I've been reading the pros and cons of widening I-66 inside the Beltway for a quite a while now [Close to Home, Oct. 31 and Oct. 10], but Carolyn T. Ward's Nov. 16 letter "No to More I-66" was just a little too much for me.
I'm a longtime resident of Falls Church, which is adjacent to Arlington County. I know that "hundreds of houses" were not torn down to make way for I-66, as Ms. Ward claimed -- especially not in Arlington. In Fairfax County, just to the west of Falls Church, some houses had to give way, but many were moved rather than "torn down."
In Arlington County, the I-66 right of way followed the rights of way of the Washington and Old Dominion Railroad and that of a long-abandoned high-speed trolley line that paralleled the railroad. In the early '60s, this land was condemned for the purpose of constructing I-66, and it included some sections of Four Mile Run Drive and the adjacent park along Four Mile Run. Dozens, not "hundreds" of houses were removed, most of them old, small and run down.
In the interval between the allocation of these rights of way to I-66 and the actual construction of I-66 more than a dozen years later, people got used to the idea of this parklike strip running through their neighborhoods; some ended up bitterly resisting the land's being put to use for the purpose for which it had been acquired.
Ms. Ward dismissed the comment of Close to Home writer Paul Weinschenk [Oct. 31] that Arlington residents could "have back their neighborhoods" if he were not forced to use their streets as an alternative to a clogged I-66. However, as a veteran commuter from Falls Church to various parts of the District, I know what a difference I-66 has made to the area:
Route 7 or Broad Street through Falls Church used to be clogged and impossible during rush hours -- but is much less so now.
Routes 50 and 29 (Arlington Boulevard and Lee Highway) are similarly much easier to use since I-66 opened, although Route 50 still is jammed with single-occupant cars during the HOV-2 restricted hours on I-66.
Lorcum Lane in Arlington was a commuters' favorite in pre-I-66 days; it is much more a "neighborhood" street now.
Arlington is a geographic barrier to commuters who live outside and beyond it. The county has two choices for dealing with that problem: Improve I-66, and keep the commuters on that road; or fight the road improvement and continue to force commuters onto its neighborhood streets, many of which are deliberately signed and blocked to discourage this.
Locals who want the traffic to go away are burying their heads in the sand. And some of them have been doing so for more than 20 years.
-- Ted White