I-66 Inside Capital Beltway Chronology – 77 Years in the Making

Posted on June 3, 2015 in: I-66I-66 Inside the BeltwayStatus Update

I-66 inside the Beltway is one of the region’s major transportation choke points.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

Planned in the 1960s and early 1970s as an 8-lane (4 in each direction) facility with a link via the Spout Run Parkway to a new Three Sisters Potomac River Bridge to the Whitehurst freeway, this facility was politically compromised and reduced to two lanes in each direction with no new bridge.

Today, I-66 inside the Beltway is another example of the price the region is paying for parochial politics prevailing over good planning.

1938-  I-66 Inside Beltway-type facility first appears in Arlington County Plan entitled, “First Report to the Arlington County Planning Commission.”

1941- Route appears on 1941 Arlington County Master Plan.

1942- Virginia General Assembly authorizes land acquisition along Arlington and Fairfax Railroad right-of-way to begin in 1946.

1958- Virginia Department of Highways begins selecting I-66 route along soon to be abandoned Washington and Old Dominion Railroad line. Arlington and Fairfax County Boards vote to endorse 8-lanes.

1959- Virginia State Highway Commission and federal Bureau of Public Roads endorse Fairfax-Bluemont corridor.; Interstate 66 from Interstate 81 to Washington, D.C., is included on National Interstate Map.

1962- Arlington County Board rejects citizens pleas to stop highway. Virginia Department of Highways lacks funds/ability to start project immediately.

1966- Congress approves creation of Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA).; One Virginia Metrorail line proposed above ground within I-66 median.

1967- Virginia agrees to delay construction while Metrorail line in the median is being planned.

1969- Congress passes National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) that requires preparation of Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) prior to receipt of federal funds.; Battle over Three Sisters Bridge (part of an I-66 spur through Spot Run Park connecting Georgetown near Key Bridge) delays I-66 final design.

1970- Citizen protests lead to creation of Arlington Coalition of Transportation (ACT).;  Arlington citizens file lawsuit to block construction.; District court dismisses case.

1971- Virginia Department of Highways approves design for first Arlington segment.

1972- U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond grants injunction until Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is prepared and hearings are held.

1974- In July, a final EIS is submitted, proposing 8-lane limited access highway from the Capital Beltway to area near Spout Run Parkway. Six lanes would branch off at the Parkway and cross the Potomac via a proposed Three Sisters Bridge. Another six lanes would branch off to the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge.;  In November, a modified design is submitted, and eight lanes reduced to six.

1975- Federal Highway Administration disapproves 6-lane proposal.;  U.S. Transportation Secretary William Coleman says he will not approve project, but did not rule out another version.;  Arlington County Board agrees to consider another alternative, but months later reverses its position.

1976- Fairfax County Board reverses previous position and endorses 4-lane project with carpool restrictions and Metro in median. TPB and COG restore project to regional plan.

1977- On Jan. 4, Secretary of Transportation Coleman approves federal aid for construction of a four-lane version with provision that road can not be expanded without approval of Secretary of Transportation. I-66 is approved as a four lane, limited-access highway with Metrorail from Vienna in the median. Heavy-duty trucks are excluded, and during peak hours, traffic in the peak direction is limited to buses, automobiles with four occupants, emergency vehicles and traffic to and from Dulles Airport.;  U.S. District Court allows construction to begin.; Construction officially starts on August 8, 1977.

1982- I-66 inside Beltway officially opened to traffic in December.

1983- Public Law 98-205 lowers HOV requirement to three for one-year trial period.

1984- Dulles Connector opens linking I-66 with Dulles Airport Access Road.

1986- Metro’s Orange Line opens to Vienna.

1992- In September, the Commonwealth Transportation Board approves resolution permitting motorcycles to use I-66.

1994- Section 346 of the FY 1995 DOT Appropriations Act lowers HOV requirement to two people for one-year trial period.

1999- Section 361 of the FY 1999 U.S. DOT Appropriations Act provides Virginia with authority to determine HOV restrictions on I-66. Use of Dulles Connector by vehicles going to and from the airport was not affected.;  Arlington Supervisor Paul Ferguson asks VDOT to study additional westbound access points.;  U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf recommends westbound widening to 3 lanes from Spout Run Parkway to Dulles Access Road.; Gov. James Gilmore announces plan to widen in both directions.

2000- Section 357 of the FY 2000 Federal Highway Administration Appropriations Act overturns “Coleman Decision” by providing Virginia with authority for operation, maintenance and construction of I-66 between Rosslyn and the Capital Beltway, but kept the heavy duty truck and peak hour restrictions in effect.

2001- Virginia General Assembly passes Senate Joint Resolution 411 to study widening of I-66 between the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge and Interstate Route 495.; In April, TPB adds study to be a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) to FY 2002 Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) for conformity input.; In October, TPB incorporates the DEIS into the FY 2001 TIP to expedite study initiation.

2003- Governor Warner directs that DEIS be deleted from VDOT Six Year Plan and from TPB TIP.; On June 18, 2003, Congressmen Wolf and Davis send letter to Governor Warner requesting that Virginia add an additional lane on I-66 westbound from the Rosslyn Tunnel to the Dulles Airport Access road.; On Sept. 4, Gov. Warner directs VDOT to work with FHWA to conduct a new study looking at four initial concepts for westbound I-66.

2004- In April, Federal Highway Administration earmarks I-66 study for federal funding.; Idea-66 Study begins on July 1st.

2005 – Idea-66 Study completed in June.; In July, CTB grants approval to proceed with spot improvements. The Federal re-authorization bill includes $27 million for the improvements.

2006- On January 12, Northern Virginia Transportation Authority recommends moving forward with spot improvements.; On January 18, the TPB approves the $9.6 million funding for spot improvements.; In March, VDOT begins boundary survey of the right of way and property lines adjacent to I-66, as well as topographic survey to obtain ground elevations. Right-of-Way verification is complete in December.; In September, VDOT completed a 7 month study investigating these three spot improvements to I-66 Westbound inside the Beltway.  Work included a topographic survey and verification of right of way and property lines within the confines of the study area.

2007- In January 2007, VDOT held a public workshop in hopes of soliciting citizen’s thoughts and ideas about the spot improvements. Click here to see an Alliance Alert that detailing the nature of the workshop.

2008- On January 16, 2008 the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB) voted to include the spot improvements in the region’s 2007 Constrained Long Range Plan and the 2008-2013 Transportation Improvement Program.  Public support as expressed through comments to the TPB outnumbered opposition 100 to 1.

2009- On February 18, 2009 the TPB voted to remove the improvements from the air quality conformity testing program. The action also removed the improvements from the 2009 Fiscally Constrained Long Range Plan and the FY2010-FY2015 Transportation Improvement Plan.; On March 18, 2009 the TPB voted to reinstate the improvements for air quality conformity testing for the FY2009 CLRP and FY2010-FY2015 TIP, but with the stipulation that no funding will be approved for Phase 2 or Phase 3 improvements until VDOT completes an I-66 multi-modal study.

2011- Spot Improvement #1 additional westbound lane between Fairfax Drive off ramp and Sycamore Drive off ramp complete.

2012 – I-66 Multimodal Study Inside the Beltway study completed.

2013- I-66 Multimodal Study Inside the Beltway study supplemental report issued.

2015- In March 2015, Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Lanye announced a Transform I-66 Inside the Beltway proposed project that would implement some of the findings from the 2012/2013 study by converting the peak direction during peak travel hours into a tolled facility to pay for multimodal improvements in the corridor, widening would not be considered until the out-years.