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Fairfax supervisors to press VDOT on I-495 NEXT concerns

New Supervisor Jimmy Bierman (D-Dranesville) presses to take stance
Fairfax County Supervisor Jimmy Bierman (D-Dranesville)

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on Jan. 23 approved a request by Supervisor Jimmy Bierman (D-Dranesville) to continue pressing Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) officials on concerns related to the Interstate 495 Express Lanes Northern Extension (495 NEXT) Project

Supervisors have, albeit with some reservations, supported that initiative, as well as Maryland’s plans to widen the American Legion Bridge and build Express Lanes on that state’s side of the Beltway to connect with Virginia’s.

But Maryland officials recently scrapped plans for a public-private partnership to build its improvements, and instead will seek federal grant funds.

“These changes have raised questions and concerns about what Maryland intends to do and when they intend to do it,” Bierman said in a board matter presented to colleagues.

On the Virginia side of the river, construction of the 495 NEXT Project has generated copious complaints from residents about tree losses, increases in traffic congestion and other problems.

Supervisors have not received a response to a letter they sent to Virginia Transportation Secretary W. Sheppard Miller III last September concerning the written agreement between Virginia and Maryland about the project, he said. Supervisors at a Dec. 12 meeting of the board’s Transportation Committee also did not get adequate answers from VDOT officials regarding Virginia’s coordination with Maryland on the initiative, Bierman said.

VDOT officials at that meeting also did not provide a timeline for the project’s reforestation plan or any community-engagement effort involved with it, he said.

“At this stage of the project, the lack of information is troubling,” said Bierman, who persuaded the board to have Fairfax County Department of Transportation officials draft another letter to Miller and present it to supervisors at the Feb. 13 Transportation Committee meeting.

Bierman’s motion also called for VDOT officials to present a plan at that meeting regarding Virginia’s coordination with Maryland on the 495 NEXT Project, as well as future collaboration with Fairfax County environmental agencies regarding the project’s reforestation plan.