As construction plans proceed for the high occupancy toll lanes (HOT) outside of the beltway, bicycling supporters are scrutinizing the designs for a parallel bike/pedestrian path that is being included in the project.  Specifically, they are opposed to some plans that will place the bike path directly adjacent to the interstate, citing safety and aesthetic reasons for altering the design.

I-66 trail graphic, Courtesy of Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling.



The Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling is advocating for a change in design to move the trail outside of the noise barriers that will be constructed.  Neighboring communities are opposed to this option, citing intrusion in the communities and fear of potential crime by trail users.  The current design, places about 5 miles of the proposed 23.5 mile trail directly adjacent to the interstate, separated by a 3 foot concrete barrier and a chain link fence.  The Alliance feels this is neither a safe nor a healthy configuration, exposing users to noise and exhaust pollution.

VDOT concedes that the design is a compromise, contending that the five miles of configuration where the trail is adjacent to the interstate is dictated by narrow right-of-way and adjacent community preferences.  In a Washington Post interview Katie Harris from the Washington Area Bicycling Association noted that “VDOT needs to design a facility that is safe and accessible and convenient for those who travel by bike. These are constituents of theirs that need to have their needs met as well.”

When completed, the trail will link to the existing Lee Custis trail that runs adjacent to I-66 inside the beltway, creating an uninterrupted bike facility from Gainesville in Prince William County, to Washington, D.C. The trail will also provide linkages to the many trails and communities that are adjacent to I-66.  Public comment forums on the design of the I-66 HOT lanes will be held
this fall.