Fairfax County residents are seething over Virginia's proposal to build a ramp in their neighborhood as part of the Interstate 95 express lanes.
"We're scared; we're scandalized; we're indignant that [the Virginia Department of Transportation] would continue marching forward to stay on their building schedule when in fact there are massive implications for public health here," said Mary Hasty, spokeswoman for the Concerned Residents of Landmark, a group opposing the ramp at the endpoint of the I-95 express lanes near Edsall Road.
The special lanes,which officials say will give a congestion-free ride to toll payers or carpoolers, were earlier planned to end in Arlington, but that county filed suit to block the lanes in 2009, worried they would cause pollution. The suit forced the lanes to stop short of the traffic-clogged area around the Pentagon and end near Edsall Road instead, angering residents there.
The Landmark neighborhood group paid $60,000 for a traffic and pollution study, which concluded that the ramp would bring gridlock to the area, and that idling cars would cause significant air pollution, violating federal standards.
"We just got the findings back and were bowled away," Hasty said. "The pollution levels are going to be huge, in some places 20 times higher than [Environmental Protection Agency] safety levels. The concentration is going to be so high and widespread."
The neighborhood group, which has also created a website, delaytheramp.com, says Virginia officials only studied the impact of the full stretch of the 29-mile express lanes, not specifically the impact of the ramp in their area.
But commonwealth officials say they conducted all the studies required by law and that they don't have much choice for where to put the ramp, because the location at Edsall Road requires them to buy little private land and will be part of an existing interchange.
"VDOT's top two concerns are safety and the environment for residents and drivers," said agency spokesman Steve Titunik. "We've held public meetings on this, and people have had opportunities to make statements for VDOT to review and respond in a very fair way."