The proposed Springfield Bypass, a $125 million highway that would snake across Fairfax County like an outer beltway, may be threatened by a lack of money.
Although the Fairfax County government has called the road its "No. 1 priority" in transportation, officials are unable to say precisely how they will finance the project.
Funds presently available would permit construction of only a small segment of the highway, if that.
There were hopes of getting the federal government to pay 80 percent of the costs, but a federal highway official this week effectively dashed those plans.
"There's just not that much federal funds for non-interstate projects coming to Virginia," said Melvin J. Deale, assistant division administrator of the Federal Highway Administration's Richmond office. "It would take 20 to 25 years to fund the road federally."
The four-lane, limited access highway would cut across the county from Rte. 1 south of Alexandria, to the Springfield area, and then head west of Fairfax City to the Reston-Herndon area. Its supporters claim the road would relieve horrendous traffic congestion in the Springfield area and give the Reston area a direct link to the rapidly growing southern and western portions of the county. Opponents say the road is unneeded and would accelerate the county's already rapid growth.
While the state receives about $180 million annually from the federal highway fund, about $130 million already is earmarked for interstate projects, according to Deale. The balance must be allocated for non-interstate projects, such as the bypass, throughout state, he said.
At most, Deale said, about $4 million could be set aisde annually for the Fairfax project.
Nor is there enough money available from the state Department of Highways and Transportation, which funds most non-interstate projects. Virginia officials say. According to William B. Wrench, Northern Virginia's representative on the state highway commission, the 13-county North Virginia district gets only $26 million annually in primary road-building funds. Only a fraction of that can be claimed for the bypass, he said.
"We can't build the road with the funds that are available," Wrench, a Fairfax resident, said. "We will have to find a new mechanism for funding."
The new mechanism, Wrench and other supporters of the road say, could be bonds sold by Fairfax County as a way of paying part of the cost or tolls to pay all of it.
The long-dormant parallel lanes for the Dulles Access Road to Interstate 66, another major road project in the county, came to life recently when legislation authorizing tolls to finance it was approved by the Virginia General Assembly.
Fairfax Supervisor Martha V. Pennino (D-Centreville), whose district includes Reston, said she is pushing for legislation that would permit Fairfax to sell bonds to get the project underway. The state would reimburse the county for its costs later under her plan.
But Pennino opposes a toll concept, "Absolutely not," she said, "one toll road (from Dulles to I-66) is enough."
Given the uncertain outlook, Supervistor Marie B. Travesky (R-Springfield), whose district has many traffic bottlenecks that the bypass would relieve, said only a small segment of the 30-mile road is absolutely essential. That segment, a few miles long, would run from Rolling Road to the site of the proposed Springfield Metro station.
"With limited funds, I don't see how we can build the entire road," she said.
While no exact alignments for the road have been selected, citizen groups from the area the bypass would cross between routes 50 and 123 have been mobilizing to prevent construction of that segment. They have the support of Supervisor Audrey Moore (D-Annandale), who thinks the 30-mile connector will only accelerate the already rapid development of western and southern Fairfax.
One of the strongest advocates of the road is developer and zoning attorney John T. Hazel Jr., who owns many properties-some of them not yet developed-through which the bypass would extend.
"We can find money to build ice-skating rinks, swimming pools, practically anything anybody desires, except roads," Hazel said.
"The state is going to have to belly up to the table and see what it's going to do about the transportation crisis in Northern Virginia," Hazel said. He is also critical of Fairfax officials, who, he said, have been retreating on the bypass project in the face of citizen opposition.
Hazel said that his own land interests do not affect his support for the road. "It's not going to affect my developments one whit." He said four projects are finished and that he would go ahead with the other three, bypass or not. CAPTION: Map, Connector could take this route. By Richard Furno-The Washington Post