Changes proposed to transform I-66 in Virginia

If you hate driving on I-66 because it is always so congested, you are not alone. The Virginia Department of Transportation says it hears you and now you have a chance to speak up and offer suggestions on a new major project in the works to transform the busy highway.

Transforming I-66 may seem like a lofty goal. VDOT says it has a plan for 25 miles of the busy highway. It has just began sharing that plan with the public and the agency says it would love for drivers to weigh in.

So what do drivers think of I-66?

"It is usually too congested," said one driver. "I often avoid it."

"I know sometimes my daughter avoids traveling on it because of the heavy traffic," another resident told us. "That's all I know about it. I just hear complaining."

"I heard that they are going to do some changes," said another commuter. "Not really sure how that is going to go over."

VDOT says it is well aware of the complaints and it has a plan to improve a 25-mile stretch of I-66 between the Beltway and Haymarket, Va.

"The goal of all of it is improving the quality of life for commuters along I-66," said Renee Hamilton, VDOT's deputy district administrator. "Right now, they only have that choice of sitting in congestion, and our goal is to have them have a better commute -- a more reliable commuting pattern and a more reliable commuting time."

Planned improvements include adding a lane in each direction, having two express lanes and three regular lanes in each direction, and having more buses traveling more often.

"Along this corridor, we do not have the benefits of a robust transit service," said Hamilton. "One of the key elements of this project is creating that robust transit service. So you would have bus service during rush hour. We will also add an additional service where it would be more frequent."

VDOT says tolls will help manage the congestion. Single drivers will pay while buses and carpoolers will not. But the HOV requirement will rise from two to three occupants.

Construction is slated to begin in 2017 and will take four years.

"We recognize that I-66 will get worse if we don't do anything, but we do have a plan to transform that and we just ask that during the construction people are patient," Hamilton said.

There is a lot more detail about the plan at transform66.org. For the first time ever, you can also watch a live feed of Thursday night's public meeting from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m on the website. The actual meeting is taking place in Fairfax at VDOT's northern Virginia district.

Public meetings are also planned next Tuesday and Thursday.

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