The highway plan presented in the article "A New Vision Emerges for Virginia Western Bypass" {Metro, Dec. 24} flies in the face of reality. The principal reason to have an "outer beltway" is to divert truck traffic away from the Capital Beltway (I-95/495). In the article, Dulles Airport-area promoters advocate a parkway for "environmental" and "historic preservation" reasons to placate critics.

Let us learn from history. Three major examples of similar situations betray this thinking. When the Capital Beltway was planned, so much opposition to noisy traffic in Bethesda and Silver Spring arose that the road planners called the section from Connecticut Avenue to Georgia Avenue -- a segment that desecrated dozens of acres of the Rock Creek valley -- a "parkway."

After the road was opened, the uproar over trucks wandering through neighborhoods searching for the other end of the Beltway meant that the so-called parkway was opened to trucks within the year. Recently that curvy section has been widened to eight lanes -- one of the most perilous anywhere in the area. By temporarily calling that section of the Beltway a "parkway," highway planners forced it upon reluctant communities, destroyed parts of Montgomery County's most important park and built in kinks that can never be straightened.

Similarly Route I-66 across Arlington is officially known as the Custis Parkway, and to this day trucks are prohibited. That does not mean that it is either quiet or environmentally benign. Many acres of Four Mile Run Park were taken for it. Combined with a Metro line, it has led to massive new development in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor.

Let us look at the Dulles Access Road itself -- probably the model for this recent parkway thinking. For many years this road resembled a parkway, with a wide median, two lanes of traffic on each side, very limited access and green buffers between it and nearby communities. Today the median is being gobbled up by wider lanes, and the buffers have been destroyed by the toll road.

Anyone opposed to the outer beltway must not be placated by the term "parkway." Such scenic drives were never meant to be inter-city highways (with the awkward exception of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway). Parkways only retain their intended naturalistic qualities when they join parks. Washington is blessed with some of the nation's finest parkways -- but most of them are now busy commuter roads and suffer congestion like any other road.

The argument for an outer beltway -- be it to the east or to the west -- must be made on sound economic, environmental, social and aesthetic considerations. As other major roads have shown, such highways bring development, unless access is extremely limited. To disguise such a project as a "parkway" only muddies the issues and prevents a sound decision from being made.

STEVEN ELKINTON Falls Church