Reston residents packed a day-long hearing last Saturday to support one of three proposed routes for a north-south commuter highway through western Fairfax County that the state calls the "Springfield Bypass" and the Reston residents renamed the "Reston Bypass."
An overwhelming number of the nearly 70 persons who spoke at the state highway department hearing on the multifaceted proposal favored an alignment that would pass just outside the western edge of Reston, creating the least disruption for the "planned community" of 37,000 residents.
Still other speakers urged that existing roads be upgraded so no bypass would be necessary. Residents of Fox Mill Estates in Herndon, southwest of Reston, said a bypass would sever their community.
The Reston residents' favored plan, known as Alignment A, is one of three possible major route designs the Virginia Department of Highways and Transportation is considering building to relieve cross-county traffic congestion and improve access between major growth centers in western Fairfax. c
As proposed, the $175-million, 35-mile Springfield Bypass would stretch from Route 7 near Reston to Route 1 near Mount Vernon. Initially proposed in 1975, the road's exact route has yet to be adopted and the source of its future funding is uncertain.
County officials say they hope to cover as much as 70 percent of the cost with federal funds, but such funds are slated to be phased out by 1984, a year before construction on the bypass could begin, state highway officials said.
Until recently, the controversial bypass seemed doomed to oblivion, but was revived by a coalition of business, civic and education leaders who dubbed the road the "Fairfax Parkway" and argued its need as an important intracounty transportation corridor.
The suggestion that the road could be viewed as a "parkway" rankled some of its opponents who argued that the traffic and environmental impact would be tantamount to a Beltway-sized freeway.
The failure to determine an exact configuration for the road, which would vary from four to six lanes, has concerned Reston residents who fear the final route could disrupt the careful planning involved in building their community.
The Reston master plan has been predicated in part on a road that closely follows Alignment A, which winds along the western edge of the town between Route 7 and West Ox Road, residents said. In addition to relieving congestion along heavily traveled Reston Road, the town's "main street," and West Ox Road, the alignment would provide an alternate route between routes 7 and 50, residents say.
Brad Shipp, president of the Reston Community Association, said the town's residents need the north-south road to achieve the balanced residential, commercial and industrial development envisioned in Reston's master plan. The road, he added, also would provide easy access to other Northern Virginia employment and commercial centers.
The final decision on a road "has the potential to make Reston work magnificently or ruin it savagely," said Michael Was, a vice president of marketing for the Reston Land Corp. and the town's former planner. Reston needs this road on alignment A. The selection of an alternative would be short-sighted with dangerous consequences."
Most residents opposed the "no-build" alternative as well as two other alignments they contended would exacerbate traffic and pollution. The most opposed route, the "B" alignment, would cut through Reston, following along Reston Avenue from Route 7 to Fox Mill Road. It would not provide an alternate path between routes 7 and 50 as the master plan had envisioned and essentially would replace Reston Avenue, doubling the traffic volume in that area, residents complained.
Moreover, several speakers argued, residents living west of Reston Avenue, many of whom live in public housing or are minorities, would have poor access to schools, shops and other facilities planned east of the road.
"They would be separated from everything else and we will not have the chance to build the community we seek," said Linda Morris, a resident who supported the "A" plan.
The argument against severing a community also was pressed by residents of the 1,500-home Fox Mill Estates who would find their community bisected by the bypass envisioned under "A," isolating nearly 150 families from schools and other facilities.
Michael J. Malucci, representing the Fox Mill Estates Homes Association, argued for the "no-build" option, contending the road "would create serious socio-environmental hardships we believe are intolerable to citizens of our community."
"In my opinion, developers along the planned path of the road want an outer Beltway to pull traffic from outlying areas of the metropolitan area," said Mary Danewitz, a Fox Mill Estates resident."The additional traffic would help them justify exotic plans for high-rise apartments and office buildings and more shopping centers. The plans would cause the value of their land to significantly increase."