Virginia planning officials this week held open house meetings to get public input on a proposed multimodal North-South Corridor that would link I-95 with Dulles International Airport and could take pressure off the Capitol Beltway.

The 45-mile Northern Virginia North-South Corridor Master Plan is one of 12 "Corridors of Statewide Significance" recently established by the Commonwealth Transportation Board. It would connect I-66 to I-95, then continue north up past Dulles Airport nearly to the Maryland border.

A middle segment of about 11 miles between I-66 at Manassas and U.S. 50 has already been planned as a Tri-County Parkway. the North-South Corridor builds on that south of I-66 and north of U.S. 50, reports Tollroads News.

The purpose of the corridor is to:

- ensure adequate multimodal capacity and access to Dulles Airport and the surrounding area, including travel needs for both people and goods;
- accommodate projected high employment and population growth within the corridor over the next 30 years, and the associated growing need for north-south travel movements;
- connect the corridor by transit and other more sustainable transportation modes such as high occupancy vehicles and bicycle/pedestrian trails;
- protect environmental, community and historical resources in any future plans for the corridor.

The public was invited to review and comment on two alternatives:

Alternative 1 would improve access to Dulles Airport, link several planned roadway improvements within the North-South Corridor; and expand bicycle and pedestrian trails throughout the corridor.

Alternative 2 would add high occupancy vehicle and high occupancy toll (HOV/HOT) lanes and high-frequency transit from I-95 to Dulles Airport. Carpools with three or more persons would ride free; others would pay a toll during peak periods. Alternative 2 also includes bicycle and pedestrian improvements in the corridor.

Opponents say the proposed highway would do nothing to allieviate traffic on congested Interstate 66.

One blogger, a supporter of the Prince William Conservation Alliance, complained that "instead of investing scarce funds in expanding the capacity of VRE or existing roads to speed up commuter traffic headed towards DC, VDOTs priority is to help trucks get from Dulles Airport to I-81, leaving commuter fixes unfunded."

The Sierra Club, calling it Northern Virginia's "Outer Beltway," released a report that names the corridor among the 50 worst transportation projects in the United States. The environmental group said the project will keep Virginia dependent on oil for our daily transportation needs, and urged planners to look at rail instead.