Fairfax County officials have charged that poor management in the Virginia Highway Department has delayed major highway projects in the county and thus added millions of dollars to the projects' cost.
The report, prepared by the county transportation office and sent to the Board of Supervisors, focused on four projects involving the widening of Great Falls Street, Huntington Avenue, Edsall Road and Gallows Road (from Rte. 7 to Rte. 29-211) from two lanes to four lanes.
Although the projects have been approved for periods ranging from 1 1/2 to five years, construction has not begun on any of them, the report said, and inflation has driven up the total cost from $7.4 million to $11.1 million.
The widening of Huntington Avenue, which was designed so the road could handle increased traffic when the Huntington subway station opens in 1982, was approved by the Virginia Highway Commission in September 1974. But bids are just now about to be solicited and the estimated cost has shot up from $650,000 to $1.6 million.
"There were right-of-way problems with Metro," was the explanation of Virginia Highway Department official Donald B. Hope, who heads the Culpeper District (which includes Northern Virginia).
But Fairfax Supervisor Joseph Alexander (D-Lee), whose district includes Huntington Avenue, had a different opinion: "The responsibility is the highway department's. I should have been informed (of the problem) earlier. It would have saved a year in delays."
What happened, according to county transportation officials, is that the state highway department refused to buy a strip of right-of-way from Metro at the asking price of $50,000. Eventually, with prodding from Fairfax, the officials said, the highway department agreed to buy the right-of-way and settle on a price later.
Another costly delay involved the proposed widening of Gallows Road. With a daily traffic count of about 20,000 vehicles on the section between Tysons Corner ad Merrifield, the widening had high priority in the county.
The project was approved in September 1977, at a cost estimated at $3.86 million. Now the cost is estimated at $5.6 million, and right-of-way negotiations are still in progress.
Hope says the project "probably took longer than it should have," but he blames the Fairfax supervisors "for requesting a bicycle trail as part of the design of Gallows Road. This took time."