Fairfax County transportation officials have urged the Board of Supervisors to retreat from its proposal for the cross-county Springfield Bypass in an effort to end a year-long stalemate over where the $200 million highway should be built.
Under a plan suggested by county and Virginia transportation officials, the 35-mile-long highway would include interchanges with Interstates 66 and 95 that were recommended by the State Highway Commission. In return the county, which had opposed the location of the interchanges proposed by the state, would gain tentative concessions for buffer zones and use of parklands to protect residential areas near the route.
The supervisors yesterday postponed a decision on the bypass until next Monday, but a majority of the board members appeared to be ready to reverse their previous stance. "There's no question the county's position has changed," said Board Chairman John F. Herrity. "But so has the highway department's -- so that's a compromise."
The county long has sought construction of the highway, arguing that it urgently needs a major, limited-access road to relieve congestion around the Springfield business district and to link that portion of the county with the Fairfax City and Reston areas. Even if the county agrees to the state route, highway officials say funding for the project is far from certain.
Some supervisors said yesterday the county had more to lose under the alignment proposal than the state. "It's a sellout," said Supervisor Audrey Moore of Annandale. "They [the state] want us to give in," agreed Supervisor James M. Scott of the Providence District. "So we'll give in."
Fairfax Transportation Director Shiva K. Pant, who helped negotiate the route proposal, said his staff recommended giving up the county's route because "We're in a stalemate, we've got to move . . . to get the federal bucks."
The state alignment, supported by former Northern Virginia highway commissioner William B. Wrench, passes near land he owns and places the I-66 interchange on land partially owned by his lawyer, influential developer John T. (Til) Hazel. After disclosure of Wrench's land interests near the state alignment, Gov. John N. Dalton pressured Wrench to resign from the highway panel.
The highway became an issue in the 1981 gubernatorial race and Democrat Charles S. Robb of McLean promised to be more sympathetic toward the county's position. After his election, Fairfax officials opened discussions with the highway commission that led to the new route recommendations.
The supervisors spent almost an hour at yesterday's meeting deciding to postpone a vote on the issue. In a heated exchange, Moore and Scott argued against other board members for a public hearing on the proposal. The board voted 7 to 2 to vote the issue next week without public hearing.
"We're being asked to support the exact alignment of the state," said Moore. "Such a major reversal of the board should be put to the citizens."
"We don't have to have a public hearing," argued Supervisor Joseph A. Alexander of the Lee District. "Those who would like to delay the road would like a public hearing."
T. Eugene Smith, the current Northern Virginia member of the State Highway Commission, urged the board to support the proposal as a "a way to break the impasse." He noted, however, that even if state and local officials map out a compromise on the highway within the next few weeks, "Bulldozers are not going to start working on the Springield Bypass anytime soon."