Spring '07 Newsletter

Arlington Greens To Nominate Candidates For 2007 Elections

The Arlington Green Party will accept nominations for candidate positions for the November 2007 elections at its next monthly meeting, Wednesday, March 7.

On Tuesday, November 6, 2007, a General Election will be held in Arlington for the offices of Virginia Senate (30th and 31st Districts), Virginia House of Delegates (45th, 47th, 48th and 49th Districts), Clerk of the Circuit Court, Commonwealth's Attorney, Sheriff, Commissioner of Revenue, Treasurer, County Board (2 seats), and School Board.

Arlington Courthouse Greens Run First Candidate

Last November, Arlington County voters had the opportunity to choose a Green Party candidate for County Board for the first time. Josh Ruebner, a nine-year county resident who has served in leadership positions in United for Peace and Justice and the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, announced his candidacy at the May 20 meeting of the County Board.

Josh addressed many issues, including health care and the environment, but focused on the lack of affordable housing in Arlington County. In the past five years, the county’s affordable housing stock declined by 52%. The loss of affordable housing and rising taxes and property values were significant factors in the nearly 20% decline in Arlington’s Latino population.

Third-party candidates often have trouble getting access to the media and candidate debates. However, Josh participated in 13 debates, many of which were sponsored by local civic organizations. His campaign received extensive local coverage. Seth Rosen of the Arlington Connection wrote that “Josh Ruebner, a political novice, surprised many in the community by running a strong campaign this past fall as the Green Party candidate for County Board.”

On November 7th, Josh won 5% of the vote, including more than 8% in several precincts. He ran strongest in precincts where his volunteers campaigned and were at the polls. Josh’s campaign for County Board was a breakthrough for local Greens; it put affordable housing and county spending priorities onto the table. Five members of the Arlington Courthouse Greens are applying to be members of county commissions. The Green Party is becoming a force to be reckoned with in Arlington County.

Arlington Green Party Calls On County To Pass Anti-War Resolution

The Arlington Green Party has launched a petition “calling upon the United States to end its war on and occupation of Iraq and to support our troops by bringing them home safely now.” Sign the petition at

If you'd like to help us collect petition signatures, please contact Josh Ruebner at josh4arlington@yahoo.com or 202-423-7666 and we'll send you hard copies of the petition.

Members of the Arlington Green Party last asked the Arlington County Board to pass an anti-war resolution during the January 27 County Board meeting; the efforts were rebuffed by Board Members who refused to address the issue. According to Cities for Progress, 273 localities in the United States have passed resolutions calling for an end to the war in Iraq.

Arlington Green Discusses I-66 Widening

Out, Out, Damned Spot Improvements!

By Audrey Clement

On January 23, VDOT conducted a “public workshop” designed to get feedback from Arlington residents on its proposed I-66 spot improvement project. Since VDOT disallowed public comment after its presentation, some people questioned the purpose of the workshop. Some also questioned the purpose of the spot improvement project itself, the construction of three discontinuous on-ramp extensions comprising 4.1 miles of the 6.5 mile I-66 corridor between Rosslyn and the Beltway.

The answer to both questions lies in NEPA (the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969), which requires state transportation agencies to produce environmental impact statements (EIS) on major highway projects. If a highway project would have no significant environmental impact, the state can obtain a categorical exclusion (CE). If the project is within the scope of a published list of routine improvements, FHWA approval of the CE is not required. Otherwise it is. In situations where it is not clear whether an EIS is required, the state agency has to prepare an Environmental Assessment (EA) justifying either an EIS or a finding of no significant impact (FONSI). Preparation of either an EIS or an EA requires public input.

VDOT opted to proceed with spot improvements after publication of the Idea-66 report in March, 2005, which recommended constructing an additional westbound lane in the I-66 corridor. VDOT no doubt decided to forgo the widening, at least in the near term, after realizing that an EA would be triggered by the need to obtain either additional right-of-way for the third lane at several chokepoints on the roadway or apply to FHWA for permission to reduce the width of the shoulders—already below FHWA standards--at those points.

If required to produce an EA, VDOT would have to prove that there are no reasonable alternatives to widening. Opponents of widening could easily challenge that argument in court, given that the Idea-66 report itself evaluated a whole array of alternatives—including, expanded HOV, HOT lanes, a third Metrorail track and express bus service--several of which are cheaper and arguably better at reducing long term congestion than widening.

By reducing the scope of the project to “spot improvements”, VDOT not only can avoid triggering an EA, it believes it can get a categorical exclusion to proceed with the work. That’s because 23 CFR 771.117 (d) (1) allows a CE with FHWA approval for: "Modernization of a highway by resurfacing, restoration, rehabilitation, reconstruction, adding shoulders, or adding auxiliary lanes (e.g., parking, weaving, turning, climbing)."

However, there is an important caveat to the regulations governing CE’s at 23 CFR 771.117 (b) (4), which requires FHWA to direct the state transportation agency to provide justification for a CE in cases where granting it might be inconsistent with “any Federal, State, or local law, requirement or administrative determination relating to the environmental aspects of the action.” In this case spot improvements might conflict with Coleman Decision of 1977, the popular name for the EIS Record of Decision authorizing construction of I-66 some thirty years ago and requiring that it be limited to a four lane highway inside the Beltway.

The Coleman Decision was presumptively annulled several years ago when Congressman Frank Wolf got Congress to enact a rider to a transportation appropriation invalidating the decision. But the authority of Congress to override an administrative decision of such scope is open to question and could be challenged in court. If it is, VDOT is certain to argue that even if the Coleman Decision still obtains, spot improvements don’t amount to widening. So it’s operating within the law.

The question then turns on what VDOT plans to do after the spot improvements are in place. VDOT itself bills spot improvements as “interim”, and opponents believe that they will not reduce congestion on I-66. So it seems that both sides agree on one thing, spot improvements are a temporary measure that will have to be replaced with a future permanent solution. In creating traffic conditions that justify the need for permanent widening, VDOT ignores NEPA case law, which characterizes this approach as “segmentation”—compliance with NEPA by proceeding with a highway project in stages.

Because the courts frown on segmentation, the regulations at 23 CFR 771.111 require that states demonstrate that road projects connect logical termini, have independent utility, and do not preempt alternative transportation options. VDOT argues that it has met the latter requirement, because any future option, e.g. express bus lanes or an additional Metrorail track, will simply require re-striping the pavement once the on-ramps have been extended. But if as expected, the extended on-ramps merely move bottlenecks down the road, there is a serious question whether the extension connect logical termini. The only way to get an objective answer to that question is to evaluate the results of the traffic modeling study that VDOT undertook to justify spot improvements. To date VDOT has published only a summary of the study, not the statistical outputs needed to challenge its recommendations.

Audrey Clement is a member of the Arlington Greens and a board member of Arlington Coalition for Sensible Transportation. She can be reached at aclement65 [at] hotmail.com