Many Alexandrians got their wayMonday when opposition to the state’s HOT Lanes project mixed with fundingissues, rendering the project cooked at least for now.
The Virginia Department ofTransportation notified local officials that the project, intended to decreasecongestion along I-95 and I-395 by expanding High Occupancy Vehicle lanes, hasbeen suspended due to the difficult economic environment and opposition fromarea residents and government officials.
VDOT intended to reach anagreement with a private contractor, Fluor-Transurban, this month. It’s thesecond stall by the partnership that in June decided to break the project intophases, citing the challenging financial market and Fluor-Transurban’sinability to secure the necessary funding.
Residents and governmentofficials were worried that the project’s impacts would include more congestionin neighborhoods like Parkfairfax, near the Shirlington rotary, where morevehicles would exit and enter under the HOT Lanes proposal.
Duke Street and SeminaryRoad, where the Army’s new Base Realignment and Closure facility at Mark Centerwill attract 6,400 workers and commuters once it is built, will still be givenattention despite the project’s idleness, VDOT officials said.
“The project team willcontinue to work collaboratively with Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax Countystaff to address the local traffic impact issues between Eads Street and DukeStreet,” wrote Malcom Kerley, the project’s chief engineer, in a letter tocity officials. “There is very significant work underway to address thetraffic impacts of BRAC and other new development at Seminary Road and to minimizeor eliminate local traffic impacts at the Shirlington rotary.”
The decision promptedArlington County to file a lawsuit in federal court Tuesday questioning thevalidity of proceeding with the project before a study on the environmentaleffects the project would have on localities.
“While the hundreds ofAlexandrians and Arlingtonians who have mobilized in opposition to the projectas currently proposed do recognize the legitimate need for transportationimprovements along I-395/95,” said Del. David Englin (D-45) in a writtenstatement. “We must continue to demand that nothing move forward until afull and comprehensive environmental assessment provides the data necessary toensure that no harm will come to our community as a result.”
“In my view a view Ibelieve will be validated by analysis resulting from this legal action awin-win solution will be based on transit that moves people and does not simplyincrease the volume of cars moving from Stafford and Prince William into theDistrict of Columbia.”
In his letter to localofficials, Kerley wrote that “Better understanding of the local impactsand operational issues at Eads Street will require more time and analysis”and that improvements at Shirlington or Seminary Road will not proceed untilfurther study is completed.