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There’s Still Hope

The non-Arlingtonians who want to carve out two more lanes of our precious County for I-66 have moved another step closer to their real estate dreams now that the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board voted in mid-May to approve widening this gash through our community from Spout Run to Sycamore St. in Falls Church.

This planning board is made up of officials from six federal and metropolitan agencies, together with four members from the District, 15 local and state officials from Maryland, and 12 from Virginia. Arlington’s only vote is County Board member Chris Zimmerman.

In his story about the decision, the Connection’s David Schultz reported, “Gerald Miller, a program coordinator with the Transportation Planning Board, said that lanes are only being added to westbound I-66 because ‘There’s tremendous controversy just to doing this.’” No kidding. How’d you like us to rip up your back yard, Mr. Miller, for a neighborhood thruway?

Then Miller commented, “Arlington County has been opposed to this road since it was open. It’s been very difficult to even study or consider expanding the road in any place.”

I guess it’s only us Arlingtonians who have any concept of what this veritable open heart surgery will do to our sense of urban suburb calm, which we treasure, amidst a surrounding sea of auto insanity.

Promises made long ago to our Arlington parents that this cursed concrete monstrosity would never be bigger than four lanes have clearly been dashed to the dust bin of history and thus — in the minds of new 21st century road planners — no longer applicable to today’s Arlington.

Well, we still have a chance to at least slow down this widening process, with the hope of perhaps halting it altogether, because, according to David’s story, the “I-66 plan will now be subjected to an environmental analysis to study the impact that adding more lanes to the highway will have on the air quality of the surrounding area.” Next, “after the analysis is completed in late fall of this year, the plan will go back to the Transportation Planning Board for final approval,” with a final ok needed from the Virginia transportation department.

As the Arlington Coalition for Sensible Transportation notes on its website
http://www.acstnet.org/ — “Congestion on I-66 could be eliminated immediately, permanently, and with almost no construction cost or traffic disruption, simply by expanding the current hours of HOV-2 restrictions which have been overly limited to 2.5 hours Monday-Friday in one direction only.”

Of course, the moneyed interests — who thirst for more buyers of more beyond the beltway homes and more of the shopping centers that will serve them — will never agree to such a reasonable and fuel-saving solution.

No, they want more concrete, asphalt and cars; while the beyond-Arlington politicos want more development campaign contributions in this society that seems to focus with each passing year on money and those who have it. Democracy? That’s old school. Get with it, Arlington. Money talks, while common sense, green solutions and kind behavior are being bulldozed and paved.

Is this just another stake in the heart of The Arlington Way?

We can accede to this situation or we can continue to speak up. To write our governor, go to http://www.governor.virginia.gov/AboutTheGovernor/contactGovernor.cfm; to contact Congressman Moran, go to http://moran.house.gov/contact.shtml . To reach Senator Warner, use http://warner.senate.gov/contact/contactme.cfm and Senator Webb is at http://webb.senate.gov/contact/. We need not and we must not give way to the power of money. People matter in Arlington. With a little effort, maybe Arlington can start to matter to those who claim to represent us.


Nick Penning is an Arlington, Va., freelance writer. His column, “Penning Thoughts,” appears in alternating editions of The Arlington Connection.

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