The 20-years war of I-66 is not over yet, although the Virginia highway department is claimning victory and its bulldozers are now poised for a final thrust across Arlington.
The presently tranquil 10-mile strip of fields and woods running from the Beltway to the Potomac provides few reminders of the 499 families and 86 business evicted in the early 1960s to make way for the "imminent" arrival of the "super highway".
A walking tour of the route by a Washington Post reporter and photographer, along streams and paths now frequented only by horses, rabbits and hundreds of Arlington childreen, gives little hint of what may soon come to the area: two to five years of dusty, earth-shaking construction, followed by what nearby residents fear will be an unrelenting roar from high-speed traffic through their residental neighborhoods.
In homes along the path of I-66 there is a feeling of impending doom. "This is just the calm before the storm," said one housewife looking from her screen door as an orange Virginia highway department truck appeared in the woods opposite. A survey in the distance signalled to his "chairman," standing in a clearing with a stake.
"This is the center of the west-bound lane," said the chairman, when asked what he was marking.
Construction, set to begin last week, has delayed until settlement of the latest citizen suit against I-66, which is scheduled to go to trial Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria.
The 10-mile long right of way - from 300 feet to half a mile wide - has been an empty no-man's land for more than 15 years. Its closed streets, front steps to houses that no longer exist and fire hydrants in the middle of weed-filled lots, are the only markers to early days on the I-66 battlefield.
But the taking of land for I-66 is a dead issue, say Virginia highway officer, since 86 per cent of land already is in state hands. The question now is what kind of highways will be built. And they insist I-66 no longer is the 6-10 lane road Arlington has grown to hate over the past 20 years but a "new" four-lane I-66, a "parkway" not a "super highway."
"We've also eliminated interchanges, are only closing 32 instead of 34 streets, are going under Glebe Road instead of over it, will have increased land-scaping because of the reduced number of lates in the highway, which will be sunken to reduce noise. We're doing everything possible to reduce the impact of this road," said spokesman for the highway department.
But while the presently planned four-lane I-66 will exclude trucks and permit only carpools and buses during rush hour, many of the road's prospective neighbors are skeptical about these restrictions lasting.
"We fought the highway but now we're worrying more about the expansion of I-66, that it will be built to carry trucks and later trucks will be allowed on it," said Joan Eyster, who lives at 6857 Washington Boulevard in a yelloe, clapboard Victorian house "we fell in love with and bought despite the highway."
She is resigned to the coming of I-66. - The construction will be unpleasant, but there are some good things about this, no trucks and car pools and the bicycle path. We feel there has been some sensitivity in the highway fepartment," she said as she played with her infant son Cyrus on their porch.
Many of I-66's more vocal opponents were removed when the state took their houses. Most were razed: some were sold for $100 and trundled to nearby vacant lots. But there are mixed emotions among those still living along the fringes of I-66.
"I'm downright in favor of it, most people are in favor of it round here. They took part of my land, 2 i/2 acres, and now they better use it," said Harry Cooper, who lives on Virginia Avenue, just inside the Beltway which I-66 would bridge. He planted a hedge of evergreens, now more than 15 feet high, to screen and buffer the future highway's noise. The thing that bothers him most about I-66, however, "has been the on-going uncertainty about it all."
One of the homes closest to the Beltway and I-66 is that of Hechinger salesman Micheal Cavazos, at 2601 ShelbyLa., who "arrived when the Beltway was being built 16 years ago and had to install air conditioning" to fdrown out the constant noise of traffic.
"We're 200 yards from the Beltway and now we'll be 50 feet from where I-66 will be elevated over that little creek. You think it's noisy now. It'll be the end of family bird-watching; there are some nice pileated woodpeakers in there," Cavazos said.
For most of its serpentine path through Arlington, from Cavazos' backyard to Key Bridge in Rosslyn, I-66 follows stream beds and the Washington and Old Dominion railroad right of way. It crosses Lee Highway (Route 29) three times, and would bridge or be bridged by more than 25 roads and pedestrian overpasses and underpasses, including one giant cloverleaf at Leesburg Pike (Route 7).
The W&-OD railroad, some of whose rusting trestles now carry buke paths, discontinued freight service along a spur route into Rosslyn in 1951 and closed its main line into Arlington in 1964. The Virginia Electric Power Co. has power lines along much of the old railroad line, which I-66 will parallel.
Putting roads along old railroad lines and through stream-valley parks has been a commom practice. Another former W&-OD roadbed, which used to carry thousands of passengers a week-end between Arlington and Grest Falls, is now Old Dominion Drive. And numerous roads have threatened to take country parkland, with both the country's Four Mile Run and Bluemont Parks once proposed as parkways.
