A meeting between Richmond officials and Northern Virginia elected officials called last week to reconcile a dispute over the proposed widening of Great Falls Street in McLean left its participants much farther apart.
"We're back where we started," said State Del. Vincent F. Callahan Jr. (R-18th District). "It's frustrating."
Callahan was reacting to the news from a state highway official that the Virginia highway department had reaffirmed its decision to widen Great Falls Street from two lanes to four lanes. Local officials and residents oppose the $3 million project.
Waverly Brittle Jr., engineering director for the department, along with two other state highway officials, met for two hours with about 20 elected officials and McLean residents in the office of Fairfax County Supervisor John P. Shacochis (R-Dranesville).
Brittle said the highway department still plans to widen Great Falls Street between the Falls Church border line and Balls Hill Road in McLean from its present 36-foot width to four lanes, spanning 43 feet, including road shoulders.
State Sen. Clive L. Duval II (D-Fairfax) told the Richmond delegation that he was disappointed that the state seems to be ignoring the wishes of local residents and elected officials."You're just asking for continuing trouble with the legislators and possible lawsuits," he said.
Duval said he has asked for an opinion from Attorney General J. Marshall Coleman on what veto power, if any, localities have in highway construction projects planned for their area.
"It seems . . . the department has said we're going to do it the way we want it done, the heck with local government, the heck with citizens, the heck with elected officials," said State Del. Martin Perper (R-18th District).
Brittle told the audience the highway department is aware of their opposition to the proposed road widening, but the commission feels that the widening is the "proper" solution.
Lilla Richards of the McLean Citizens Association said it appeared that the highway department had not considered the citizens' recommendation that the road be widened somewhat with turning lanes added where necessary and with modifications made for sudden rises and blind curves.
Brittle said the street needed improvements and that a "two-lane rural road" would not suffice because of the heavy traffic.
He said the street is categorized as "a minor arterial highway" because it serves from 6,000 to 11,000 vehicles per day.
"Fifteen thousand" by 1985, interjected Don Hope, the district engineer for the state highway department.
But the citizens and officials argued that those projections may be too high because the planned extension of the Dulles airport access road, which will run parallel to Great Falls Street, will alleviate the area traffic burden.
The highway officials countered that only buses and car pools of four or more lanes will be allowed to use the access road, leaving traffic heavy on Great Falls Street.
As the state highway officials gathered their charts and headed back to Richmond, Richards said. "They're (state highway commissioners) more important than the governor. They're czars in Richmond."