Fairfax County supervisors yesterday accused Virginia transportation officials of delaying much-needed road-building in the county, saying the state was "playing games" with the annual plan that prioritizes spending for dozens of road projects.
The supervisors assailed the Commonwealth Transportation Board's proposed six-year plan, which they said shifts money away from road improvements for the Capital Beltway, Route 29 and West Ox Road, among others. They voted to send an angry letter to the transportation board before it approves the state's next six-year plan later this month.
"I think we should be straight-talking and risk not being polite," said a clearly frustrated Supervisor Gerald E. Connolly (D-Providence). "These delays and playing games with this money is unconscionable."
Supervisor Elaine N. McConnell (R-Springfield) said officials from the Virginia Department of Transportation, based in Richmond, should be called on the carpet as to why road projects in Northern Virginia are so often delayed.
"We need someone from Richmond standing here so we can explain to the people of Fairfax what is going on," McConnell said.
Kenneth Klinge, a Northern Virginia representative on the Commonwealth Transportation Board, said later that the supervisors' concerns are not justified, that the six-year plan now under consideration will not result in significant delays for Fairfax road projects.
"I think what we have here is a misunderstanding," Klinge said. "If they saw money moved around, it was only to the benefit of the projects. We are going to try to work out any problems, real or imagined."
But supervisors maintained that the state's proposed spending plan will delay the addition of a lane to the Beltway and will frustrate long-standing efforts to widen Route 123 through southern Fairfax. The plan also will extend by several years work on an interchange at Routes 29 and 28, they said, as well as the widening of West Ox Road in western Fairfax.
The plan also will eliminate money to study the extension of Metrorail along Interstate 66 to Centreville, they said, and it will cut funding for the Smartmover bus system, which transports commuters between Montgomery County and Fairfax.
To support their claims, supervisors cited an analysis by Fairfax officials showing that dozens of road projects have been delayed, some by more than a decade, since first being proposed.
"The schedule just keeps getting worse and worse and worse," said Board of Supervisors Chairman Katherine K. Hanley (D).
Hanley also criticized the state plan for shifting some project funds between counties. For example, money that state officials say will be saved by lower-than-expected land acquisition costs for Route 123 in Fairfax is now proposed to be used for a bridge on Route 123 in Prince William County. Fairfax officials doubt there will be any savings, Hanley said, but if there are, the money should be applied to a Route 7 project in Fairfax.
"What we're being asked to do is to use our share of the money to build a bridge . . . in Prince William County," she said. "Our allocation should not go to that."
Tom Farley, VDOT's Northern Virginia administrator, said supervisors are missing the point because the bridge project has been a priority among Fairfax and Prince William officials for years. "It's a good-news story from the standpoint that we are going to be able to finish [the project] sooner," Farley said in a phone interview. He said that any Route 123 savings could not legally be moved to a project on another road.
Farley said the other project delays cited by the board are misunderstandings of the six-year plan, and he criticized the supervisors for attacking the agency in public at their board meeting instead of raising concerns privately so the agency could work them out.
"The first we are hearing about these problems is at a board session," Farley said. "I don't know what delays they are talking about. They just talk very generally without there being any factual basis for their statements. It's easy, even for professionals, to get confused."
Meanwhile, VDOT officials tonight will begin three nights of workshops briefing residents on options being considered to lessen congestion on the 13 miles of the Beltway between Springfield and the American Legion Bridge.
The meetings all begin at 6 p.m. Tonight's session will be held at Poe Middle School, 7000 Cindy Lane in Annandale. Tomorrow's meeting will be at Shrevewood Elementary, 7525 Shreve Rd. in Falls Church, and Thursday's will be at the Best Western Tysons Westpark Hotel, 7401 Westpark Dr. in McLean.