The Improving Road Situation in Arlington
One of the things that unites Arlingtonians the most is that they all are heavily invested in improving the traffic situation in the area.
The roads aren’t particularly bad in the county. Driving along Lee Highway, Route 50, or Columbia Pike rarely leads to the type of congestion that one might experience further out along those routes.
The exception to this, of course, is the limited access highways. Arlington has two Intestate Highways: The Martha Custis Memorial Highway, better known as I-66, and the Shirley Highway, better known as I-395.
In Arlington, Columbia Pike recorded an average daily traffic count of 27,000 cars a day in 2009 according to Virginia Department of Transportation reports. Another major east-west thoroughfare in Arlington, Lee Highway, ranges from 18,000 to 27,000 cars a day.
In Fairfax City, by contrast, Lee Highway jumps up to 39,000 cars per day farther westward while Route 7 (Leesburg Pike) jumps to over 60,000 cars a day as it nears Tyson’s Corner. Considering the frequency of traffic lights, that’s well beyond any road’s ability to manage traffic during rush hour.
In both directions, 183,000 cars passed through Interstate 395 from the Quaker Lane to Glebe Road exits. Average daily traffic counts for I-66 ranged from 72,000 to 113,000 cars in Arlington and were roughly equal in Fairfax County. This is less of a problem, however in Fairfax County because I-66 expands to more than two lanes west of Arlington.
So, in summary, Fairfax has congested roads AND 4-line interstate highways that still get congested. Arlington has highly congested interstate highways, but it has manageable roads.
It’s also worth noting that the interstate highways are really a work in progress. The congestion at I-66 has been a heavy concern to lawmakers and different studies have been commissioned including one at the congressional level that was earmarked by Virginia congressman Frank Wolf.
This past December, a multibillion dollar study led by the VDOT and assisted by several top transportation consulting companies on the East coast, held town hall meetings in Arlington and Falls Church to discuss key issues affecting pedestrian, bicycle, mass transit and vehicular traffic along I-66 and to prevent findings.
Their study found that I-66 was deemed overcapacity in the westbound direction in the morning rush hour (6:30 to 9 AM) from exits 71 to 69. It was also deemed overcapacity in the eastbound direction during the morning rush hour from exits 67 to 71 and 72 in the on to Washington and from exits 66-71 in the evening rush hour (4-6:30 PM). Clearly, the highway being overcapacity is not just an annoyance but a problem affecting the livability of the area and a highly costly one at that.
The Virginia Department of Transportation is sincerely concerned to hear what everyone in the affected communities have to say. Anyone interested in the future of this transportation corridor and wanting to voice their concerns can call the project hotline at the toll free number 1-855-STUDY66 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The study is currently in the stage of taking initial recommendations and in the near future (they’re informational packet states that they anticipate this to occur in April), recommendations will be drafted and another round of public meetings will be held to review those recommendations. More information can be found at www.i66multimodalstudy.com.
So yes, there is hope for a smoother commute for Arlingtonians, but it’s up to us to figure out how.