The head of Virginia's highway department, under pressure from politicians and citizen groups, yesterday told an environmental engineer to meet with a Fairfax County citizen committee monitoring construction of Interstate Rte. 66.
The committee recently criticized the state Department of Highways and Transportation for ignoring its efforts to negotiate changes in the lighting plan for the 9.7-mile stretch of I-66 being built between the Capital Beltway and Roosevelt Bridge.
Highway Commissioner Harold King's order that a department engineer meet with the group comes a week after a top department official said there would be no more meetings with citizens to discuss the controversial extension.
"What's done is done. The road is under construction," Planning Director Oscar Mabry said last week.
Yesterday highway department Deputy Commissioner and Chief Engineer Leo E. Busser III said the department is still receptive to citizen opinion.
"Nothing in this world is final until it's done," Busser said of the highway, which is scheduled to be completed next year.
"The meeting is mainly to inform the citizens what's going on. But if they have some practical recommendations that won't undermine the entire lighting plan, we could be receptive to change."
But plans for the meeting drew criticism yesterday, with some members of the Fairfax Citizens Advisory Committee on Rte. 66 arguing that the lighting scheme to be outlined by the department's environmental engineer, Keith Argo, is final.
The group claims that placing lights atop I-66's 40-foot-tall retaining walls will illuminate adjacent neighborhoods excessively.
"Things have gotten so bad we must consider other alternatives besides meetings," Fairfax County supervisor James M. Scott said yesterday. He added that he will speak to the county attorney about possible legal action against the highway department for allegedly violating I-66 guidelines on environmental impact.