State highway funds to improve the main street in Falls Church, West Broad Street (Rte. 7), may never be available as long as the city insists on keeping major portions of the road only four lanes wide, according to state highway officials.
Resident highway engineer Don Keith said, "Falls Church in effect wants money for beautification . . . for esthetic improvements to the business area. With limited state funds, we undoubtedly are going to fund projects that improve the flow of traffic, for the convenience and safety of motorists."
At last month's annual state preallocation hearing, the city again appealed for $6.7 million to improve West Broad Street. Those improvements would include a fifth lane that would be only for turning, intersections improvements and installation of a new synchronized traffic signal system.
But when the state releases its six-year highway allocation plan in July, there is unlikely to be any money in it for Falls Church except for the one section of West Broad Street (West Street to the city line near I-66), which the city and state already agree should be five lanes wide.
That $2.3 million widening already is being planned and the state proposes to begin construction in late 1985, Keith said.
City Planning Director Henry Bibber said he understands "that the state is reluctant to fund improvement projects that don't involve widening in the traditional sense, but there are ways of improving capacity without adding lanes . . . and our proposal does that."
The city plan, which also was unsuccessfully proposed to the state last year, would keep one four-lane section between Little Falls and Spring Streets, where there is less intense business development, less turning traffic and access from side and rear streets. There are no plans to widen East Broad Street, which is four lanes from Washington Street to Seven Corners.
The city has not asked the state for major highway project money since work was done on Rte. 29-211 a decade ago, Bibber said, "and we feel this project would improve the flow of traffic, fulfilling our obligation to through traffic in the region, but also would serve our business community."
The city may end up having to fund any West Broad Street improvements itself, which might limit the construction and suit a number of citizens who oppose any road widening.
Sue Bachtel, a member of the Village Preservation and Improvement Society who spoke against widening at the preallocation hearing, called the project "a waste of public funds" and said improvements to key intersections, new traffic signals, underground wiring and landscaping are all that West Broad Street needs.
"Many of us want to see the city keep its village character, not become a Crystal City or Tysons Corner extended with a five-lane highway straight through the heart of the city," she said.