Thursday, June 09, 2005

HOT Ideas for Crowded I-95

Now come more details of two PPTA proposals to build HOT (high-occupancy toll) lanes down the congested I-95 corridor. One comes from a team led by Clark Construction and Shirley Contracting, the second is led by Fluor Enterprises. Both proposals come with price tags close to $1 billion but use no public funding, according to a report.

The proposals would convert and extend existing HOV lanes farther south; tolls would be collected electronically and rise or fall depending on demand. HOV-3 vehicles and buses would still travel free. There are multimodal elements as well - the Clark plan includes funding for more Virginia Railway Express rail cars and expanded bus and van pool service. Fluor's plan would add BRT (bus rapid transit) service.

An advisory panel will hold its first of four meetings on the project on July 12 in Stafford County. The I-95 corridor clearly needs help - is a toll-funded road the right answer?


At 9:18 AM, Blogger Jim Bacon said...

There are many attractive features of the HOT lane proposals. One, the projects would be self-funding, requiring no state dollars. Two, nobody would be forced to pay tolls if they didn't want to. Commuters would remain free to travel down the same "free" lanes of I-95 that they currently do. (This is in marked contrast to the situation on the Dulles Toll Road where the tolls have been extended and are being diverted to pay for an unrelated mass transit project.) Three, the HOT lane proposals would encourage the use of mass transit (Virginia Railway Express, van pools, and/or bus rapid transit) that would significantly increase the capacity of I-95.

My only concern is whether extending the HOT lanes all the way to Spotsylvania will accelerate the urban sprawl already taking place in the Fredericksburg region. By diminishing the time cost of driving to employment centers in Prince William and Fairfax, the HOT lanes might induce more hop-scotch development as far south as Caroline County.

At 9:15 PM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

Or, we could reduce the VMT and move the jobs to where people live. What on earth is so Almighty special about downtown Washington that we wo even consider spending billions of dollars and millions of man hours moving people back and forth every day when it is not necessary? We need more ring cities like Fredericksburg so we can stop this idiocy.

Does Urban sprawl have to look the way it does? Of course not, but that is a separate issue from creating a system for unneccessary travel to begin with.

If Fredericksburg had enough jobs to support its citizens, it would no longer be a sprawl center, but a community.

At 8:07 PM, Blogger COD said...

But the reality is that if Fburg had those jobs, property values would skyrocket even more than they already have around here, and people would be driving into F'burg from Louisa County or south of Richmond somewhere.

It's a no win game. On the other hand, I already live here in a house I couldn't afford to buy today - so bring it on :)

At 11:59 PM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

Chris, I'm afraid you are right.

That is part of what is wrong with this whole "balanced communities" idea. Balance is a dynamic concept that implies constant change, yet it is being presented as a static, steady-state solution.

I think it is simple minded.


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