Before we have any more discussion about widening I-66 through Arlington, let's determine whether a bottleneck exists there or if the problem is one of too many solo commuters using the road. If the latter is the case, and I believe it is, we could, by a simple change in our behavior, save millions in tax dollars, avoid paving over our parklands and neighborhoods and reduce congestion and air pollution.

I am a resident of Arlington, a neighbor of I-66 and a member of a car pool. I have been using I-66 to commute to work for 15 years, so I have had a good opportunity to observe the growth in traffic. In the morning, inbound traffic on I-66 is bumper to bumper from about 6 until 7, when two-person HOV restrictions go into effect. For the next two HOV-restricted hours, inbound traffic moves smoothly into Washington. Once HOV ends, however, it is back to gridlock.

Outbound traffic during the 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. rush hours also is bumper to bumper from Spout Run to the Beltway. In the afternoon, the situation is repeated in reverse.

I conclude from these observations that the problem is not that I-66 becomes a bottleneck through Arlington but that single commuters are the problem, especially single reverse commuters.

My solution to this situation is just about free, but it would require changes in driver behavior: Impose HOV restrictions on inbound and outbound I-66 traffic inside the Beltway during rush hours. For many years, thousands of Northern Virginia commuters working in the District, Crystal City and Rosslyn have been using car pools to commute. Reverse commuters clogging I-66 now should do the same to get to Tysons, Dulles, Reston and other suburban destinations.

Given the boom in office space in these suburban areas, the problem is going to worsen. MCI WorldCom Inc., for example, plans to move as many as 4,500 employees from Washington to a complex near the Dulles Greenway [Business, Sept. 16]. How will MCI employees who live in the District, Arlington and Alexandria commute to work? I guarantee that many will drive alone on I-66 through Arlington.

Why should Arlington residents give up what little parkland they have to widen I-66 and then put up with an increase in traffic noise and air pollution because MCI WorldCom Inc. wants to move 4,500 employees to a remote area?

Until many more people car pool, until corporations stop putting new complexes in remote areas with no access to mass transit while abandoning buildings in the city and inner suburbs that do have access to mass transit, no amount of road building is going to satisfy the demand for more highway lanes in our area.

-- John Reeder