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VDOT lawsuit claims expanded express lanes will slow traffic into Maryland

NOVA Citizens' Association says without Maryland's help, express lanes will slow northbound traffic, even when completed, and could have environmental impacts.

MCLEAN, Va. — It’s already under construction, but now there’s a big new roadblock in front of the Virginia Department of Transportation's plans to expand its express lanes to the American Legion Bridge.

A Northern Virginia citizens’ group just filed suit in federal court demanding VDOT stop the Beltway project.

VDOT admits that without help from Maryland, the new express lanes to nowhere will actually slow northbound traffic for everyone else.

Contractors have already cut down thousands of trees and dug a massive pit at the Beltway and the George Washington Parkway. 

“They razed everything on both sides of the Beltway," said Melissa Walter, who was out walking dogs on Live Oak Drive. "You can see the trees that were destroyed." 

But now the Northern Virginia Citizens Association is asking a federal judge to stop the work. 

“They say this has no significant environmental impact -- they didn’t even look at it," said Claudia O'Brien, who lives near the project and is a member of the citizen's association.

The McLean neighbors group says VDOT dramatically changed the project and never revised its environmental impact statement. 

“There are going to be a bunch of lanes coming in here, and five ramps coming in here," O'Brien said while standing next to a home and pointing out the scale of the project through the fence.

Several of those ramps are designed to tie into Maryland’s plan to rebuild the American Legion Bridge. But that project is now in limbo. Its prime contractor has pulled out, and Maryland’s new governor has yet to say how he plans to move forward.

"VDOT’s ramps stop in the middle of the cloverleaf," O'Brien said. "It’s the proverbial road to nowhere." 

VDOT said in a statement in response to the lawsuit that they “complied with all applicable environmental requirements" and that the highway administration and National Park Service issued a “Finding of No Significant Impact.”

A VDOT presentation from two years ago says without Maryland’s help, the new Virginia express lanes its building will actually increase travel times in the northbound free lanes.

"That’s the dirty little secret VDOT doesn’t want you to know," O'Brien said.

VDOT admits it will take a little longer to drive from Virginia into Maryland, but says southbound traffic will move faster, even if Maryland never builds its high occupancy toll lanes.

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