FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 27, 2013
Stewart Schwartz, CSG, 703-599-6437
Roger Diedrich, Sierra Club, 703-352-2410
Public-Private Toll Deals Have Taken Control of Public Process and Ignore Local Concerns
Rush to do Privatized I-66 HOT Lanes by McDonnell Administration
“Every Virginia resident should be concerned about how the Public Private Transportation Act is distorting transportation decision-making and shutting down objective public review and debate,” said Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth.
Today, the McDonnell administration announced their pursuit of a Public-Private Transportation deal for a HOT lanes project on I-66. This announcement comes on the heels of a vote by the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, protesting the decision to exclude rail transit options as priorities for the I-66 corridor and asking for reconsideration of the plan. The Commonwealth Transportation Board voted in May, just a few weeks after public comments on the I-66 proposal.
“The McDonnell/Connaughton administration has once again run rough-shod over local elected officials and a chartered regional transportation body, this time the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority. This mirrors their ‘my way or the highway’ approach to the Northern Virginia transit officials, regarding the Charlottesville 29 Bypass, Hampton Roads tunnel deal and Route 460 to name a few,” said Dan Holmes, State Policy Director for the Piedmont Environmental Council.
“It’s ridiculous for the Governor to claim he welcomes multi-modal options to improve travel along the I-66 corridor when his administration (the Commonwealth Transportation Board) eliminated all three rail-based transit options from study, which could significantly lesson the justification for additional lanes.” said Roger Diedrich, Transportation Chair for the Sierra Club – Virginia Chapter. “This means these transit options might be considered only after more lanes and tolls are locked in.”
By pushing the transit alternatives aside, the state ensures that these options will lack the legal standing of alternatives advanced in the Environmental Impact Study, mirroring how VDOT pushed aside rail and local transportation solutions in the I-81 Tier 1 EIS
The Coalition for Smarter Growth and Sierra Club – Virginia Chapter were among those who wrote strong critiques of the I-66 study. However, VDOT never provided responses to the public or allowed for additional consultation with elected officials and the public prior to the CTB’s rushed vote.
“Here’s why the public should care: Not only will the tolls be placed under private control again and for as long as 75 years, but the longer-term more effective approach for the corridor would be one that focuses on VRE, Metrorail or light rail and rapid bus services all linked to compact, walkable, transit-oriented development,” said Schwartz. “HOT lanes speed some trips, but the commuter vehicles will still crowd Tysons, Arlington and DC. Only by changing the patterns and form of development and providing effective transit alternatives for peak hour commuting can we make the I-66 corridor and our job centers function for the long-term.”
“We urge the McDonnell administration to take a step back on reconsider its proposal for I-66. It simply hasn’t been properly vetted. It’s time to put the public and our elected officials back at the table and to stop the back-room deals with private toll road firms,” concluded Diedrich.
About the Coalition for Smarter Growth
The Coalition for Smarter Growth is the leading organization in the Washington D.C. region dedicated to making the case for smart growth. Our mission is to promote walkable, inclusive, and transit-oriented communities, and the land use and transportation policies needed to make those communities flourish. To learn more, visit the Coalition’s website at www.smartergrowth.net.