself has blathered about previous is to correct the erosion of revenues that occurred due to inflation and greater efficiency of cars.

    finally, it’s not about paying for roads already built and being used across the state.

    it’s about the parts of the state where growth and congestion are outpacing the ability to do much about it – even with more money – because adding lanes in some places and not in others just moves the congestion to the next bottleneck.

    so the problem is too many cars – and especially so at rush hour with little realistic ability to improve it in any major way-

    even then – if they did do it – what happens is – it draws more traffic.

    people automatically adapt to find the lowest travel time routes and if capacity is added – people WILL use it – and in doing so – put the congestion back to the previous levels.

    this is NOT a NoVA or Hampton issue much less a partisan political one.

    This problem is going on across the United States – and in fact around the world wherever there are urban areas with significant auto traffic.

    these hated foreign tollers actualy got their start in Europe, Australia, Japan, etc…

    Our duty in all of this – is to not be IGNORANT. To understand, to resist the urge to re-frame this is partisan terms, evil foreign companies, and conspiracy theories about VDOT and state officials.

    this is the very reason why elected officials don’t like to deal with the public on contentious issues like this – the public is willfully ignorant and downright nasty – with little or no useful input on alternatives.

    this is also the reason elected officials prefer to pander and stoke the opposition fires – so they can portray themselves as opposed to these things – demonize their political opponents and do nothing what-so-ever.

    When Bill Howell says kill the toll and immediately add extra lanes – he KNOWS the financial reality of that – he knows the reality -yet he still plays this game like his cohorts do.

  12. LarryG, you say, “Our duty in all of this – is to not be IGNORANT. To understand, to resist the urge to re-frame this is partisan terms, evil foreign companies, and conspiracy theories about VDOT and state officials. . . . Trying to make it about partisan politics really just derails the ability for both GOP and DEms to be held accountable to do something about it.” Yes, of course, sounds great, but who is going to hold them accountable? The GA? They ONLY act on partisan issues. The SOT? He can’t act, assuming he wants to, without political backing. The VDOT bureacracy itself? Never worth the career risk to step out of line and demand, much less admit, accountability. Our system IS partisan. The only way to reform the system is change the partisan dynamic at the voter level — which of course is precisely what partisanship is all about! As Salz said, we have a “hodgepodge of governments, each with its own agenda.” We have to educate a lot of voters through partisanship, not in spite of it, to change even one, and doing that on a Statewide scale — to bring about accountability, for instance, over the US460 fiasco — does indeed seem daunting.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      @Acbar – you make good point – but when the public does not itself understand issues AND does not really want to but instead respond almost viscerally to change – then those that represent them essentially have to choice of trying to interact with them and get the information involved or they lose faith that trying to actually deal with facts is just going to get them in political trouble – they then know that actually trying to engage is risky and futile.

      it takes a leader who is willing to risk being tossed out for telling the truth to the voters… to make headway.

      and so far – there not too many willing to tell the truth – and perhaps pay the price for being honest and telling voters the realities.

      then we have the ones who see such issues as the way to gain political advantage – and they have absolutely no intention of actually squaring with the voters.

      I don’t blame McDonnell for turning I-95 and 495 into HOT lanes. I don’t blame him for pushing through changes to the gas tax – not the least of which is indexing it … so it floats with the prices. And I don’t really blame him for US 460 – I more blame Conhaugton who took full advantage of PPTA to try to push though a project.

      But when Bill Howell, who knows full well – and played a roll in PPTA and HOT Lane development – gets up and takes a different position on I-66 – than has before – I see that as not helpful. He admonition to build free lanes NOW – when he well knows the finances of the state and VDOT – and he did not say he would actually sponsor legislation to do just that- what can you say?

      1. This is an excellent summary of our political class today:

        “It takes a leader who is willing to risk being tossed out for telling the truth to the voters… to make headway. And so far – there not too many willing to tell the truth – and perhaps pay the price for being honest and telling voters the realities. Then we have the ones who see such issues as the way to gain political advantage – and they have absolutely no intention of actually squaring with the voters.”

        Let’s assume we can tell the difference between these two camps: the question remains, with even those who might be in the first group squandering their potential reputations for truth-telling in desperation to get themselves elected from among a pack of candidates that promises everything and blames everyone else, fearless of ever being held accountable for what they’ve said, before audiences that applaud the most outrageous behavior not the most sensible, how do we, who care about the result, go about getting good people elected?

        Guess we’ll find out in a year. Certainly not this year.

  13. LarrytheG Avatar

    @TMT/others – Do any of you folks who live in NoVa know what positions the MPO and the NVTA have taken on tolling in general and congestion tolling as a travel demand management tool?

    do they support it – oppose it or are mute on it?


  14. Again, Larry, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments ran five demographically-selected workshops in/around the District a few years ago explaining the complex reality of D.C.-area traffic.

