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The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors likely would endorse a proposal to add tolled express lanes to Interstate 66, depending on the specifics of the proposal.

Last week, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) announced that the state has issued a request for information to solicit private sector input on approaches to relieving congestion on I-66.

The state would consider using tolled express lanes on the highway to finance such a proposal.

While members of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors initially were concerned that state transportation officials were writing off the possibility of future Metrorail and Virginia Railway Express extensions in the corridor, board Chairwoman Sharon Bulova (D-At large) said they since have been assured that is not the case.

She says she would support a proposal that used toll lanes as a financing mechanism, provided that it adds capacity to the highway and “if the state won't do anything that will make it expensive or impossible to extend Metrorail.”

Extending the Orange Line farther west on I-66 is a more distant proposition, Bulova said, but she believes any interim projects must not preclude that option.

Extending VRE service to Gainesville and Haymarket in Prince William County is a shorter-term project, Bulova said, that could possibly occur within the next five years.

Supervisor Pat Herrity (R-Springfield), who has been pushing for action on I-66 for years, is optimistic that the request for information will yield results.

“I am ecstatic about the RFI and that we are going to go out and look for a solution, and hopefully one we can implement quickly,” he said.

The Capital Beltway never would have been widened if not for the 495 Express Lanes, which opened last fall, Herrity said. The state's private-sector partners were able to come up with a less-costly way to accomplish the construction and came to the table with their own financing.

He hopes the private sector will come up with a similarly innovative approach to dealing with the most challenging stretch of I-66, the most narrow section between Route 123 and Interstate 495.

Both Herrity and Bulova say one of the biggest advantages of adding express lanes to I-66 is that it would allow for new express bus routes or a bus rapid transit system.

BRT is “a logical precursor to rail,” Bulova said.

Express lanes also would provide more incentives for carpoolers, potentially taking more cars off the road. I-66 does have a single HOV lane now that is open to cars carrying two or more people and to some hybrid cars, even if the driver doesn't have any passengers.

Right now, Herrity said, that doesn't provide enough of a time advantage to encourage carpooling or make buses run faster.

Responses to the state RFI are due in late November. More information is posted at www.I66ppta.org.



kschumitz@fairfaxtimes.com