Virginia's I-66 project moves forward

A project that aims to improve 25 miles of Virginia’s I-66 corridor is progressing as it enters the second stage of an environmental study.

The I-66 project, which aims to provide relief to the ‘traffic-choked’ Interstate 66 corridor, is one step closer to realisation as it enters the second phase of an environmental study, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe said in a recent statement.

The Tier 2 Environmental Assessment will evaluate site-specific conditions and potential effects the project would have on air quality, noise, neighborhoods, parks, recreation areas, historic properties, wetlands and streams, according to the statement.

The Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement was approved by the Federal Highway Administration in November 2013.

“The first phase determined the broad brush stroke of the project, the second phase refines it,” a spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) told Infrastructure Investor. The second phase of the study is expected to take 17 months to complete.

“By the end of 2016, our plan is to complete environmental work, identify funding sources, receive federal approval, and move forward on a plan to turn I-66 into the efficient, multi-modal corridor that Virginia’s economy needs,” McAuliffe said in the statement.

The I-66 project, which involves improvements on a 25-mile segment of the highway, has been under consideration for quite some time.

Last July, Virginia’s Office of Transportation Public-Private Partnerships (OTP3) announced that the candidate project, estimated to cost between $2 billion and $3 billion, would have moved into the procurement stage in 2013-2014.

I-66 is still a candidate as a public-private partnership, according to the VDOT spokesperson.

Improvements to I-66 will provide three regular lanes in each direction, two express lanes in each direction, a high-frequency bus service, and direct access between the express lanes and new or expanded commuter lots.

“As on the 495 Express Lanes and soon-to-open 95 Express Lanes, tolls would be congestion-based and motorists would have the choice of driving free in the regular lanes or paying a toll to use the express lanes,” according to the statement.

The current requirement for high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes would be raised from two to three, meaning car-pools of three or more people (instead of two) would be allowed to ride in the HOV lanes for free.

The improvements do not preclude the addition of metro, light rail or bus rapid transit in the future, the Governor’s office said.

Marquee-name firms responded to the Request for Information (RFI), OTP3 issued last year, with 19 parties offering recommendations on how to improve the 25-mile corridor connecting Route 15 in Prince William County to I-495 in Fairfax County.