SENATE DEMS MARK DEAL TO ENSURE TIMELY WIDENING OF I-66
Changes to original ‘Transform 66’ plan reflect input, advocacy of Democratic senators
RICHMOND — This afternoon, Senate Democrats responded to a deal between the governor and the General Assembly that substantially alters the McAuliffe administration’s “Transform 66” plan. The revised proposal reflects certain Northern Virginia lawmakers’ argument that tolls should not be imposed on I-66 unless lanes are added inside the Beltway. Notably, Sen. Jeremy McPike (D - Prince William), Sen. Chap Petersen (D - Fairfax), and Sen. Jennifer Wexton (D - Loudoun) have all championed this view — both in a January letter and elsewhere.
Said Sen. McPike, “This is an issue of commuter fairness and timing. Drivers want to see a direct benefit for their investment. We also need to show commuters that toll revenue is staying within the I-66 corridor.”
Said Sen. Petersen, “Adding lanes is the surest way to lessen gridlock on I-66. By paying for a wider interstate up front, we can ensure that commuters reap those benefits sooner. I’m proud to have fought for this change.”
Said Sen. Wexton, “This revised plan is a better deal for Northern Virginia families and commuters. Widening I-66 is one of the best steps we can take to reduce gridlock, and I am glad to have helped ensure that widening happens in a timely fashion.”
Gov. McAuliffe’s original “Transform 66” proposal called for tolling single-occupant vehicles on I-66 inside the Beltway during peak travel times. The resulting revenue would have been used to relieve congestion in Northern Virginia. That proposal left open the possibility of, but did not require, an eventual inside-the-Beltway widening if other measures failed to adequately ease congestion.
In response, individual Democratic senators had put forward bills (e.g., Sen. Petersen’s SB 234 and Sen. McPike’s SB 516) to prevent tolls on existing lanes of existing interstate highways, or — more particularly — on I-66 inside the Beltway. In a January letter signed by Sens. McPike, Petersen, and Wexton, Northern Virginia legislators argued that no tolls should be levied until I-66 had been widened inside the Beltway.
The administration’s revised proposal, announced today at a morning press conference, provides for such widening; moreover, it would pay for that widening with existing funds as opposed to future toll revenues, ensuring that it happens in a more timely fashion than would otherwise have been the case.