Transportation Secretary Brock Adams has said he will hold up construction of parts of Interstate 66 inside the Beltway unless the state of Virginia takes the first step to make $38 million available for Metro construction.
In a letter dated Jan. 3 and obtained yesterdy by The Washington Post, Adams told Virginia Gov. Mills E. Godwin and Gov.-Elect John N. Dalton that "we will not authorize further contract awards" until Virginia takes the action.
The District of Columbia and Maryland have transferred a total of $868.6 million in highway money to Metro construction, but Virginia has transferred nothing.
Although construction is under way on the long-delayed I-66 section between the Beltway and the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge, bids have not yet been solicited for two contracts, primarily for construction in the Rosslyn area.
Those contracts need federal approval before they can go forward. Both Godwin, who leaves the statehouse on Saturday, and Dalton, who enters it, have made firm pledges to complete I-66.
What Adams has demanded, Godwin has already promised for more than a year to do - transfer federal money from a highway program to Metro construction fund. But he has not done it yet. The money, an estimated $38 million, is as important symbolically as it is to Metro's construction bank account.
"We're going to wait until we see if Virginia still wants to be part of Metro before we go any farther," D.C. Council Chairman Sterling Tucker told a reporter some weeks ago. Tucker was referring to the lack of Virginia action on the highway transfer.
When Dalton made a tour of Northern Virginia recently, local officials impressed on him the symbolic importance of the transfer.
Godwin won approval from former Transportation Secretary William T. Coleman last January to complete I-66 between the Beltway and Roosevelt Bridge following years of environmental fights and lawsuits.
As part of that agreement, Godwin signed a letter to Coleman stating he was prepared to request the transfer of federal funds intended for the construction of I-66.
I-266 is a long-dead spur through Spout Run in Arlington County that would connect I-66 across the Three Sisters Potomac River Bridge with the Whitehurst Freeway. The Three Sisters Bridge, another long-time local highway controversy, also is long-dead. It was killed by the District of Columbia after protracted citizen opposition - and the money was transferred in part to Metro.
Interstate 266, then, has become unnecessary because there was no bridge for it to cross to get to the District of Columbia. "The transfer," Adams said in his letter to Godwin and Dalton, should be fairly simple matter, given the impossibility of constructing I-266 as it is now designated."
Adams asked Godwin and Dalton to "provide us with a report on the status of the interstate transfer application and a date by which the governor will have submitted it to me. In the meantime, we will not authorize further contract awards."
Spokesman for both Godwin and Dalton said that Adams' letter had been received. The Dalton people pointed out that Godwin was still governor and they were not going to get in his way. The Godwin spokesman said "I would think [Godwin] would want to discuss it with the Secretary of Transportation before responding or taking any action.