Completion of the widening of Route 234 south of Manassas would be delayed for about a year under a six-year spending plan tentatively approved by the state's transportation board.

An 11-mile stretch of Route 234, running from the Manassas city limits almost to Interstate 95, has been slated for widening from two to four lanes for many years. But delays involving design plans and land acquisition will push back the completion date for the project from mid-2003 to mid-2004, according to the Commonwealth Transportation Board's recently released plan.

Thomas J. Blaser, Prince William County's transportation chief, said he learned of the delay Thursday, when his office received a copy of the spending plan. The additional wait is not good news, he said.

"We wouldn't have an improved road for [an extra] year" under the current spending plan, Blaser said, adding that he will try to get state transportation officials to move up the timetable for the road widening before the five-year spending plan is finalized in late June.

Winston Phillips, the VDOT project manager overseeing the widening of Route 234, as well as the construction of the Route 234 bypass, said most of the design revisions and right-of-way complications arose because of the addition of a bike trail, which will run along the south side of Route 234.

The state spending plan, which is revised annually and was tentatively approved by the Commonwealth Transportation Board earlier this month, divides the Route 234 widening project into four segments of a few miles each. Delays on each of those segments will range from six months to 18 months, Phillips said. He said construction most likely will begin in early 2002 on some segments, and in early 2003 on others, although he emphasized that those estimates are rough.

"There's going to be some increase in traffic and some inconvenience to the traveler. But of course, that's why were doing the project -- to try to solve those problems," Phillips said.

Plans are also underway to make improvements -- and increase traffic capacity -- at the interchange of Route 234 and I-95 at Dumfries. In addition to these projects, the construction of the Route 234 bypass and the extension of Liberia Avenue -- which will combine to complete a four-lane expressway connecting I-66 with I-95 -- are expected to address much of the county's traffic congestion in coming years.