The 11 candidates running for Fairfax City Council are studying new ways to deal with the ticklish issue of widening one of the area's main arteries, Chain Bridge Road (Rte. 123), in an attempt to bring relief to the traffic jams that plague the 6.2-square-mile city.

That, and the rapid growth of the city's commercial community, are the main issues concerning candidates as the May 6 election nears. The city's six voting precincts will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Mayor George T. Snyder Jr. is running unopposed for his second two-year term in office. The other 10 candidates, who also will serve two-year terms if elected, are vying for six council seats.

Snyder, 46, said that he would continue to support funding road improvements around the city, but that he opposes widening the entire two-mile stretch of Rte. 123, including controversial Rust Curve, a historic bend in the road that cuts through residential neighborhoods.

" Widening Rust Curve, I assure you, will never be voted on within the next two years," Snyder said in an interview. "That curve represents the character of the city to the people."

Candidate Edward Bieniek said that a computerized traffic signal system is the answer to the city's congestion woes. Bieniek, 44, who has lived in Fairfax City for 10 years, also advocated building special bus lanes so that buses can make stops without blocking the cars behind them.

Incumbent Ronald E. Escherich, 44, said that he favors widening the entire length of Rte. 123, the only straight north-south corridor through the city.

"But it's a matter of how you do it," said Escherich, who is seeking his third term in office. "You make it useable with four lanes, but keep it very historic-looking as far as fitting in with the surroundings. You can build a stone wall, a stone bridge, have brick here and there. You have to be able to visualize something like that."

Candidate Allen C. Griffith, 42, rejected the notion that Rte. 123 has to be widened in spots to smooth the city's traffic flow. The best way to get traffic moving evenly through the city, Griffith said, is with the Shirley Gate Bypass, a proposed county-funded road improvement project designed to detour traffic around the city. The proposed bypass is still in the design stage.

County officials previously have balked at building the bypass because city officials have refused to widen Rte. 123 to four lanes from end to end. "Widening the road is not the solution. The solution is to work with Fairfax County and come up with a comprehensive plan to deal with the movement of cars," said Griffith, who is running for his second council term.

Robert F. Lederer Jr., 30, who is seeking his third term in office, has proposed a bond referendum to be held in November to fund future road projects, such as intersection improvements, new median strips and turn lanes. Under his plan, the council would not determine the amount of the bond until after a series of public hearings this summer.

But until the hearings, Lederer said: "I won't support any major road improvements in the city unless it can be positive, aesthetically. I'm just not going to pave over the City of Fairfax."

Improving the mix of residential and commercial businesses in the city, said candidate Gene P. Moore, 52, is another vital issue in this year's council race. He said the city needs more retail and service industries, such as bakeries, delicatessans and small shops, to better serve its 20,800 residents.

Moore said the way to untangle the city's traffic problems is through traffic improvements, such as a new signal system, more crosswalks and intersection improvements.

Patrick A. Rodio, 69, said commercial expansion and redevelopment are central themes in his campaign. Rodio cited "blight and unsightly areas along the highways" as justifying tighter design controls over future buildings.

"Ten years from now, I want to see a solid economically balanced residential and commercial area of the clean variety," Rodio said. "The key is design."

Candidate Glenn L. White expressed anger at the number of commercial rezonings that have occurred in Fairfax City in the past several years. He said that each time a new commercial development builds on formerly residentially zoned property, "it generates thousands more auto trips per day, and you wind up with increased congestion and road deterioration."

White, 54, said that he would like to see the city keep its quiet residential reputation, and added: "We need to elect some people who have the guts to say no to developers."

John Mason, 51, currently a member of the city's Planning Commission, said that he is unhappy with the type of businesses that have opened in the city since the recent commercial development boom. He said city officials should study ways to bring in more research and high-tech firms, "so we better complement George Mason University near us . . . . I would prefer to have less retail of the type that creates an adverse impact on residential areas, such as car dealerships and fast food restaurants."

The crucial problems in Fairfax City to candidate Dorris H. Reed, 61, are traffic and transportation. She said that she favors widening the entire length of Rte. 123, declaring that "we need to bite the bullet and do it," and added that she favors alternating University Drive and Rte. 123 as one-way streets during weekday rush hours.

"If we can't get the people through town, then people are going to leave town," she said.

Art Von Herbulis, who recently retired from the city's police force after 20 years, said that "traffic congestion is the big thing for me."

Von Herbulis said that he would push for new left-turn lanes along certain sections of Rte. 123 and also felt that University Drive and Rte. 123 should be one-way streets during peak travel periods.

He said that he would support a move to hire more motorcycle police officers to help with such traffic problems as parking, accidents and broken signals. The council recently allocated funds to hire the city's first motorcycle officer.