After more than two years and $2 million worth of study, a private consulting firm has concluded that the proposed Springfield Bypass "is vital to the development of a complete tranportation system" in Fairfax County -- a conclusion local and state officials reached when the $200 million project was first porposed six years ago.
The study, an environmental impact statement that outlines probable effects the road would have on surrounding neighborhoods, says that nearby communities would suffer relatively few problems and that most commercial areas would benefit. The statement, prepared by a Washington engineering firm, is required if the project is to be eligible for federal funds.
As proposed, the bypass would sweep across more than 35 miles in Fairfax County, from Rte. 1 near Mount Vernon to Rte. 7 near Reston. The road, designed to improve cross-county transportation, has been a high priority among Fairfax County officials since it first was proposed in 1975. However, two major issues have blocked completion of the plans: an exact route and where to get money to build the road.
In recent weeks, local citizens groups have accused state and local officials of pushing the plans through without proper public review, and this week a public hearing was set for June 20, in addition to one already set for May 30.
Althought release of the long-delayed impact statement is viewed as a major step forward, state highway officials said this week the bypass could take more than a decade to complete, primarily because of the uncertainty of state and federal funding.
"It may have to be built piecemeal. The only way I know it's going to be built is in sections," said William Wrench, the Northern Virginia representative to the state Highway and Transportation Commission, which must approve a final route for the bypass before construction can begin.
Although local officials hope to receive as much as 70 percent of the construction costs from federal funds, Wrench said the future of federal funding for all state highway projects is uncertain. Next year, for instance, Virginia expects to get $24 million less than the $317 million it is gettin now.
Currently, no state funds are budgeted for the bypass.
Three major routes and three minor variations have been proposed for the bypass, which would be roughly parallel to the Beltway and five to 10 miles from the Beltway's outer edge.
One benefit of the bypass, the study says, is that the property owners collectively stand to gain a total of $197 million to $267 million as property values along the route increase.
Although the bypass is expected to increase traffic in the area, the study noted that the road would provide a safer and quicker crosscounty route than the maze of narrow, winding, rural roads that now crisscross the area. It would save motorists time and fuel, up to 5 million gallons of crude oil in a 20-year period, the study estimates.
Depending on the route selected, the study says, the road could displace as many as 59 families, seven community facilities and two churches.
The two-inch thick environmental statement, which costs $31.20, is available at Fairfax County public libraries.