A proposal to widen Alexandria's King Street to six lanes between Shirley Highway (I-395) and the Fairfax County line yesterday will probably be sent back to the Virginia Department of Highways and Transportation by the Alexandria City Council.
After more than 60 opponents of the project attacked the plan during an emotional hearing, the council agreed to call on the highway planers to reconsider the project.
A formal vote on the issue will be taken Nov. 28.
Council member Beverly Beidler called the opposition "the best organized effort by a citizens group I've ever seen."
One by one grim-face representatives from the Citizens Committee on Rte. 7 (King Street) took the council microphone to denounce widening the four-lane street, calling the million-dollar project "a white elephant," "a budget buster," and a "gross waste" of taxpayers' money.
The project would have caused the destruction of trees along Rte. 7. as well as some homes and businesses.
"There seems to be a much better solution," said Mayor Frank E. Mann after hearing more than two hours of testimony, including a statement by private transportation engineer Robert Morris who called the widening proposal "shocking."
"At a time when highway engineers throughout the country are turning away from massive road constructions and concentrating instead on optimizing the use of existing roads." Morris testified, "the subject plan would involve grossly excessive costs, wasted energy and significant physical disruption."
Morris suggested the synchronization of traffic lights as an alterative, which would increase car speed from 15 to 23 miles per hour, reduce stops and save an average of 125,000 gallons of gas a day.
Sitting in the audience at yesterday's meeting was State Sen. Wiley f. Mitchell (R-Alexandria) who button-holed Mann after the hearing. "I think we made a mistake when we initially approved the idea of widening Rte. 7." Mitchell, a former vice mayor, told the mayor. Mann agreed.
"I'm tired of knocking down trees," the mayor said wearily. "We're going to send this proposal back to the Virginia Department of Highways and when they come up with another one, they better damn well consider the human element. These citizens did their homework."
The highway plan, originally requested in 1971, would cost $7 million dollars, with the cost to Alexandria taxpayers of $1.2 million dollars.
After the hearing, Councilman Donald C. Casey said the council would most likely ask that the Project be redesigned. "That way," Casey said "the city is not liable for the money the state has already spent on the project." That figure was put at $100,000, by city officials.
The opponents pointed out several factors in their attack, not the least of which were the necessity of large wooden sound barriers that Mann later called "phenomenally ugly things."
In a lighter moment, one protester told the council that he had encountered only one man in his condominium near King Street who was in favor of the plan. "He told me he was in the tire business," the protester said.