Arlington Sues Virginia Over HOT Lanes

The Newspaper
by The Newspaper

The Arlington County Board on Wednesday [above] filed suit against the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) over the High Occupancy Toll (HOT) Lanes project proposed for Interstates 95 and 395. The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has been determined to sell the existing High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) ride-sharing lanes to an Australian company in return for an up-front payment. Arlington officials claimed that in the rush to ram the project through the system, state and federal officials bypassed environmental laws. “I wish it did not have to come to this, but the County was left with no alternative,” Board Chairman Barbara A. Favola said in a statement. “We are encouraged that VDOT has elected to delay the project.”

The primary objection of officials in the liberal stronghold of Arlington is that this deal appears to favor automobiles over mass transit and could create additional noise that would bother residents living near the highway. Arlington has also been raising questions since 2005 about the potentially high cost of tolls, bottlenecks where the toll lanes end at the border with the District of Columbia, the safety impact of narrowing lanes and the impact on side street traffic patterns.

“While affluent commuters who drive alone will get improved access to existing, highly efficient transit and the HOV corridor, those who cannot afford the tolls will experience longer commutes,” the county board said in its statement. “The project will also worsen air quality in the region, particularly along the project corridor, disparately impacting low income and minority communities.”

The I-395 HOT Lane project, however, does not involve any new construction. An Australian tolling company, Transurban, will restripe and narrow the existing HOV lanes to include three lanes within the current space built with federal and state taxpayer dollars for two lanes. These lanes reverse depending on the time of day. Arlington’s suit claims that turning the eight-lane freeway into a nine-lane highway will make a significant difference in “harmful air emissions.”

FHWA granted VDOT a “categorical exclusion” to environmental requirements for the project, allowing the project to proceed more quickly. This allowed VDOT to skip nearly all of the mandatory public comment periods and minimize public input on the project. Arlington’s lawsuit claims that this analysis done to support the exclusion was insufficient and must be redone.

“The county cannot support the project unless the commonwealth agrees to postpone the agreement with Fluor-Transurban and properly and adequately models and evaluates the project in accordance with all applicable standards and guidelines in order to determine the project’s impacts on transit and HOV, traffic in the non-restricted lanes, and local streets,” Arlington County Attorney Stephen MacIsaac said. “We urge the state to ensure that the project is redesigned to reflect the new analysis and full range of impacts; and fund the mitigation of those impacts by incorporating the mitigation measures in the agreement with Fluor-Transurban.”

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  • Greg Locock Greg Locock on Aug 24, 2009

    "Why is it that seemingly every single plan to gang rape the average taxpaying motorist (speed cameras, red light cameras on 2 second yellows, and now this) is run by some Australian company?" Cos our capitalists are more aggressive than yours. And haven't gone quite as bust lately. Must admit it isn't a trend I'm especially proud of, and this scheme in particular seems even more absurd than the others - we paint some white lines on a publically funded road and then charge tolls! Ah well, the ticker code is TCL.AX if you want to buy into them.

  • GS650G GS650G on Aug 24, 2009

    Australians love of driving is similar to Americans and their government is a bit more aggressive in enforcing rules and regulations. There is obviously a financial incentive to the enforcement but there exists a strong desire for orderly conformity. This breeds industry where intrusion into the lives and activities of the average Joe is tolerated and encouraged. Same thing with the UK. Where Redflex and the rest of them run into problems is the US system of 50 state governments and a federal constitution. You don't get sign-off from one department or overseer. And local representatives are very sensitive to the reaction of the public. Unlike the UK or Oz these types of things are not a done deal for the masses. So far there is a high degree of resistance to the electronic traffic cops because Americans feel they deserve to be challenged by an officer on the side of the road and more than a few see minor infractions as no big deal. If you're late for work a little extra speed may be necessary. If the light turns yellow and you can make it, you do. Let's not even go into roadside emissions scans that CA is proposing at stop lights. It's the revenue arrangements that get people rankled because it is viewed as a private company profiting from the ticket and raising the fine accordingly. If 95% of the fine went to the local gub'mint I submit there would be less outrage. But huge amounts of revenue flow to the company with the contract. Can't a local police force buy this system and run it themselves? The huge amount of revenue generated shows it would make money. As long as the populace didn't demand it be withdrawn.

  • Stephen Never had such a problem with my Toyota products.
  • Vulpine My first pickup truck was a Mitsubishi Sport... able to out-accelerate the French Fuego turbo by Renault at the time. I really liked the brand back then because they built a model for every type of driver, including the rather famous 300/3000GT AWD sports car (a car I really wanted, but couldn't afford.)
  • Vulpine A sedan version of either car makes it no longer that car. We've already seen this with the Mustang Mach-E and almost nobody acknowledges it as a Mustang.
  • Vulpine Not just Chevy, but GM has been shooting itself in the foot for the last three decades. They've already had to be rescued once in that period, and if they keep going as they are, they will need another rescue... assuming the US govt. will willing to lose more money on them.
  • W Conrad Sedans have been fine for me, but I were getting a new car, it would be an SUV. Not only because less sedans available, but I can't see around them in my sedan!