Better approaches to improve I-66

A highway proposal that would extend the westward creep of sprawl in northern Virginia threatens natural and historic resources such as the Manassas Battlefield Historic District pictured here. (© stock)

Virginia officials are rapidly moving forward with a flawed plan to expand Interstate 66 that could cost $2-3 billion and add 25 miles of new highway lanes. The project would pave the way for sprawling development to spread farther into the Piedmont region, increasing driving and pollution while harming farmland, landscapes, and communities. The plan also threatens irreversible damage to streams, existing neighborhoods, and historic battlefields.  

SELC strongly supports improving the I-66 corridor to help unclog the vital east-west movement between northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. However, we must ensure that proposed solutions will not exacerbate the sprawl that is a major cause of the area’s traffic congestion. In addition, while state officials are working to include transit enhancements along the corridor in the proposal, a number of questions about the funding and operation of those services remain to be answered. Also, we must not select projects that sacrifice our communities and our natural and historic resources.

A better approach would be to focus on the most serious traffic problems and to bolster transit-oriented transportation strategies and land development patterns the region desperately needs. SELC and our partners are urging state and federal officials to pursue a combination of less destructive and more pressing solutions, including targeted road improvements to address traffic backups at interchanges and more strategic transit options. We are also calling for a thorough evaluation of the sprawl-inducing effects that would result from building new highway lanes as far west as Haymarket. Finally, we will see that agencies comply with their legal obligation to steer clear of historic areas such as the Manassas Battlefield Historic District unless there is no viable way to avoid impacting those resources.

This critique we recently filed on behalf of four conservation groups provides further detail on the concerns and suggested alternatives.

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