    Those citizens determined that, of the three possibilities MWCOG put up, tolling was the best (of the all bad) “solutions.” They also acknowledged that rational gasoline taxing was even better — though it was not one of the “solutions” MWCOG offered.

    To me — and maybe only me — that illustrates that Americans can learn and can think outside the “left-right” political box and can see our way towards rational solutions. We’ve got to get people out of single occupancy vehicles and a huge part of the problem, as you have pointed out, is that virtually no driver recognizes that his/her/my driving is a crucial bit of the problem.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      thanks Salz – that’s good news but puzzling also listening to the election politics… which sound like some are not in agreement at all!

  15. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    The failure to widen I-66 beyond two lanes through Arlington County was the last nail in the coffin that buried a workable transportation road net around Washington DC, and throughout Northern Virginia in particular.

    How we got there is a very long story.

    The story goes back to before the American Revolution. Since then it has been playing the same tune like a broken record over and over.

    But the Point of No Return on the Road to Perdition for Northern Virginia was not reached until the 1970s. In that decade Northern Virginia tied a final Gordian Knot into its own Road Net. It was the last of many bad habits and decisions. So the affect was cumulative. But the crime was local, crippling I-66 west of Glebe Road to the Capital Beltway. But its harm is monumental, growing daily still. It’s damage and its victims radiate outward, throughout an entire region, and up and down the East Coast from Maine to Florida, even today.

    Metaphors abound. That single decision triggered the trap door that dropped all of Northern Virginia into a hole until the knot cinched tight. It’s left an entire region hung by its neck for now more than 45 years, strangling on its own success, caught in irreconcilable transportation Armageddon.

    But this Gordian Knot was only the final act of a kind of suicide.

    Remarkable, this was not a plainly unintended or unforeseen consequence. The consequences were plain and obvious to see and predict for many. The harm started the day I-66 opened to traffic west of Glebe Road at Ballston. Nor have the root causes been confronted or effectively dealt with since. What we witness now is a monumental failure on all levels of government. This encompasses generations of failures by our leaders, whether in or out of government, and entire institutions, and ALL OF US too.

    To be continued.

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      “The failure to widen I-66 beyond two lanes through Arlington County was the last nail in the coffin that buried a workable transportation road net around Washington DC, and throughout Northern Virginia in particular. How we got there is a very long story. The story goes back to before the American Revolution. Since then it has been playing the same tune like a broken record over and over.”

      How can events and circumstances going far back into history (before the 1750s) dictate the making of a horrible decision “freely made” in 1970s?

      How can those long ago events and circumstances result in a decision that permanently constricts the right of way of an “Interstate Highway” so that that road that was built for the express purpose of facilitating interstate traffic up and down the East Coast in fact works to achieve the precise opposite result? And thus this decision that was ‘freely arrived at’ by local government, Federal courts, Federal and state agencies, and non-profit organizations, worked to irrevocably harm the ability of interstate traffic to travel by Interstate Highway on the East Coast of the US for generations?

      And in committing that crime all of these people and institutions, many entrusted with promoting interstate commerce, worked hard and successfully at thwarting it.

      How can those long ago events and circumstances generate forces so powerful and so long lasting that they achieve such a perverse consequence.

      This is a primal story. The ancient Greeks struggled with it. They named such such matters and their consequences FATE.

      Fate ruled the lives of ancient peoples, including Greeks until Thucydides. He only breached the ramparts of fate. It’s a constant struggle. One that pits us against our own human psyche, this fight of ours against our Fate.

      FATE enslaves many of us still. Including the Greeks. For good reason.

      To better grasp what we’re up against when we are up against FATE we need to try to better understand deep history and its workings, how its memory is impressed within us, conscious and unconscious, and how its force and consequences for good and ill impact our lives, circumstances, and future.

      This is not easy. There are many hidden forces at play in deep history. The Old Testament understood this problem well. Thus the ancient Israelites trying to understand their world and place in it built the Hebrew Bible on the foundation stones of deep history, what they could divine from it:

      For Example:

      A/ Sibling Rivalry – Cain v. Able, Ishmael v. Isaac, Esau v. Jacob
      B/ Father Son rivalry (starting with Abraham)
      C/ the role of geography our quests for power, whether it be political power and/or spiritual power (including memory) and/or wealth (land, money, women, domination of whatever).

      Then throw in Adam and Eve! Like the Old Testament did.

      These quests rule our lives and actions over untold generations. Most often they are invisible forces that rule us. Hence their perverse consequences that often drive whole peoples, societies and cultures over cliffs. Like what happened in the 1970s on I-66 west of Glebe Road to the Capital Beltway.

      To be continued.

