As one of the "solo" drivers whom John Reeder derided in his Oct. 10 Close to Home piece opposing the widening of I-66 through Arlington County, I have a different view of the interstate and its problems.
Reeder said that inbound I-66 traffic "flows smoothly" during HOV hours, but I travel I-66 outbound during the morning HOV period, and I see inbound lanes that are often bumper to bumper.
Reeder also said that outbound traffic during this time is bumper to bumper from Spout Run to the Beltway. That's only partially right. Traffic backs up from Spout Run through Falls Church to where I-66 widens to accommodate traffic heading for the Dulles Toll Road. At this point, commuters can move at nearly 55 mph, and from then on I-66 West to the Beltway is pretty much wide open, not bumper to bumper, as Reeder claimed.
But Reeder missed a more significant point. Because the two-lane stretch of I-66 from Spout Run through Falls Church is so miserable, I opt instead to travel through the residential areas of north Arlington and jump on I-66 where it finally widens and traffic speed picks up. I'm sure I am not alone, and this hardly can be welcome news for the folks who live along my route.
Frankly, I would prefer not to go out of my way to drive past their homes each morning, but my alternative is to sit in traffic, engine idling, creating pollution.
Given the situation in the morning, the inbound evening situation is fairly predictable: I-66 moves relatively well inbound until just past Route 7, where inbound toll road traffic merges into I-66. It takes a distance that runs almost to the Glebe Road exit for the interstate to digest four lanes going to only two lanes. So my reaction is equally predictable -- I jump off I-66 at Westmoreland Street and work my way back through north Arlington via secondary streets with much less hassle and in much less time.
Clearly, I-66 needs fixing, and contrary to Reeder's assertion, this can be done with little effect on Arlington parkland; the only parkland that might be affected by a widening is a short stretch of land where I-66 runs beside Spout Run. A bike and jogging trail does run next to the interstate, but the same engineering ingenuity that made the trail possible in the first place should be able to ensure that this asset is preserved if I-66 is widened.
Restricting solo drivers as Reeder suggests is not a viable solution to the congestion on I-66. Not everyone has a job or schedule that allows car pooling. Instead, we should widen I-66 by one lane both inbound and outbound from the Beltway to Washington. If done right, motorists can have an I-66 that makes sense, joggers and bikers can have their trail and Arlington residents can have back their neighborhoods.
-- Paul Weinschenk