RG 379: Arlington Coalition on Transportation (ACT) Records, 1958-2001

Collection Number
RG 379
Although not completed until 1982, Interstate 66 (I-66) was part of the 1941 Arlington County Master Plan. The construction plans for I-66 moved forward following President Eisenhower’s signing of the 1956 National Defense and Interstate Highway Act. The Act committed the federal government to paying for 90% of highway construction costs. The Virginia Department of Highways (VDH) proposed I-66 to run west from Washington D.C. to the Shenandoah Valley. On September 27, 1958, the Arlington County Board held a public hearing to gather information from citizens about I-66. Many in the audience were opposed to I-66. VDH held its own public hearing in October and heard much of the same opposition. The Arlington County Board, after reading the report from the Citizens Advisory Committee, who they appointed to investigate the I-66 plans, decided they did not have the power to halt construction of I-66 and could only hope to have some say in the route chosen to run through Arlington. On November 8, 1958, the Arlington County Board approved the construction of I-66.

Although approved in 1958, VDH was not in a position to build I-66 and anticipated completion by 1969 or 1970. Delays included difficulties in METRO funding and legal challenges including the National Park Service’s opposition to the Three Sisters Bridge. The bridge was to serve as a link from I-66 to the District of Columbia. The National Park Service believed the bridge would endanger the nature preserve on Theodore Roosevelt Island. These delays slowed the project down so that the 1969 National Environmental Policy Act had an impact. This act required applicants to develop Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) before receiving federal funds.

The western part of I-66 was completed in 1970. VDH put the remaining construction of I-66 on a fast track hoping to complete it by 1973 or 1974. The State of Virginia held another public hearing. The hearing on September 29, 1970, was contentious and many citizens did not feel that VDH fairly addressed their concerns. These citizens met in October to form the Arlington Coalition on Transportation (ACT), led by James and Emilia Govan. ACT filed a lawsuit to stop construction until an EIS had been completed as required in the 1969 National Environmental Policy Act. The U.S. District Court granted the injunction.

At the time of the injunction opposition had begun to galvanize against I-66. In 1974 the Environmental Protection Agency issued an analysis of the EIS calling the I-66 plans environmentally unsatisfactory. The Transportation Planning Board of the Metropolitan Council of Governments (COG) removed the plan for the completion of I-66 from the regional highway plan.

The Virginia Highway Commission, however, remained committed and voted to complete the eight-lane highway. Following this vote the plan was sent to Transportation Secretary William Coleman and the Federal Highway Administration. In 1975, after holding his own public meeting to gather information, Coleman issued a report that did not approve the completion of I-66. He cited new environmental legislation and local opposition as reasons for his rejection.

The Virginia Highway Commission continued to work for I-66 and in March 1976 submitted a new proposal for a four-lane highway with no heavy truck traffic and an HOV restriction during rush hour. Although Arlington remained opposed, many jurisdictions in the area started to move towards approval. In July 1976, COG restored I-66 to the regional road map. In 1976, Secretary Coleman approved of the revised plan. In 1977, the US District Court that had originally issued the construction injunction dissolved it and construction began in August. The section of I-66 that went through Arlington opened in December 1982.
Scope and Content
RG 379, Arlington Coalition on Transportation Papers, covers the time period from 1958 through 2001, but the bulk dates are 1970 through 1977. The collection is nine linear feet. This collection consists of the work done by ACT as they fought against the construction of I-66 and the accompanying road projects such as I-266. The material includes ACT administrative materials, correspondence, scripts for testimonies at public hearings, reports on technical aspects such as noise control, newsletters, and newspaper articles. There are also photographs of the I-66 right-of-way, and maps and blueprints of the proposed path of the highway and of buildings affected by its construction. Series 10, File 51, has ten colored sketches depicting ACT proposals for the I-66 right-of-way. These sketches are ink on board, and are done by local resident Rudy Wendolin, who was the original illustrator of Smokey the Bear. There are an additional four black and white sketches in Series 12, File 9.
Arrangement and Description
The first nine series of RG 379 are arranged by year as donated. Within the series the folders are arranged by type of material and within the folders the material is arranged chronologically. Series 10, Subject Files, consists of folders that were labeled by the donor and covered more than one year or did not have dates. All folder titles in this series were created by the donor. Series 11, Reports, consists of reports produced by ACT or received by ACT.

There are several photographs throughout this collection, mostly of I-66 right-of-way shots (images of land before I-66 was built). There are also scattered oversized materials that have been rehoused. Any folder that contains photographs has an asterisk (*) after the folder title. Folders with oversized materials have a double asterisk [**] to denote where material was removed and separation sheets added. One photograph in Series 10, File 45 is oversized.
James Govan donated these papers in 2000.
This collection does not have any restrictions regarding usage.
Related Collections
Other collections dealing with the construction of I-66 are RG 43, Interstate 66, and RG 380, Potter I-66 Materials.


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