Sunday, December 28, 2008

Who Really Stopped Washington, D.C.'s Freeways

From Zachary Schrag

Washington, D.C.: I enjoyed the article, especially the profiles of Booker and Abbott. But let's not forget who really stopped Natcher's attempt to force the city to accept the freeways.

While the ECTC was gathering a few dozen people to march on picket lines and disrupt hearings, Congressman Robert Giaimo of Connecticut was gathering votes in the House of Representatives to release subway funds from Natcher's control. Thanks to his efforts, on Dec. 2, 1971, the full House voted 195 to 174 to release the D.C. share of Metro funds without forcing the city to build the Three Sisters Bridge. Following this defeat, a very rare case of the full House overruling an appropriations subcommittee chairman, Natcher never again seriously threatened Metro. And without that threat, the D.C. government had no reason to build the freeways.

Essentially there were three challenges to the freeways: in the streets by the ECTC, in the courts by Peter Craig (and his pro bono counsel, Roberts Owen), and in Congress by Robert Giaimo. Craig and Owen bought time, and Giaimo stopped Congress's blackmail. The ECTC, however noisy, did relatively little to change the minds of people in power. Radical protest can make a difference, but in this case the real victory was won by people working within the system.

Zachary Schrag
Columbia University

Proposed I-266 Three Sisters Bridge
looking from Virginia to Washington, D.C.
with Georgetown University at upper right.

... Peter Craig, a junior lawyer at the prestigious firm of Covington & Burling. Craig had come to Washington after graduating from Yale Law School in 1953.

In September 1966, following the N.C.P.C. vote, the Committee of 100 resolved to file a law lawsuit against the D.C. government and the N.C.P.C. to block [3 Sisters] bridge construction. Peter Craig, acting for the committee, turned to his former law firm, Covington & Burling. Partner Gerhard Gesell agreed to take the case for a nominal retainer and assigned lawyers Roberts Owen and Gerald Norton to the matter. Owen, the lead counsel, had paid little attention to the highway fight, but he enjoyed suing the government to force it to obey the law.

p 41 and 125 The Great Society Subway by Zachary M. Schrag

   Proposed I-95 B&O North Central Freeway next to Catholic University of America

Covington & Burling

Read About the Committee of 100's opposition to US NCPC's Extending the Legacy

Committee of 100 Ruminations

Frederic Delano 'Family' : U.S. NCPC, Committee of 100, and Covington & Burling

Subverting the North Central Freeway

Physical Realities Undermining the North Central Freeway

A Sampling Of Attitudes Towards D.C. I-95

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