Being "bypassed" in Northern Virginia doesn't mean you are being neglected; it could mean your home will be bulldozed or snug against the roar of traffic along the proposed Springfield Bypass.
"The bypass route announced by the state will take our house, but maybe not for six or eight years. What are we supposed to do in the meantime? Shall I paint the baby's bedroom? Should we try to sell the house? This is our homestead. What do we do?" asks Joan Gepford, who lives in the Cannon Ridge subdivision, near the point where the bypass would intersect Rte. 29/211 west of Fairfax City.
The Gepfords and their neighbors are among hundreds of Northern Virginians who live along the bypass route approved last month by the State Highway and Transportation Commission.
The latest route, which stretches about 35 miles from the northern tip of Fairfax County near Dranesville and runs south-southwest to Rte. 1 in Fort Belvoir, was a blow to the Gepfords. Under a plan approved by the Fairfax supervisors in June, the bypass would have just missed the Gepford house.
The experience of the Gepfords is not unusual for Northern Virginians along the new route, who for the past several years have held their breaths as more than half a dozen routes have been debated.
And the debate apparently is not over.
The Fairfax supervisors, displeased with the state plan, have vowed to fight the latest proposal, and Supervisors' Chairman John F. Herrity contends the route is not yet set in concrete.
State highway officials concede that there could be minor changes in the state-approved route. For one thing, the route is still simply a corridor, and Don Keith, state highway division administrator for Northern Virginia, said last week the final route for the four-lane highway and its fenced-in right of way could vary "by as much as half a mile or more."
The actual number of families to be displaced and other effects of the state route will be made public in about six weeks after a final Environmental Impact Statement is completed by a consultant.
Even if a route can be found that state and county officials agree on, the Springfield Bypass -- or Reston Bypass or Springfield Parkway, as it has alternately been called -- may not be completed for a decade or more because no state or federal highway funds have been set aside for the $200 million road.
For families along the route, however, the state-approved plan and the continued uncertainty over where and when the bypass will actually be built has caused considerable frustration.
"In Stratton Woods we already have three major underground petroleum pipelines and a huge new underground water line in our backyards," said Michael Kurgan, who lives in Stratton Woods, a subdivision of more than 280 families just west of Reston. "Now the state is proposing to put the bypass so close, within 50 to 75 feet of my property line, that we'll hear traffic day and night even with the windows closed. It's greatly upsetting."
Although Kurgan and his neighbors are unhappy with the new route, he concedes that the plan has made some people happy.
"The Reston community likes this alignment," said Kurgan. "They didn't want to have it where they were."
In Herndon, residents hope the final alignment will run deeper into undeveloped woodland around Reston, providing relief for Herndon families along Stuart Road near Rte. 7. The state plan now shows the bypass running about 100 feet east of Stuart Road.
"Nobody wants a road in his own backyard and it's a damn shame to put it right there," said Bill Hardin, a real estate broker who lives at 1506 Stuart Rd.
"I'd have no objection to it if they left a significant buffer zone," Hardin added, conceding that "this part of the county needs a road."
Hardin's next-door neighbor, Irene Swanson, disagrees. Swanson and her husband moved to Northern Virginia last year, and one reason they bought their present home was because they liked the quiet woods nearby. But if the bypass goes through as planned, Swanson expects that solitude to evaporate.
"No matter if there is a buffer, you're going to hear traffic noise," Swanson said. "I think a lot of people are going to move."
On the other hand, several families and business owners clearly are worried about being forced to move. Even if they get a fair price from the state for the property, they point out, today's skyrocketing housing prices and interest rates could make it difficult, if not impossible, to afford property elsewhere.
Edward Katz owns a General Motors truck dealership just off Rte. 95 at the Newington exit, where the bypass would create a giant interchange under the state plan. "The bypass won't hurt me," Katz said. "It may help -- as long as it doesn't go through my building . . ."
But if he is forced to relocate, Katz isn't sure he can afford the move. "The real problem," he says, "is mortgage financing. I'm paying 8 percent. Today's rates are out of this world."
Other residents, such as the Gepfords in Cannon Ridge, express similar fears. "We'd have to pay 17 percent or more for a mortgage," said Joan Gepford, whose current mortgage carries a 7 1/4 percent interest rate.
Many homes in the path of the bypass are new, and many are still under construction, even though developers have known the bypass might cut through their subdivisions. Some developers, however, have left swaths of open space -- in case the bypass came their way.
Despite that advance planning, some residents are not happy with the prospect of a highway covering open fields near their homes.
Kathy Hurley and her neighbors live beside a long narrow field of weeds, which they use in part as a lawn at the Fox Mill Estates home. Although they were prepared to lose part of the field when they moved into their house, they were a bit surprised by the final plan for the bypass.
"We were told this would probably be a road when we bought the house two years ago," Hurley said, "but we didn't know it was going to be a highway."
Under the state plan, the bypass would cut across the western edge of the subdivision, isolating the 80-home section where the Hurleys live from the rest of their neighbors in Fox Mill Estates. A variation of the state plan, which was rejected, would have swung around the western edge of the subdivision, leaving the neighborhood intact.
Among the hardest hit residents would be those living along Pohick, Hooes and Backlick roads, near the southern end of the bypass. Instead of the relatively quiet two-lane roads that now crisscross that area, most of Pohick, Hooes and Backlick would be replaced by the four-lane highway, with only limited access to nearby residents.
Marilyn Thompson is a veterinarian who opened a practice last year in the home she and her husband bought off Pohick Road near Burke Lake. Under the state plan, Thompson said, the bypass would go within 60 feet of her house. The proposal, she added, would make Pohick a dead-end road, making her office and home almost inaccessible from the east and south. "I'm very concerned," Thompson said, "not just because the bypass would go 60 feet from our home, but because of the business. We could be cut off and isolated on a dead-end road."
Despite the concerns, some residents don't seem to have paid much attention to the coming of the bypass.
"I heard there was going to be a bypass around here," said Mrs. Leroy Huffstickler, who lives on Hooes Road, "but I don't know anything about it."