WASHINGTON - More proposed changes to Interstate 66 are expected as state officials try to ease congestion along one of Northern Virginia's main thoroughfares, says Gov. Terry McAuliffe.
McAuliffe's administration has previously announced plans to widen the interstate and to add express lanes west of the Capital Beltway plus plans to convert the lanes inside the Beltway to toll or carpool only during rush hours. Public meetings are planned this week on the proposals.
But McAuliffe says he'll have more announcements related to I-66 soon.
"It is a parking lot today and we need to open it up just as we've done on 495 and 95 ," he said during an appearance on WTOP's "Ask the Governor" Wednesday. "More lanes is the answer...We need more lanes."
He says tolls may or may not be part of the solution and he wants to hear ideas and feedback from drivers who use the road.
He acknowledges that adding lanes inside the Beltway, however, is more complicated than adding lanes west of Interstate 495.
The narrow interstate is bordered by houses and office buildings. And any proposal to widen the interstate is likely to meet stiff opposition from Arlington County, which has sued the state over the express lanes along Interstate 395.
McAuliffe says he wants to consider every option to ease the commute in Northern Virginia.
In addition to plans for I-66, McAuliffe says he's working with the chairman of the state House Appropriations committee on a bill that would increase funding for public transit. The bill would add another $50 million for rail and transit projects like Metro or expanding VRE service.
The governor also says he's willing to invest more money in Metro if it would improve safety or efficiency, like adding capacity with longer trains. He declined to say what changes should be made ahead of a final federal report detailing the cause of the smoke incident that sent dozens of riders to the hospital and killed an Alexandria woman.
But he says he wants to work with D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on regional transportation issues like Metro. The three will meet in February for a transportation summit.
Back in the saddle
After a spending a few days in the hospital last week, the governor says he feels great.
He also described in more detail the accident that broke seven of his ribs, three of which punctured his lungs.
McAuliffe says his family took a safari trip during a visit to Africa over the holidays. He was thrown from the horse he was riding when the animal was spooked.
"It could have won the Kentucky Derby. I had no right to be on the back of this thing," he says of the sprinting animal.
He was told that he had just bruised his ribs and that he wouldn't be able to stand the pain if any had broken. So for three weeks he continued his routine without mentioning the accident to his staff and not canceling appearances. He gave the annual State of the Commonwealth address during that time.
"It was a couple, painful three weeks," he says.
He went to the hospital when he was having difficulty breathing and learned about the broken ribs.
Fluid had built up in his chest and had to be removed, resulting in the three-day stay in the hospital.
The governor says that state revenues are up substantially and some of that additional funding should cover pay raises for state employees.
He hopes to release more details about the state's finances in the next week.
Last fall, McAuliffe and General Assembly reached a deal to address a projected $2.4 billion shortfall over a three-year period including reductions in the current budget.