Northern Virginia doesn’t have the worst traffic in the US but sometimes local and federal politics get in the way of making smart decisions about future road and railway expansions.
For months now there has been a debate in the area about whether to allow private enterprise the option to build HOT (high occupancy toll) lanes starting in Stafford County Virginia and coming north to Washington DC. Having just watched the extension of the metro rail system flounder, flop and die leaving the congestion in the Tysons Corner area to grow worse by the day, the idea of allowing unaccompanied drivers the opportunity for a $1.00 per mile to drive into DC on special lanes is well ludicrous.
Our current HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lanes work well for commuters who are smart enough to realize the value of car pools, van pools and bus rides. However every day as those drivers reach DC they run into the problem that anyone on the HOT lanes will face. Eventually you have to drive over the 14th Street Bridge and so far no one has included in their plan an expansion of the bridge. In London a drive into the city requires you to pay a congestion charge which was instituted to try and cut down on congestion and raise funds for public transportation. As far as I can tell if private enterprise is in charge of this operation then none of the money raised by tolls would actually benefit anyone else who has the smarts to use the HOV lanes, the metro system or VRE.
By creating another way for drivers in our area to bypass public transportation or car pool options government officials are overlooking the long term issues. If the congestion in the area is already creating a bottleneck getting into the city then how are the HOT lanes going to eliminate that problem? Wouldn’t more incentives for the use of public and mass transportation be a better idea? Wouldn’t figuring out more public transportation options be transportation official’s time? If private enterprise has millions to spend why not have them spend it on systems that will be beneficial to everyone and not just those who have the deep pockets of cash to bypass what we already offer in the area.
This is one of those situations where you have to have to say “what are they thinking?”