The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors yesterday retreated from its earlier stance and voted to negotiate with Virginia officials over the route of the proposed Springfield Bypass.
The state and the county have differing views on where the proposed 35-mile, $200 million cross-county highway should intersect with Interstates 66 and 95. The Fairfax board had planned to make its proposed route part of its comprehensive plan yesterday, reducing the likelihood that the state route would receive federal funding.
Instead, the supervisors voted 7 to 1, with one abstention, to leave the county plan blank in the areas where county and state officials disagree. County officials are hopeful that state highway officials will reconsider their plan in light of the election of Gov. Charles S. Robb, who had supported the Fairfax route.
"Obviously, if the negotiations are fruitless, the next step is to go into the governor's office and say . . . you be the umpire," said County Board Chairman John F. Herrity, a Republican. "I don't think even the Democrats are amenable to letting him off the hook on this one. I'm certainly not."
The Springfield Bypass, conceived as an Outer Beltway connecting the northwest and southeast corners of the county, became an issue in Robb's election last fall. The state alignment, supported by then-Northern Virginia highway commissioner William B. Wrench, passes near land he owns and places a full interchange with I-66 on land partially owned by his lawyer, influential developer John T. (Til) Hazel.
Because Wrench and Hazel both were active in the campaign of Robb's Republican opponent, Democrats, who control the Fairfax board, seized on the alleged conflict-of-interest issue. Gov. John N. Dalton, a Republican, pressured Wrench to resign from the highway agency.
The five-member Democratic majority on the county board scheduled a hearing one week before the election on the merits of the two routes. Shortly after the election, the board agreed to delay placing its route on the county map until Feb. 1 to permit negotiations with state highway officials. The supervisors also voted 8 to 1 "that if we do not hear from them by that date, that we will give them a clear signal that on that date we're going to adopt it on the County Plan, and then fight it out from there."
Supervisor Martha V. Pennino said yesterday she favored further delay because "inclement weather and other problems" have delayed negotiations with the state. County and state staff are scheduled to discuss the issue Wednesday for the first time since the election.
"This is not a change of policy but a reaffirmation of policy," said Herrity. "Our basic position through the whole issue was negotiation with the highway department . . . It would not be any good negotiating if you'd just said the hell with you, we're going to put it on the map anyway."
Supervisor Audrey Moore, the lone dissenter yesterday, accused the board of retreating from its fall commitment. "If you're not supporting the county alignment, you must be supporting the state alignment," she said. "Maybe Mr. Hazel has had some influence, I don't know. Maybe he's been doing a little lobbying."
Hazel said yesterday he had not talked to board members about location of the highway. "It's wonderful to have such a reputation," he said. "I wish I could put it in the bank and draw checks on it."
Under state law, any amendment to the county plan must take place within 90 days of a public hearing. Yesterday's postponement means the board and the planning commission will have to hold additional public hearings before they finally amend the plan.