Fairfax County, scrambling to avert a traffic bottleneck that could choke off development in one of the fastest growing areas of Northern Virginia, yesterday moved toward endorsing a plan to compel landowners to finance the widening of Rte. 28, a key artery south of Dulles International Airport.
Concern about the beleaguered two-lane road also was one of the considerations in the deferral of a decision to permit construction of Westfields, a 1,050-acre office and industrial park that could rival Tysons Corner in office space. The Westfields site straddles Rte. 28 near the airport.
Rte. 28 is the focal point for some of the most ambitious commercial development plans in Northern Virginia, including the state's Center for Innovative Technology, which is expected to draw more high-technology business to the area.
Yet developers and local, state and federal officials have been deadlocked for more than a year on how to pay to widen the road, which between Leesburg Pike in the north and Prince William County in the south is mostly a two-lane country road.
Yesterday, the Fairfax Board of Supervisors asked county officials to examine options to finance the Rte. 28 improvements, which would cost at least $100 million and may require special legislation from the Virginia General Assembly.
The options include creating a special district in which commercial and industrial landowners would be taxed to pay for the road work.
"Everybody knows that Rte. 28 is not going to get better. It's going to get worse," said County Executive J. Hamilton Lambert. "There needs to be catalytic action to get this thing off dead center."
County Board Chairman John F. Herrity, who advanced the proposal, said he intended to seek the legislation, if necessary, in next year's session of the state legislature.
County officials played down the delay in hearing the Westfields application, saying their lawyers wanted to clarify language in the developer's written agreements to provide road and other improvements. Supervisor Elaine N. McConnell (R-Springfield) characterized the requested changes as "minor." The hearing on the application was rescheduled for Nov. 18.
Francis Steinbauer, president of Westfields, said he was surprised by the postponement but that he was advised by his attorneys that "there's not much to it. They said they were just minor things, just crossing some t's and dotting some i's."
The Westfields project, to be developed by the Henry A. Long Co. of Fairfax City, has run into opposition from residents of Brookfield, a 1,300-home subdivision adjoining the proposed development. The criticism centers on the size of a buffer that would separate the office park and Brookfield, and the additional traffic problems the construction would create.
The Fairfax County Planning Commission recommended Thursday night that the Westfields proposal be rejected because of the developer's failure to reach a compromise with the residents.
Lambert and other county officials met with Westfields representatives Friday and adopted a plan that requires the developer to take two steps to alleviate traffic problems in the area. Under the first, the developer must widen Rte. 28 at its intersection with the new Centreville Connector Road, as well as build turning lanes at the intersection.
The second step calls for the construction of a connector road to Poplar Tree Road.