"The Governor missed a prime opportunity to advance a regional solution to our regional transportation problems. Advancing a plan to widen I-66 inside the Beltway without simultaneously linking plans to extend Metrorail to Dulles Airport through Tyson’s Corners, is mistaken policy. It places in jeopardy the likelihood that Northern Virginia will achieve a comprehensive solution to our transportation woes … The Governor’s failure to consult closely with Arlington on this issue is a slap in the face to our citizens who are most directly affected by his proposal. I call on the Governor today to initiate a community planning process that will afford Arlingtonians the opportunity of a seat at the table as we approach the final decision."County Board Member Mike Lane at the Madison Manor Citizen’s Association October 1999 Candidate’s Night
Background to the I-66 Controversy
Route I-66 through Arlington. "The Virginia Highway Department wanted an 8-lane expressway. Residents along the proposed route wanted no highway. The result was a compromise and one of the most innovative highways in American History." [From: a Civil Engineering-ASCE article called "Washington D.C. Suburban I-66 - Unique Compromise in Expressway Design," December 1982.]
The Virginia Highway Department’s original plan called for an essentially at-grade highway with a chain link fence "covered with ivy" to separate the neighborhoods from the Interstate. One location was wide enough to accommodate 14 lanes for interchanges and highway ramps.
Because of community opposition, what resulted was:
> a below-grade highway through much of the Arlington corridor;
> a cut-and-cover tunnel in Rosslyn where the Arlington Gateway Park now stands;
> numerous retaining walls, the highest at 45’, with many utilizing a new innovative design;
> bicycle/pedestrian trails following most of the highway’s right-of-way;
> thousands of feet of sound barrier to minimize noise impacts on the adjacent neighborhoods;
> and certain unintended consequences, like the creation of an urban wetlands by the wildlife intruders at a storm water retention area that is now the Ballston Beaver Pond.
In the final analysis, Arlington residents caused the redesign of the proposed 8-lane highway into a Multi-modal Transportation Corridor consisting of a 4-lane highway with 6 miles of Metrorail in the median. This result was a significant departure from business-as-usual for the Virginia Highway Department. And this at a time when the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s Metrorail system was a fairly new concept, with many skeptics questioning whether it would live up to expectations.
The purpose of this presentation tonight is to present a glimpse into the background of the current I-66 controversy and hopefully set the stage for what could become a new grassroots coalition paving the way for sensible and innovative solutions for Northern Virginia’s transportation challenges.
Congressman Frank Wolf suggests that Arlington would benefit from a wider westbound Route 66 by alleviating congestion during peak hours on Washington Boulevard, Lee Highway, and Wilson Boulevard. "Fewer traffic tie-ups mean fewer drivers will use County neighborhoods as alternate routes during rush hour," according to Wolf. [This view has credibility with a number of Arlington residents.]
County officials remain skeptical, particularly since they have not been consulted or kept informed about Wolf’s plan.
As far as Governor Gilmore’s plan to also widen Route 66 eastbound, local leaders say that widening the eastbound highway is ridiculous because it ends up at Potomac River bridges that can’t be widened to accommodate extra traffic. [From: Sun Weekly, October 14, 1999.]
With respect to Local Traffic, it is instructive to keep in mind that I-66 was not planned to serve area traffic. Arlington residents have limited westbound access (4 entry points). Eastbound access is even more restrictive (3 entry points). The construction of I-66 cut off 21 streets between Glebe Road and Lee Highway and provided only 12 replacements.
An informal, unofficial survey by local residents suggests that less than 7% of westbound vehicles at the Glebe Road/Fairfax Drive ramp to I-66 during morning peak hour traffic have more than one person per vehicle.
Facts on I-66 [From: The Washington Post, December 22, 1982.]
Here are some facts and figures concerning the construction of the final segment of I-66 from the Beltway to the Potomac.
Original (late 1950’s) construction cost estimate: $25 million
Actual cost (an estimate that includes land acquisition): $280 million
Miles Constructed: 9.6
Cost per mile: $28.6 million
Cubic yards of earth moved: 6 million
Time elapsed since construction started: 64 months
Time since inception: 23 years
Number of parcels acquired: 1,054
Number of buildings destroyed: 517
Number of public hearings: Four (1958, ‘7-, ‘74, and ‘76)
Number of separate court actions brought by opponents: At least four
1940A highway first appears on local thoroughfare plan along the so-called Fairfax-Bluemont Corridor.
1956I-66 is proposed by the Virginia Highway Commission as a 76-mile link between Washington DC and another planned interstate, I-81.
1958Initial I-66 hearings.
1980Start of clearing of houses from I-66 R.O.W.
1966Department of Transportation Highway Act requires an inquiry regarding whether a "feasible and prudent alternative" is available before park land is taken for a highway.
1970National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) §102 requires an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to determine whether there are impacts "significantly affecting the quality of the human environment" on federally funded projects.
1970Design hearings for 8-lane I-66.
Arlington County Board federal law suit seeking to enjoin construction of I-266 spur through GW Parkway and construction of Three Sisters Bridge.
1971ACT law suit in the U.S. District Court seeking to block construction of I-66 through Arlington.
19724th U.S. Circuit Ct. of Appeals rules in favor of ACT suit. All work stops pending EIS.
1975U.S. Sec. of Transportation William T. Coleman, Jr rejects 6-lane I-66.
1975Virginia Governor Mills E. Godwin continues to refuse to transfer I-266 federal funding allocation for Metrorail unless I-66 is built.
1976Unprecedented hearings personally chaired by Secretary Coleman.
1977The Coleman Decision is rendered embracing a Multi-modal Transportation Corridor compromise w/ Metrorail running in the median of a 4-lane I-66.
1979Continued Action on Transportation and the Environment (CONTACT), files suit alleging I-66 was being built so it could be widened contrary to Coleman Decision 4-lane limit.
1982I-66 opens to traffic.
1983Peak hour restrictions changed to HOV-3.
1995Peak hour restrictions changed to HOV-2.
1999Rep. Frank R. Wolf, R-Va. recommends widening I-66 to 3-lanes westbound from Spout Run.
Virginia Governor Gilmore announces his plan to widen I-66 in both directions inside the beltway.
1977 Coleman Agreement -- Key Points
FY2000 Transportation Appropriations (H.R. 2084)
§ 357. (a) Notwithstanding the January 4, 1977 decision of the Secretary of Transportation … the Commonwealth of Virginia … shall hereafter have authority for operation, maintenance, and construction of Interstate Route 66 between Rosslyn and the Capital Beltway, except as noted in paragraph (b).
(b) The conditions in the Secretary’s January 4, 1977 decision, that exclude heavy duty trucks and permit use by vehicles bound to or from Washington Dulles International Airport in the peak direction during peak hours, shall remain in effect.
(From H.R. 2084 as signed into law by President Clinton on October 11, 1999)
Can the Coleman Agreement still be Enforced?
"… it is possible that the conditions could be enforced by the citizens they are intended to benefit -- the users and the neighbors of I-66.
I would add a single caveat: we cannot guarantee that I-66 will never change … the conditions I am here imposing are the most stringent the law provides … and that would be changed only in their explicit terms, which provide for further regional agreement and Secretarial approval."
From: Secretary’s Decision on Interstate Highway 66,
Fairfax and Arlington Counties,Virginia
January 5, 1977, page 15