VDOTs HOT lanes plans for I-66 are being painted as "a toll system to finance more biking and walking trails in Arlington." Personally, I think that would be fantastic but it's not accurate.
What VDOT is planning to do is to turn the current HOV-2 lanes inside the beltway into HOT lanes at peak periods. What this means is that if you are current car-pool motorist, nothing changes except that there are more other drivers in those lanes (at least until the standard goes from HOV-2 to HOV-3). If you are not a car-pool motorist, you now have the OPTION of paying to use these lanes for a price. The plan will also add transit, expand commuter lots and lengthen and improve the Custis Trail. The only real losers here would be car-pool drivers (and perhaps reverse commuters, though their toll will be less because of supply and demand).
But the non-HOV-2 drivers are complaining about a toll which they currently don't pay for a road which they currently don't drive. And they're making this a exurban driver vs. suburban cyclist issue.
Loudoun County Supervisor Kenneth Reid (R-Leesburg): “It’s a scam to charge the reverse commuters so little.” The plan, he said, gives D.C., Maryland and Arlington drivers preferential treatment. Meanwhile, the toll revenue will go to create a “slush fund for Arlington and Falls Church bikers.”
Not sure how supply and demand is a scam, but I can't wait to get my hands on that slush fund.*
House Majority Whip Jackson Miller (R-Manassas) had this to say: “A $17 per-day toll on commuters just trying to get to work would be outrageous even if it was going to double or triple the capacity of I-66 inside the Beltway. Asking commuters from Prince William, Manassas, Fairfax and Loudoun to pay such an outrageous amount for the privilege of sitting in the same unmoving lanes of traffic so Arlington can have nice new bike paths is unconscionable."
$17 is a lot of money. Of course Metro+parking at the Silver Line's Wiehle-Reston East station costs $16.65 a day at peak. And I think you've had to pay tolls already, just to get to there. I'm sure Miller is outraged about that too.
Dr. Gridlock notes that
While the HOT lanes program has enjoyed bipartisan support in Virginia for more than a decade, it may be good politics for the GOP to frame the I-66 situation as harried commuters from the outer suburbs versus pedal-heads in Arlington County — Democratic-leaning Arlington County — who want to impose tolls on drivers to pay for new bike lanes.
Tolling I-66 may be a good idea (I think so) or not, but expanding the Custis Trail clearly is.
*The term slush fund is a nautical term, by the way. When a ship would come into port, its kitchen would have built up quite a bit of grease, and that grease (or slush) could be sold for a nice chunk of off-the-books funds. Thus it could be spent on almost anything. And by "almost anything" I mean rum and prostitutes. Which, coincidentally, is what I hope Arlington and Falls Church bikers spend theirs on.