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Opinions vary on how to ease congestion on I-66

Thursday - 10/6/2011, 8:50am  ET

Adam Tuss, wtop.com

WASHINGTON -- Transportation groups in D.C. have different opinions on what should be done about the traffic congestion on I-66 inside the Beltway.

On one hand, groups like the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance argue for more widening of the road.

"Look Around, Virginia. Wake Up!" reads a recent newsletter put out by the group.

"Drive I-66 westbound past Ballston. Look to your right. Behold, a new 12-foot lane! Look again. What do you see? Same sound walls. Same trees. Same houses. Same bike path. The sky didn't fall; the earth remains on its axis," says the NVTA.

The alliance goes on to argue that the widening needs to be extended from Lee Highway/Spout Run to the Dulles Access Road in both directions.

On the other hand, groups like the region's Coalition for Smarter Growth say there are other less costly alternatives to solving the traffic issue that could also be put in place quickly.

"We should always investigate the full range of alternatives before committing our tax dollars," says Stewart Schwartz, head of the coalition. "For I-66 inside the Beltway, that can include things like returning to HOV-3 from HOV-2 during rush hours and trying HOV in both directions during rush hours."

He also suggests that a network of fast moving, rapid buses along the I-66 corridor could help.

Finding a solution to easing the traffic on I-66 inside the Beltway has long been a subject of controversy. In 2009, the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation completed a report that found 66 percent of solo drivers who use the roadway said they were thinking about a switch to transit.

DRPT's travel forecast for the I-66 corridor shows that from 2005 to 2030, commuter trips that begin along the corridor will increase by 22 percent. The number of trips destined to the corridor will increase by 40 percent.

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(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)