Del. Ken Plum: Unlocking Northern Virginia

by Del. Ken Plum July 14, 2016 at 1:00 pm 13 Comments

Del. Ken Plum/File photoThis is a commentary by Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

Each week during the General Assembly session and several times monthly during the remainder of the year, I travel the Dulles Toll Road to the Beltway to I-95 South to Richmond.

Since I travel south early in the mornings and return late in the day, I can generally make the trip in two hours. Mine is a reverse commute, but I witness in the lanes going in the other direction the bumper-to-bumper, slow-moving traffic experienced by commuters daily. Express lanes on the Beltway–I-495–along with its widening have helped relieve congestion with the exception of the American Legion Bridge that is like a parking lot much of the time. I-95 is its own parking lot during commuting times.

Fortunately, relief is on the way, but the size of the transportation projects requires years for completion. Widening with express lanes and using traffic management technology will bring some relief to the I-66 corridor.

The most promising congestion relief for the region was announced recently with Virginia receiving a $165 million federal FASTLANE grant that will be leveraged to fund $1.4 billion in multimodal transportation projects in the congested I-95 corridor. The entire undertaking is being called the Atlantic Gateway Project.

For the highway commuters I see stuck in traffic on my trips to Richmond, the project will fund the extension of Interstate 395 express lanes about 7 miles north to the Potomac River and I-95 express lanes about 10 miles south towards Fredericksburg. A new I-95 bridge will be built across the Rappahannock River. For rail commuters and rail freight the project includes the construction of 14 miles of new track along the CSX rail corridor crossing the Potomac River to enhance freight, commuter and passenger rail routes. Mass transit options will be expanded with 1,000 new parking spaces for commuters along I-95 and I-395.

The federal money coming from the United States Department of Transportation competitive grant program, FASTLANE, is part of a $4.6 billion, 5-year program that was passed in Congress in 2015 after years of delay and inaction.

The project in Virginia has national significance in that it will help unlock the most congested part of I-95 on the East Coast. Not only will Virginia commuters realize relief, but it will be shared by travelers from New York to Florida. Likewise, commerce will be enhanced with the railway and highway improvements.

Added to the $165 million in federal money will be $565 million in private investment by Transurban and CSX Transportation through public-private partnership agreements and $710 million in state transportation funds. Construction on some parts of the project will begin as early as 2017.

The approach being used in this corridor establishes a significant precedent that must be followed to successfully unlock other areas of Northern Virginia from some of the worst traffic congestion in the country.

  • Mike M

    Why don’t you go save the environment somewhere else, Hippie..

    • Hey Mike

      At the rate at which buildings are going up in Reston even 10 extra lanes over ALB are not going to make a difference.

      • Mike M

        Hey Hyperbole, 10 lanes would make a huge difference. But that’s a little over the top. Remember, when it comes to solving problems, an ounce of negativity is worth a pound of failure.

        • Hey Mike

          the simple thought I want to share with you, most cars only have one occupant. You can add to that – a dog, a tennis racket, perhaps a brief case and an occassional guest. I think that covers about 80% of all scenarios.

          challenging american innovation and what is best in the national interest one would think that a smaller car (a go cart) perhaps would double bandwidth without even have to bust a road crew.

          so perhaps hard sciences over soft sciences. reinventing the wheel. tax payer incentives to scale down. self driving vehicles. a public service grid that includes contractors for transportation that falls outside of the norm. etc skysthelimit

          • Mike M

            So, when did you start to decide the national interest?

            PS: I don’t want to upset you but a lot of like-minded Restonians talk like we need more measures to inflict pain on people for driving. Some of them drive SUVs!

          • Its OK Mike

            Ken actually convinced me. And you being the second one off course.

  • There is life northeast of NY

    “Not only will Virginia commuters realize relief, but it will be shared by travelers from New York to Florida.”

    New York is a curious cutoff point in this statement considering 95 goes all the way to the Maine-Canada border.

    • Mike M

      It’s called Myopia. But to tell you the truth, Bostonians aren’t so clear on what is south and west of NY other than the West coast, so . . .to H with them. 😉

      • There is life northeast of NY

        Hey, I’m from Massachusetts and I resent that statement!

        (Not really. We refer to our beloved Boston as “The Hub” … as in, “of the Universe”.)

  • JoeInReston

    Using the express lanes cost a lot of money. By design, tolls are raised as high as necessary to prevent congestion on the Express way. Therefore few will have the opportunity to use the lanes on a regular basis. Most people will be stuck up in traffic for hours and will be incentiviced to look for alternate solutions.

    Stating the above doesn’t mean that agree with the approach.

  • susie

    hmm..population explosion in northern va…why is that exactly?

  • RoadApples

    Curious ?
    Does Rep KP compose these commentary’s all by himself?

  • 30yearsinreston

    Is this gong be more Lexus Lanes where the hedge funds make a killing off the back of commuters
    If our delegation did their jobs it would all be funded by our taxes


Subscribe to our mailing list