In 1961, Arlington approved its first General Land Use Plan (GLUP). Fourteen years later, the next version of the GLUP reflected a major shift in Arlington planning, removing many planned highways and setting the locations of future Metro stations.

No change in Arlington’s history has been more instrumental in setting how the county developed to the combination of grid-pattern suburban homes and dense urban villages it is today.

As of 1966

glup 1975 crop

As of 1975

glup 1996 crop


In the 1961 plan, Arlington had parkways planned for Four Mile Run, Bluemont Drive, and many arterial road junctions were planned to be expanded to grade-separated, cloverleaf interchanges. Take a look at the planned junction of Carlin Springs Road, Arlington Boulevard, Four Mile Run and Bluemont Drive compared to the 1975 cutback (above).

The intersection at the Four Mile Run parkway and Walter Reed Drive was also intended in the 60’s to be a fully grade-separated interchange, and was changed to a signalized intersection in the ‘70s.

glup 1961 wr and fmr

As of 1961

1997 glup wr at fmr


Similarly, the plan for Columbia Pike was to have a smaller “Main Street” section, and a high-speed bypass, with grade-separated interchanges with Glebe Road and Walter Reed Drive.

glup 1961 cpike at wr

As of 1964

glup 1975 cpike at wr


One of the strangest features from the early GLUPs is this, in Rosslyn. I can’t quite figure out what it’s supposed to be, but it looks like an elevated traffic circle. It was removed in the next GLUP revision.

1964 glup rosslyn

Rosslyn plan in 1964

rosslyn glup

Rosslyn today

The plans for Arlington in the 1960’s reflected a car-dominant planning culture. Travelers were expected to have an automobile, and needed to be provided with grade-separated parkways and interchanges to reduce travel delays.

In 1966, the planned Three Sisters Bridge was removed. Then in 1975, Arlington removed most of these planned highways, and the meaning of a big “M” on the map changed from “Motel” to “Metro.”

1964 three sisters bridge

Three Sisters Bridge in 1964

1966 no three sisters bridge

Bridge removed in 1966

Not all of the removals stuck. In 1979 I-66 was back on the map, the result of a compromise where Arlington would get Metro put underground in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor.

1975 glup lee at kirkwood

1975 - No I-66

1979 glup lee at kirkwood

1979 - I-66 Added

But the battle was won. Arlington would not be a place of highways and interchanges.

Michael Perkins blogs about Metro operations and fares, performance parking, and any other government and economics information he finds on the Web. He lives with his wife and two children in Arlington, Virginia.