Residents of a northern Virginia neighborhood say they now have more ammunition to fight the Virginia Department of Transportation as it builds a controversial highway ramp near their homes.
Members of Concerned Residents of Overlook, an upscale community adjacent to Interstate-395 in Alexandria, pleaded with the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Tuesday night to support their request that VDOT suspend construction of the ramp, which is the planned northern end of the future Interstate-95 Express Lanes.
Two Overlook neighbors, Sue Okubo and Mary Hasty, hired traffic and environmental analysts to conduct studies that they says show the construction of a highway ramp near their homes will ruin their quality of life.
"VDOT has usurped its responsibility. It has provided only a regional analysis of the impact of pollutants and traffic congestion," Okubo told the board Tuesday. The Overlook group claims VDOT failed to adequately study noise and air quality impacts that will result when traffic exits the new express lanes and backs up before merging onto I-395 or local roads.
"That’s going to cause a concentration of pollutants that well exceeds EPA standards for safety for humans," Hasty said. Concerned Residents of Overlook has hired Shrader & Associates, a national law firm that has litigated cases involving plaintiffs who claimed they were harmed by toxic chemicals and dangerous products.
The I-95 Express lanes are 30 miles of high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes extending from the Edsall Road area in Fairfax County to Garrisonville Road in Stafford County. The $1 billion public-private project is scheduled for completion in December 2014. VDOT has denied it failed to adequately study the environmental impacts on the 95 Express Lanes project.
"We went through the federal requirements and developed an environmental assessment which includes analysis for both noise and air quality," said said John Lynch, VDOT's regional transportation director for Virginia mega projects. "The bottom line is those studies met all the federal requirements and it was reviewed by both the Federal Highway Administration and Environmental Protection Agency. We wouldn't have gotten approval to move forward with this project if it didn't meet those requirements."
Added Lynch: "It would be very difficult to make a change at this point having gone through a lot of the studies and approvals at the state, regional, and federal levels."