The 66 Alliance started as a discussion around a dinner table about VDOT’s plans to convert the HOV lanes on 66 from carpool lanes to toll lanes — by 2017 inside the Beltway and by 2020 outside the Beltway. For various reasons, the folks involved in that conversation didn’t like VDOT’s plans — some had invested in gasoline/electric vehicles or all-electric cars and had Clean Fuel Vehicle plates on their cars that allowed them to travel in the HOV lanes on 66 during rush hour my themselves. Others carpooled with their spouse, a friend or a neighbor and were concerned about being forced into the world of “slugs” and vanpools that are a natural outcome of an HOV-3 mandate.
Several folks agreed to toss some money into a kitty to see if like-minded commuters could be organized to oppose portions of VDOT’s plans. A month later, 66alliance.org had been purchased from Go Daddy, a website for the 66 Alliance had been designed and went live, a PayPal account had been established to take in donations from Alliance members, and a press release generated widespread media coverage of the Alliance and our goals.
Between our launch in May 2015 through March 2016, the number of members of the Alliance grew organically (no advertising — just media coverage and word of mouth) from 4 individuals to over 1,000!
Everyone involved in the Alliance is volunteering his or her time and any funds donated to the effort go to offsetting out of pocket costs — website design and maintenance, yard signs and flyers, social media networking, staying in contact through e-mails (the Alliance was “blacklisted’ as a ‘spammer” at one point due to the number of members who signed up — bad day at the “office,” that was!), and parking and incidentals involved in lobbying local officials and state legislators in Richmond.
The Alliance’s members started by trying to talk to VDOT to share our concerns with its plans. We quickly learned that VDOT was completely uninterested in our concerns — it had its plan and wasn’t going to budge. We then shifted our attention to local officials and succeeded in getting resolutions against VDOT’s plans from the Boards of Supervisors of 4 out of the 5 counties directly impacted by VDOT’s 66 plans (Fairfax, Fauquier, Loudoun, Prince William — only Arlington supported VDOT’s plan, and that by a 3-2 split vote), as well as the Towns of Manassas and Haymarket.
Armed with these resolutions expressing almost uniform Northern Virginia opposition to VDOT’s 66 plans, the Alliance shifted our attention to the 2016 Virginia General Assembly. Alliance-supported legislation to preserve HOV-2 and the CFV program was introduced in the Senate and House of Delegates and attracted bi-partisan support in both chambers. Then, however, the bills ran into a legislative “brick wall” erected by VDOT and its allies in the burgeoning toll-collection industry. These multi-national tolling companies, led by Transurban, have infiltrated the boards of Northern Virginia business and transportation groups and used these groups as puppet proxies to oppose the Alliance-backed legislation.
In the end, despite this well-funded and well-organized opposition, the Alliance achieved 3 out of our 4 2016 goals by the end of the General Assembly session: (1) HOV-2 on 66 was extended through 2020; (2) VDOT committed to not toll “reverse” commuters on 66 inside the Beltway; and, (3) a new eastbound lane will be added to 66 between 495 and Ballston to reduce what has become 24/7 congestion in this corridor. Our final goal — preserving the CFV program — was not achieved and, as of now, the CFV program on 66 is scheduled to sunset on January 1, 2017.
The Alliance members should be proud of what we accomplished in 2016. We went from an idea in a dining room to a potent lobbying force in less than a year, took on entrenched and well-funded special interests that showered campaign contributions on General Assembly members, and still won on 75% of our issues. That was 2015/2016. Let’s see what we can build on in 2016/2017!
The 66 Alliance is made up of folks just like you — commuters who live along and drive on I-66 from the D.C. line to the foothills of Virginia’s Piedmont Region. Everyone involved is a volunteer and everyone’s voice is heard equally. We are united by our desire to maintain the current Clean Fuel plate and HOV-2 rules on I-66. Other matters can be considered for inclusion in the 66 Alliance’s aims, but at the outset they are limited to those modest but attainable goals.