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    Posted: 15 Oct 2004 at 5:39am
County closer to HOT lanes
By LILLIAN KAFKA
lkafka@manassasjm.com
Wednesday, October 13, 2004


Elected officials in Prince William County are looking more closely at plans for pay-to-cruise interstate lanes and they have some commuter-friendly suggestions of their own.

High-Occupancy Toll lanes, or HOT lanes, should be seriously considered, said members of the Board of County Supervisors on Tuesday after they heard a presentation by Gary Groat, director of project development for Fluor Virginia.

Fluor Virginia, an Arlington-based transportation company, has submitted a public-private partnership bid to build 56 miles of HOT lanes from 14th Street in Washington, D.C., to the Massaponax interchange in Spotsylvania County.

"We really have to examine these proposals because there is no federal or state funding for it," said Supervisor Chairman Sean T. Connaughton, R-at large. "This may be our only hope for road and transit improvements in this corridor."

Fluor's $1 billion proposal would add a third lane to the reversible High-Occupancy Vehicle lanes that exist between the north- and south-bound lanes of Interstate 95.

Instead of requiring two passengers, the new lanes would require three or more passengers per vehicle to avoid a toll charge.

Groat said that in California, where HOT lane popularity is growing, more people are car-pooling to use the HOT lanes without having to pay.

Fluor's design also calls for an additional 24 exit and entrance ramps with some for buses only.

The design, Groat said, encourages bus transit systems.

The Bus Rapid Transit system that is being encouraged with the plan would access existing and undeserved transit areas.

Supervisor Maureen S. Caddigan, R-Dumfries, suggested that more park and ride lots be built in Prince William to take advantage of the HOT lanes.

"It looks like there is a light at the end of the tunnel," Caddigan said about the proposal.

VDOT doesn't have plans to extend the existing HOV lanes for years.

Groat said that if environmental impact studies are done within 18 months, construction could begin by 2006.

But the Commonwealth Transportation Board has to first decide if it wants HOT lanes, then who should build them.

Fluor Virginia has made one of two proposals submitted to the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Clark/SCC/KPRI made the other proposal and is scheduled to present it to Prince William officials later this year.

The Board will send a letter to the Commonwealth Transportation Board to encourage it to choose HOT lanes and make it speedy.

The Bus Rapid Transit could even be used on U.S. 1, Connaughton suggested.

Instead of calling HOT lanes "Lexus Lanes" as critics sometimes refer to them, Groat suggested a new name.

They're not ways for only the wealthy to bypass traffic jams on the general lanes, he said.

"They should call them "Lumina Lanes," he said, since studies have shown that in California people from all social and economic strata use the HOT lanes.

Single-passenger cars could pay up to $7 dollars or more to drive on them.

Tolls are calculated per mile and the average toll could be about 15 cents per mile, Groat said.

The tolls could change every six minutes and go up or down depending on congestion. If lanes are relatively clear, the charge is low. If they get congested, the rate increases, just like peak phone rates or electricity use times.

Highway managers would be able to keep an eye on the lanes by monitoring about 150 cameras watching the entire stretch of road from Spotsylvania to the District.

Only cars with Smart Tag or EZPass stickers could use the toll lanes because cash won't be accepted. High occupancy vehicles would also use a sticker to indicate that they shouldn't be charged.

Also in the works is a Fluor proposal for a $693 million expansion of the Beltway HOV lanes between the Springfield Interchange and the American Legion Bridge.




This story can be found at: http://www.potomacnews.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=WPN%2FMGArticle%2FWPN_BasicArticle&c=MGArticle&cid=1031778503231&path=!news&tacodalogin=no
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote JiggaJynx Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Oct 2004 at 9:20am
quote:
Originally posted by Admin
[br]
Single-passenger cars could pay up to $7 dollars or more to drive on them.



*Only* $7 a trip--$14 a day? And the job likely includes parking as a perk? On days I can't slug and my commute involves bus and Metro, the cost approaches $13/day, AND I'm taking a car off the road. I advocate the "or more" part of the statement on proposed charges. They're still "Lexus Lanes" in my vocabulary.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ering Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Oct 2004 at 10:13am
I have no idea how this is going to work.

