All the Fairfax County supervisors thought it was a great idea to ask voters for permission to sell $30 million in bonds to improve county roads. Trouble was, they all thought the roads in their own districts were the ones that needed improvement the most.
The resulting disagreement led to hours of heated debate yesterday over which of the county's eight districts could lay claim to a share of the $30 million in highway funds that the supervisors hope to raise if the bond sale is approved in a referendum Nov. 3.
When all the political logrolling was through, none of the Board of Supervisors' members had lost. The list of proposed highway projects, which had originally shown plans for work in four districts, emerged from a bargaining session with projects listed in all eight.
Since the original $30 million price tag would not accommodate all those projects, the supervisors agreed to grant most of them only two-thirds of the funds necessary for completion. The remainder of the money, they hope, will come from another $30 million bond sale that they agreed to ask the voters to approve three years from now.
All the hoopla began yesterday when county Transportation Director Shiva K. Pant gave the board his proposal for using the $30 million to ease some of the rapidly developing county's problems with traffic congestion.
First, Supervisor Audrey Moore (D-Annandale) criticized Pant's plan because it would not widen Braddock Road soon enough. Then Supervisor Joseph Alexander (D-Lee) had to point out that at least three major traffic bottlenecks in his district had not been addressed at all.
"If four or five members of the board have a hard time voting for something that has nothing in it for their district, how are you going to be able to go out and politic and get people to vote for $30 million in encumbrances?" Alexander asked.
Before long, the county supervisors from Centreville, Mount Vernon and Mason were insisting that traffic problems in their districts were worse than those on Pant's list. Those whose pet road projects had been included, like Supervisor Marie B. Travesky (R-Springfield), were fighting to protect their prizes.
Travesky disputed those who argued that a bond issue could not win voter approval unless it included projects from all parts of the county, saying "it doesn't make any difference, in the political analysis, whether a district gets a project or not."
After almost an hour of fencing on the subject achieved no results, board members adjourned for a working lunch that produced fiery exchanges and frequent cries for order. "Now, Audrey, you're not going to get anywhere if you don't quiet down," snapped a usually unflappable Pennino after one such exchange. "The name of this game is compromise."
In the end, board members agreed to a compromise that allows for the widening of Gallows Road and Chain Bridge Road and extending Amherst Avenue over Old Keene Mill Road in Springfield. The proposal also calls for improvements to the Seven Corners area, widening portions of Braddock Road and Burke Lake Road and a variety of other improvements.
County officials say the $30 million in highway bonds, if approved, will not add to the real estate tax bills of Fairfax County residents.