  16. LarrytheG Avatar

    I note the NVTA supports additional lanes inside the beltway as long as they don’t go beyond the existing sound walls…

    that sort of sounds like you can add lanes in some places but not others and that does not sound like something to do – it will just cause merge bottlenecks…

    it’s also been pointed out that there IS Metro .. at least for some.

    the workshops that Salz alludes to – sounds to me that if you sit down with people and show them the realities and realistic solutions – they will choose . … but the ones who don’t go through that experience seem to not embrace the realities nor accept the realistic solutions.

    finally – I do not see the NVTA or the Washington area MPO – opposing tolls nor opposing congestion tolls…. I assume they are on board.

    It appears to me that at least more than a few elected officials are also pretty much on board.

    but there is also a vocal segment of citizens and elected who disagree.

  17. Bob Matthias Avatar
    Bob Matthias

    VDOT will consider P’3 for outside the beltway. That project will include increased capacity. Inside the beltway is only going to toll SOV drivers who are now ILLEGALLY using the road. The proposed project will not impact current LEGAL users. Arlington has a long history of blocking I 66 expansion to the point of personally suing Pierce Homer who was Secy of Transportation.

  18. The present design planned for “Outside the Beltway” I-66 is three in-bound free lanes, three out-bound free lanes, and two toll lanes in both directions. VDOT is holding, and has held, several public hearings and meetings and trying to adjust as per the input.

    There are five park-n-rides planned with Bus Rapid Transit on the toll lanes. Each-n-ride park is planned to have direct access to the toll lanes so that buses and carpools can immediately get on and off quickly.

    If the project does become a “public-private partnership,” taxpayers — as we were in all the prior P3s — will likely get screwed. We’ve lost millions already.

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      salz –

      I believe I understand why 1-66 inside the Beltway does not work now. And why it never worked. Indeed the completion of that “interstate within the Beltway” paradoxically showed us in real time that Northern Virginia was then irrevocably split into two, and that never the twain would meet again.

      What I don’t understand is why 1-66 has failed so soon and keeps failing outside the Capital Beltway.

      Here I was under the impression (perhaps false) that all concerned with I-66 outside the Beltway had a far broader canvas to work with. And that this venture was for the shared benefit of Fairfax and Prince William County, a task that did not share the heavy load of toxic history shared by Arlington County, the City of Falls Church and Fairfax County.

      Yet the growing failure of I-66 outside the beltway, while it was not obvious to me from the start, nevertheless became apparent very early on and thereafter grew with remarkable speed. I was driving that road outside the beltway with great regularity on the weekends between 1975 and the early 1990s. Perhaps the vastly increasing loads over those years were the cumulative affect of many poor decisions spread around many places.

      Remarkably they arose with implacable power despite our dodging the otherwise fatal bullet fired at N. Virginia by Mickey Mouse and his band of brothers at Disney World bent on recreating the Civil War at Bull Run. Thanks are due many heroes back then for beating off that ill conceived venture with a stick.

  19. Arghhh. Lost long response so quickee: Brilliant short-hand over the Disney Civil War issue. Thank you.

    I don’t think the long-term (outside beltway) VDOT plan can work without VDOT’s inside beltway plan — regardless of how we “got here.” To “push” drivers from the far west out of cars and into carpooling or Bus Rapid Transit,” VDOT has to have them “feel the pain.” Hence, high tolls to get from way west, even West Virginia, into D.C. BUT only at the worst congestion times, rush hours. American research data illustrates that most of us won’t try new behavior unless there is a strong economic incentive to do so (but TravelSmart illustrates that this data is flawed). Without the high tolls, few of us will even try carpooling or transit — see all Don’s comments — and those drivers “inside” or “near-inside” can 1) drive at different times or 2) carpool too. Plus, inside/near drivers also have already existing Metro which, while no where close to great transit, is at least an option.

    The last aspect of VDOT’s “outside beltway” concept is to leave the very center of I-66 free of any pavement for potentially future Metro expansion. Yep, expansion is expensive. But it’s still cheaper than highways. Unfortunately, federal funding — believe it or not — is slanted towards building highways over transit. (Long story but it’s where we are). Therefore, local governments usually choose “more highways” over “more transit” because Uncle Sam picks up more of the cost. It is VERY bizarre that voters consider transit subsidized when the data is that highways receive about three times the amount of federal, state and local dollars than transit does.

    None of this I66 thing is taking place in vacuum, by the way. Lots of public input. There are very intelligent folks living along I-66 who are greatly opposed to VDOT’s plans (or Layne’s plans) and should be. They worry, with good reason, about the sound and pollution issues expanding I-66 will create. They worry about I-66 drivers instead of paying tolls trying to go through their neighborhoods. They worry about the value of their homes. They SHOULD do all of the above and those who dismiss their concerns as NIMBYs are missing that key point. Those I-66 opponents not only have the right to care, they also have the responsibility. If they aren’t involved in this process, than what group of citizens should be?

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