The abandoned W&-OD right of way and the open fields and woods preserved or created for I-66 have attracted many residents to them in the past dozen years. Kathy Allen and her husband moved to 2217 Greenwich St. because it was a peaceful woodsy neighborhood they were familiar with. "We both graduated from George Mason High School just over the hill," she said. They did not know I-66 would pass within 150 feet of their front door-step, a prospect she says is "ironic since my father was a traffic engineer who helped design I-66, and now I will have to put up with what he designed."
Some I-66 evacues, such as Edward Hackman who owned a house in what is now the field in front of the Allen's chose to stay in their neighborhoods in spite of coming highway. "We were given 60 days notice to get out in 1963," and when a number of other neighbors panicked and sold their homes to escape the dreaded I-66, "we moved in here," at 6917 Haycock Road. It was a house they thought would be close to I-66 but not that close. "Now they tell me they're going to take our driveway and cut across our front lawn with a fence that will go with in 15 feet of our house," Hackman said.
Behind the Hackmans on a wooded hill is High Point Pool, a private community pool that will have a panoramic view of I-66 from its high diving board as well as a main entrance road cut off by I-66. A string of houses mearby will be among I-66's more intimate neighbors.
It is people like the Hackmans and Emily Moriarty, who said, "I-66 will fo right across my back yard, elevate 25 feet from my bedroom window," who feel they bearing the greatest burden of the highway. They note that they will receive no compensation from state or federal governments for the dust and noise that will fill their houses and make their yards unusable during construction of the interstate, nor will they be compensated for having listen and look at I-66 when it is completed. They will be paid a "fair market" price only for the sections of their yards actually taken and fenced off in the I-66 right of way.
Mrs. Moriarty feels she and others who live beside, though not all actually within, the highway's path are its incounted victims. "When we moved in here in 1960 nobody said anything about a highway, there were no signs, the real estate people said nothing."
William Brodle and his family were told two months ago theirs was one of the last houses Virginia needs to take for I-66 - in all about 550 families will have been moved by I-66, with 499 already relocated, according to state officials.
What upsets the Brodle family, who live at 1315 Nicholas St., is that "we moved here eight years ago and no one said anything about a highway. Now we'll be forced to sell our house for much less than it's worth, after hust having put thousands into remodeling it. There's no way they can give us what we've got here or can get us the low mortgage rate we got eight years ago," said Brodle, who has multiple sclerosis, recently became 100 per cent disable and must be within commuting distance of the National Institutes of Health in Bethsda for treatments.
A few hundred yards further along the woody I-66 right of way James G. Shumaker, a retired carpenter, has a pastoral garden filled with flowers and vegetables, which I-66 will border. When he and his wife moved to 1504 N. Potomac St. in the 1940s "it was so quiet we couldn't sleep. We used to live near Lee Highway and it was such a noisy place with all the trucks. They say there will be no trucks on I-66, but I bet there will be in a year or two."
Many of I-66's opponents have banded together in the Arlington Transportation Coalition (ACt), the group which has held I-66 at bay in the courts almost single-handedly for the past half dozen years. Some also have conducted theur own private battles against the road, such as Harold D. McCoy, a former secretary of the Interstate Commerce Commission who built a home in the woods overlooking Spout River in 1941, and created an azalea garden that is considered one of the seven wonders of Arlington.
His woodland banks of more thatn 800 azaleas, open to the public everyspring, were to have been destroyed by early I-66 plans for 10 lanes of highway, which also would have destroyed a ridge-top Civil War rifle pit manned by Massachusetts soldiers when a Con-federate attack on Washington was threatened and would have come within 15 feet of McCoy's house. More than 2,300 visitors to his azaleas signed a petition tre than 2,300 visitors to his azaleas signed a petition protesting the I-66 route. Virginia officials retreated, withdrawing I-66 further and further from McCoy and the Union rifle pits with every reduction in I-66's size. The present four-lane version takes hardly any of McCoy's land.
The construction of I-66 will be particularly hard on residents, the dust an noise swirling around their houses and yards, but it will be hard on business as well.
"Ultimately I-66 will be a boom to business," said Robert Dortch, manager of the First Bank'c east Falls Church branch, which actually is Arlington at Washington Boulevard and Lee Highway. But before the boon arrives, he forsees a period when roads are closed or difficult to use and customers avoid the area.
None of the hundreds of Arlington homes razed for I-66 was a mansion, nor is any one of its hundreds of neighboring houses. None belongs to a congressman. Few people with "clout" live in its path, which is what makes the so-far-successful citizens' effort to stop I-66 so notable, says James GOvan, chairman of ACT.
Though I-66 ultimately may be constructed the road never willbe the immense highway originally proposed , a second road will not be built (Three Sisters Bridge) and Metro - if the line to Falls Church is constructed at all - will go down the I-66 median.
"This has been an example of what citizens with no clout can do," says Govan.