Monday, February 12, 2018

Route 66 - Unfair to Prince William County at Any Speed

My wife and I reside in Prince William county, for you Virginia political junkies, we are in the 13th legislative district. I estimate that I spend 10 hours a week on 66 going to Alexandria. And some days I average 55 mph and some days, usually if there is an accident at the Vienna exit, I average 35 mph, but when we consider the policies regarding the use and tolls, it is clear that 66 is not the best deal for Prince William county motorists. In fact it's a bad deal.

In the morning east bound traffic is heavy, and it requires two or more motorists, and of course in the afternoon west bound traffic has the same requirements. So Prince William county motorists who work in Fairfax, Alexandria, Falls Church or DC, have to find someone to ride with or pay a fairly high toll. Or take an alternate side road, say Rt. 29 in my case, and get to work by lunch time!

Conversely, someone from Fairfax, Alexandria, Falls Church, DC, or Maryland can travel westbound in the morning and have no HOV requirement or toll.

The east bound in the morning and west bound in the afternoon requirements does not favor us here in Prince William county, and as the state moves forward with tolling Prince William county motorists will pay a disproportionate share of the cost.

HOV rules were designed to encourage conservation, which I think is a noble goal. And tolls on Rt. 66 are designed to raise money, which certainly may be necessary. However these goals namely raising money and encouraging conservation are two very different objectives, I'm opposed to the east bound am-westbound pm tolling scheme because I believe it shifts the financial burden unfairly onto Prince William county commuters.

Perhaps there are other ways to get the money that VDOT needs while at the same time spreading the cost more equitably among the Northern Virginia jurisdictions.

The other day I watched VA Transportation secretary Shannon Valentine explain to a House of Delegates committee that the toll is simply a choice. A commuter can avoid the toll by not driving on 66. When I heard that I thought to myself how galling. We paid for Rt. 66 decades ago. Now, if we want to use it at certain times, in a certain direction, we have to pay a toll.

The alternative that Shannon Valentine is talking about is that we take route 29, 50 or the GW Parkway which of course would increase the time that we spend in the car. Less time at work, or with our families. If time is money, and I believe it is, taking the alternate routes may cost us as much as a toll.

We here in Prince William county need members of the General Assembly who will fight for our interests. The use of tolls based on the current east bound in the morning-west bound in the afternoon formula shifts the financial burden unfairly to Prince William county.

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