"High occupancy vehicles would also use a sticker to indicate that they shouldn't be charged."

And where would a commuter get such a sticker? What would the burden of proof be? What happens to ensure that once you get the sticker you don't suddenly stop carpooling?

This is INFURIATING.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ering Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Oct 2004 at 10:44am

Below is a copy of the letter I just sent to Maureen Caddigan. I am hopeful that others will do the same to stop HOT in its tracks.

Dear Mrs. Caddigan-

I am a resident of Dumfries, and a daily commuter from the Horner Road lot. I have been slugging for five years and find that this is the best, cheapest, and quickest alternative to the log-jammed roads in this area. While the HOV lanes have definitely slowed in the last couple of years due to mismanagement and short-sightedness on the part of you and your counterparts, the slow-down is nowhere near what is coming should the HOT lanes be implemented.

I am completely against the so-called Lexis Lanes for several reasons. NO ONE should have to pay for a road that they have already paid for through tax dollars. This amounts to nothing more than a double tax on the already over-burdened citizens of Northern Virginia. Further, I understand that the a third HOV lane would be constructed to handle the extra cars expected to flock in the already overcrowded "express" lanes. Unless there is a provision to widen the 14th Street Bridge, I am completely unclear as to how a third lane would benefit the flow of traffic. In fact, I see a merge from three lanes down to two as a nightmare from a congestion standpoint. Add to this the complete mechanization of toll collection and the fact that machines break, and you are adding time onto my commute. Let me stress that I am less than appreciative.

I understand that the state claims to be strapped for cash. I also understand that it's not you and your peers in county government who will suffer because of this. Rather, you will profit handsomely off the backs of commuters. You were quoted in the Potomac News as having said something to the effect of HOT lanes are the, "light at the end of the tunnel." Yes, Mrs. Caddigan, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. However, it's a freight train barreling down on those of us who are powerless to stop it.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gatewayslug Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Oct 2004 at 10:58am
Another thing I haven't seen anyone else comment on is the statement "Instead of requiring two passengers, the new lanes would require three or more passengers per vehicle to avoid a toll charge." I read that as HOV-4. Some cars just can't handle four people, especially if the driver is long legged and needs to put their seat back, and sometimes it is hard enough just getting that third person without a long wait. While this may be good for slugs at some lines by reducing the line without increasing the driver flow, it could make it harder on you when you need to drive. You have to have a sticker (so you have to plan ahead), squeeze more people into your car (and make it uncomfortable and/or unsafe if you have to adjust your seat), longer waits to fill your car; some drivers may actually find it more convenient and less time consuming to take their chances on the regular lanes.

I realize something is needs to be done to improve the traffic flow, and I don't want to stir the hybrid discussion into this thread, but I am always leary of plans that are pushed so hard by those who would benefit financially - the construction firm and the bus companies. That is one of the beauties of the slug system, it is cheaper for all involved and you aren't stuck with fitting into a fixed schedule.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote SpongeBob Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Oct 2004 at 11:34am
A friend sent me a copy of Fluor's presentation to the PWC BOCS. It's all very plausible and calming on the surface. Lots of talk about buses and mass transit and shifting commuter patterns and repeated emphasis on how this is no cost and no maintenance to the local governments. Scary. Really, really scary.

The scariest part of it is that it IS going to happen. There is just no bloody way to stop it. The top VDOT official has already signed on, all the local governments are behind it, there is a billion dollars, literally, to be made just building the one measly extra lane on I-95, not to mention billions more for its management. With those kinds of dollars at stake and the politicians lined up in support, does anyone seriously think our feeble citizen protests will be heard? Of course not.

