The Fairfax County, top government officials call the Springfield bypass the county's "No. 1 priority" in future road construction.
But according to officials of the Virginia Department of Highways and Transportation, the bypass, conceived as a solution to the mounting traffic volume that has saturated the main roads of southern Fairfax, is probably eight to 10 years of completion. The bypass would extend from Rte. 123 at Fairfax Station to Rte. 1 at Lockheed Boulevard.
"I couldn't settle for eight to 10 years," said Fairfax Supervisor Marie B. Travesky (R-Springfield), whose district is the fastest growing in the county and would include the major portion of the bypass. "We can't wait that long."
Travesky's position is echoed by John F. Herrity, chairman of the Board of Supervisors and Travesky's predecessor in Springfield. "Eight to 10 years is unacceptable," he said.
But unacceptable or not, the long wait may be inevitable, state highway officials say. "I can't see any slackening in the time frame," said H. R. Perkinson Jr., director of program management for the highway department.
Perkinson and other highway officials are not optimistic that the road can be expedited because, as metropolitan transportation planning engineer Oscar K. Marby says: "It's a sizable project, it's an ecxpensive project ($70 million to $80 million), it's a complicated project - and it's subject to litigation. All you need is one suit and you add a couple of years" to the complete date.
Del. Robert E. Harris (D-Fairfax), the only county delegate on the House Roads Committee, said "some people in Fairfax are under the illusion that this road is just around the corner. . . It's a good bet it would take 10 years."
Harris said a briefing by state highway officials has convinced him that the road isn't going to be built any sonner, and the county will have to make do with temporary improvements, such as better synchronized traffic lights, until then.
But Fairfax supervisor Joseph Alexander (D-Lee), in whose district the eastern half of the bypass would be built, disputes such pessimism. "We've been able to commit the right-of-way on most of the eastern segment. . . it can be built in two years, and the rest should be ready in five years. . . We've been working for the last six to eight months with the federal people and the state people, all the way up to (state) Highway Commissioner (John E. Harwood."
If the bypass does take eight to 10 years to build, Fairfax will have to take a harder look at the implications of continued rapid growth in southern Fairfax, especially in the Burke area which includes one new town (Burke Centre) and a host of subdivisions in the early stages of development.
The county has little power to delay most of the planned development. What land has not been rezoned already is probably in conformance with the county's own master plan for the area.
A bill in the current session of the General Assembly would permit countries like Fairfax to tie rezonings to the timely construction of local improvements - schools, libraries and police and fire stations - but not roads, which are planned, financed and built by the state.
Highway officials said they are pessimistic about the chances that the bypass can be built soon because of likely of several involvement. The bypass is not an interstate highway but may be eligible for federal mass transit funds because it would funnel commuters from the Burke-Springield line is extended to that point.
Federal involvement would mean compiling a massive environmental impact statement, along with holding public hearings. With or without federal financing, construction would bring a variety of agencies.
"I do not believe any citizen understands that when you bring in agencies dealing with air pollution, noise pollution and other such considerations, you are so tied up with environmental regulation, coordination of planning groups, you've created a process where almost one person can stop a project," Perkinson said.
But there may be hope for Fairfax. Harold C. King, a division administration, said, "We're trying to see if we can do something new, whether we can accept the county's environmental assessment instead of going through the whole thing again with a new environmental imput" statement. If that can be done, King said, the planning process could be telescoped by perhaps several years - and the expectations of Fairfax officials might then be met.
Board chairman Herrity said he has been advocating the bypass since 1971, when he was running for the supervisor's seat from Springfield. But according to Perkinson, "The first time the bypass ever appeared in (the County's), priority planning was in April, 1977.