If Loudoun County within the next 10 years wants to widen Rte. 28 to four lanes through its industrial corridor, it will have to finance the expansion with local funds because state money will be unavailable, state and local highway officials told county businessmen last week.
"My suggestion is that the county make the commitment that they need this road and make the commitment to raise funds locally to build it," Joseph Guiffre, state highway commissioner for the Culpeper District, told members of the Eastern Loudoun Business Association at a special meeting.
"Loudoun County has the most to gain from development along Rte. 28, so I suggest you begin to agitate about ways to raise funds" to expand the road, he said.
The comments of Guiffre and state and local officials who attended the meeting appear to have cleared the way for serious debate over a long-simmering proposal that would have Loudoun County seek enabling legislation so that the Board of Supervisors could allocate local money for road construction. The board is not allowed to do so currently under state law.
Thousands of acres of land are zoned for commercial and industrial use in eastern Loudoun along Rte. 28, a two-lane road that links Rte. 7 with Dulles International Airport. County officials have pinned their hopes of bolstering the county tax base on the development potential of the corridor over the next decade.
The State Highway Commission decided a few years ago to spend money only on design plans for roads that could conceivably be funded in the next six years, a move that spawned six-year plans for each highway construction district.
Loudoun officials unsuccessfully lobbied heavily for inclusion of the Rte. 28 expansion in the six-year plan during the annual revision this spring. According to Virginia's deputy secretary for transportation, William Landsidle, who joined Guiffre on a panel discussion at the meeting, it is unlikely that funds will be available in the foreseeable future.
Loudoun leaders have expressed concern that without design plans for the highway, they will be unable to secure the land necessary for interchanges and right-of-ways. And with the opening of the Dulles Toll Road now scheduled for late 1984, development in the corridor is expected to start soon.
"Our hands are tied," said Loudoun County Supervisor Betty Tatum (D-Guildford). "There really isn't much we can do until we're on the six-year plan."
But Fairfax County Executive J. Hamilton Lambert, also a panel guest, disagreed.
"Assuming that Loudoun can wait until the state has money for this road is unrealistic," Lambert said. "Tradition was that the state paid for primary roads, but tradition won't work anymore. I suggest you get a workable segment and do that part which will get immediate benefits for Loudoun County."
The segment suggested by Lambert was for Loudoun County to appropriate roughly $8 million for short-term improvements to Rte. 28. Those improvements would include $1.2 million to put in a full cloverleaf at the Dulles Toll Road intersection and $6 million to complete designs and widen the road to four lanes.
The construction of five grade-separated interchanges along Rte. 28 is expected to cost an additional $47 million, a much more expensive task because the county does not own the land for the interchanges.
But Loudoun County Administrator Philip Bolen cast a shadow across Lambert's suggestion.
"We must keep in mind our fiscal limits when you suggest we pick up the tab locally," Bolen said. "A penny increase in the real property tax in Loudoun County raises $200,000, where in Fairfax County it raises $2.4 million.
"If the Loudoun County Board decides to spend any money on highway construction or design or land acquisition, it will be the first time it has happened in the 215-year history of Loudoun County. It would be a major policy decision. The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to discuss the road-funding at its meeting Monday.