Throughout the years of controversy over completion of 1-66, some of the most ardent support for the project came from a group of high-ranking state officials here including Gov. Mills E. Godwin.
Arlington opponents of the highway ofyen claimed that the road was being shoved down their throats by a small group of willful men who were themselves remote from the problem the opponents felt I-66 would create.
But to the state officials, I-66 appeared throughout the controversy to be an indispensable tool to avert what they feared had become a "transportation crists" in Northern Virginia.
After Transportation Secretary William T. Coleman Jr. approved construction of the highway today from the Capital Beltway to the Potomac Fiver, Godwin said, he was," of course, pleased."
Godwin and other Virginia officials saw the road throughout as an essential commuter route for the growing outer suburbs of Northern Virginia and as a vital link between the Capital region and Interstate Rte. 81 in the Shenandoah Valley. They also considered it to be the right alternative to sole reliance on a Metro subway route in which they placelittle faith.
In the last years of the I-66 debate, the leaders of the Richmond proponents have been Goswin, John E. Harwood. commissioner-director of the Department of Highways andTransportation, and Douglas B. Fugate, Harwood's predecessor.
All three are products of the era of highway construction initaled in Virginia by the late Governor and Senator Harry F. Byrd Sr. When Byrd became governor in 1926. the state was notorious for its poor roads. The governor and his successors in the Byrd organization made highway construction synonymouts with progress.
Godwin is faithful to this tradition. Only last month, he spent two days at a Southern Roads Conference in Boca Raton. Fla. In the view of the governor . Harwood and Fugate, it is opposition to roads, - not roads themselves that needs justification. The officials have been bewildered by objection to I-66 in the face of what they believe is an overwhelming statistical and visible case for its need.
"They have worked closely with local officials in Fairfax County in pushing for the road's completion. The cooperation has been all the more effective because of the recent election of a new proroad majority on the Fairfax Board of Supervisors. Board Chairman John F. Herrity is a strong political supporter of Godwin.
Although Godwin has often called the Metro rail system unfeasible for Northern Virginia, he made financial aid to the subway system a key part of his final campaign for reconsideration of I-66.
He all but formally promised to transfer about $30 million of interstate highway money that would have been spent on approaches to the nowabandoned Three Sisters Bridge project over the Potomac River to Metro if I-66 were built. He also emphasized that construction of the trail line and highway along the same route would save Metro about $45 million.
Added together, this amounts to more money that the state has contributed to Metro so far. Nevertheless, it would not be enough to change significantly Metrorail's grim financial outlook.
Opponents of the highway have contended that politican pressure from contractor and trucker organizations led state officials to push the highway.
Godwin and other governors, however, have historically supported highway construction and this naturally resulted in political support from contractor and trucker organizations.