But let's not give up. Let's learn more about this dreaded thing and find all the chinks in its armor. Here's what I know/think: (please correct me if you have better or newer information,)

The HOT proposal is part of a REGIONAL traffic plan by Fluor Corporation (Clark Construction has a competing proposal.) Our I-95 slugging route is just a tiny piece of the big HOT plan. Overall, they are trying to build a network, a spider's web of HOT lanes running to Dulles, Tysons, Woodbridge, the Pentagon, Seven Corners, Old Town, Fairfax, Gainesville, etc. In other words, a for-profit toll lane system laid in alongside the existing road system. Your public thoroughfares will soon be an adjunct to a privately owned transportation network, one you will have to pay to use. Forever.

It's the BUSES that are the key to the plausibility of the HOT system. The politicians and planners hear the words "mass transit" and they just start nodding: Must be good! The problem for HOV is that the companies would prefer to limit the HOT to two types of customers: buses and tollpayers. Otherwise, the system gets overloaded. Carpools will be allowed to use the system, sure, of course they will. Heh heh. That is, until the very second the carpools begin to interfere with the toll-paying cars. Then: zap, no more freeloading non-payers on the HOT. This was made abundantly clear, some of you may recall, by the Fluor official quoted in the Wash. Post last spring. (Anyone got a copy of that article?)

Buses will be paying a toll, too, don't forget. The owner of the road isn't going to allow the pothole-causing behemoths to rumble down their private street without charging the bus company something. And guess who is going to have that little bit of something added to their fare?

Enough for now. To recap:

The issue here is at the core of our republic: are we a country where the government taxes the people to build infrastructure that can be used by everyone, or are we a country where private companies take over government's responsibilities and provide services only to those who can afford them, leaving the poor people in an inferior system?

What kind of country do you want to live in?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Bob Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Oct 2004 at 11:58am
I have also been wondering about the statement that the HOV cars would also have a Smart Tag to get on the system. I could not figure any way that this would prevent cheating, since these cars would (initially) be free. Then it dawned on me what they must be planning (Note that this is was NOT stated by them). I'll bet that each HOV Person would have to have a card on them. In other words, the HOV car goes through and the system detects 3 cards. Is that possibly what they are thinking?

Separately, the smart tage system requirement for HOV vehicles may in itself put an end to slugging, if there is a requirment of a "formal" carpool registered for each car. (Again, I have not read this, just thinking out loud). Bob
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote adjguy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Oct 2004 at 12:14pm
Sponge, well said. Wow.

I never thought of it that way. Would building a light rail system coming down to at least the stafford county line help?

Other suggestions?

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote 13yearslugger Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Oct 2004 at 1:50pm
This is RIDICULOUS!!! Why do we fight to drive to D.C. to come back to PW or VA to pay our taxes to then have them propose this system, that's going to cost us MORE money, require us to probably double the time it takes us to get to work -- gosh!! I can go on and on.

And, the county is reaping the benefits of their home values rising and generating more revenue that way, too (even though they reduced the rate per 1,000, they're still taking in much more money) -- and, b/c more houses are being built b/c people want to come live here, b/c it takes only a little bit of time to get to work b/c we have such an AWESOME system!! And, why do they think that is....b/c people like Fluor Corp. or our county Sups. didn't invent it!!

I really think everyone needs to plan on going to the meeting on 10/19. This has to be nipped in the bud with a very loud voice from the slugging community!!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote SpongeBob Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Oct 2004 at 2:49pm
Point to make in reply to Gatewayslug above: transportation planners refer to "3+ passengers" meaning that many occupants, including the driver.

HOV-4 could be the answer to the HOV congestion, except for three things:

1. We'd need more parking spaces... at least 25% more to keep the same number of vehicles driving on the lanes.

2. Our opponents (or idiots, as I like to say,) talk about the "underutilization" of the HOV lanes. They obviously haven't been on them southbound on Friday at 5:00 p.m., or northbound on Tuesday at 7:45 a.m. But that fiction is going to continue to be mouthed by the enemy throughout the upcoming HOT War. Fight it with the truth.

3. Vehicles, not passengers, create congestion. Therefore, it would be necessary to reduce congestion by increasing passengers and decreasing vehicles: either eliminate hybrids or require them to carry at least 2 people, if not three.
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