For years, the words "Springfield Bypass" have been enough to anger many Fairfax County civic associations.
The road they have been resisting is not merely a bypass, but a proposed 30-mile, $175 million highway that would sweep across the Virginia suburbs much like an outer loop of the Capital Beltway. To its many opponents, it was another Interstate 66 -- a massive urban highway that would benefit only developers and ruin dozens of neighborhoods.
Until recently, it appeared the opposition would keep the highway locked forever on the drawing boards of the state highway department in Richmond.
Then a powerful coalition of Northern Virginia business, civic and education leaders took charge of lobbying for the road, hired a public relations agency and renamed the highway the "Fairfax Parkway." Many familiar with the power such groups have in Virginia were not surprised that the highway took on a new life.
"Sure, they've had influence," says Andrew F. Lawless, president of the Greenbriar Civic Association, once the heart and soul of the opposition. "Any time you get all those biggies together, you've got a formidable group."
Another sign of changing attitudes came yesterday when a 16-member citizens' panel reviewing the project for the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors called for its construction.
Ironically, however, while support for the bypass has increased considerably the past two years, prospects for its immediate funding have diminished. The road would be eligible for federal funding of urban and secondary roads, but Secretary of Transportation Drew Lewis wants to phase out that type of aid by 1984.
Without federal aid, funding would fall to the state. But the Virginia highway department is so short of money that "we're going through a period of highway funding that verges on disaster," said William B. Wrench, commissioner for Northern Virginia.
Undaunted, the Fairfax Parkway coalition has used a communications company that has worked for Gov. John N. Dalton, Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), independent Sen. Harry F. Byrd Jr. and Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), to spread its message that the road, which would extend from Reston and Herndon in the north to US-1 in the south, "will contribute greatly to the overall public welfare."
That argument, coupled with the shabby condition of many county roads, has quelled much of the heated opposition from citizens' groups.
According to Robert O. Chase, vice president of the DCM Group, the Arlington public relations, direct-mail and polling firm that handles the coalition's campaign, "Things came together in late March. A number of people who had been involved in supporting the Dulles Airport toll road began talking about the bypass. The said, 'Let's just see if we can get the story out.'"
One of the key organizers, Chase said, was George Mason University President George W. Johnson, who is also a vice president of the county Chamber of Commerce and a close friend of Fairfax zoning lawyer John T. (Til) Hazel Jr. Hazel, another champion of the project, is one of the county's biggest developers and a key member of the college's board.
One undeveloped Hazel holding of 800 acres is located near the intersection of I-66 and Rtes. 50 and 29/211, and three alternative bypass routes would go through or near the property.
Coalition board member Edward M. Risse, Hazel's top planner, said the bypass would mean only "a very small increase" in the land's value, because the present road network -- I-66 and the two major arterials -- already makes the parcel valuable.
"One only has to look at the tremendous population and traffic growth experienced in our county during the 1970s and look at current projections for the 1980s to see why construction of this parkway is so important to meet the transportation requirements of Fairfax County residents living outside the beltway," Johnson said.
Most of the 14,000 students at George Mason University, just west of Fairfax City, commute by car and help create the traffic jams that clog roads in that part of the county.
Johnson is just one of the Chamber of Commerce officials involved with the parkway colaition. Four members of the coalition's seven-member board are top chamber officials. They are, besides Johnson, Florence E. Townsend, president; Earle C. Williams, chamber Executive Committee; and Risse, member of the chamber's Transportation Committee.
Key members of the coalition include Joseph Murden Jr. and William J. Bestimt of the chamber Executive Committee; Karl Nelson, chairman of the chamber Transportation Committee, and Jack Daniel, Don Stack and Antonio B. Caggiano, members of the chamber board of directors.
Another coalition member, Peter King, is president of the Fairfax City Chamber of Commerce, which, like its sister organization in the county, is a strong supporter of the bypass.
The name "Fairfax Parkway" annoys bypass critics, who say state plans call for a six-lane, urban-style road. The name appears to have been coined by Risse and Bestimt in a chamber position paper they wrote last year called, "The Need for the Fairfax Parkway."
Risse is identified in coalition literature as planning director of Snyergy Enterprises Inc., whose officials include Hazel, Duane W. Beckhorn and Milton V. Peterson, all involved in development projects in the Springfield Bypass corridor.
Snyergy supplies "management, planning and development services" to those projects, Risse said. Hazel is a law partner of Beckhorn.
Most of the projects -- with the exception of Hazel's 800-acre parcel -- have been completed or are in progress.
The bypass would require some local funding, Wrench said. Under newly enacted state legislation, Fairfax can seek $10 million worth of bonds annually in referendums.