An unofficial, self-appointed delegation went to Richmond last week to try to forestall the widening of Route 28 in southern Fauquier County.
The group included Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Joe Winkelmann (R-Center) and Raymond E. Graham, the Republican nominee for the Cedar Run District seat on the board. Although both face opposition in the November elections, they predicted that the next board will oppose the current board's decision to add two lanes to that stretch of Route 28.
In last week's primary elections, Graham defeated J. Mark Rohrbaugh Jr., a member of the Planning Commission who supported the road widening. In the Lee District, Sharon Grove McCamy, another skeptic of the expansion, defeated S.L. "Serf" Guerra, who supported it. Opponents say the expansion would hasten the development of the county's southern half.
The ultimate authority over road decisions lies with the Commonwealth Transportation Board in Richmond. Winkelmann said he told the Transportation Board, "I think you're looking at a Board of Supervisors that will send a much different message" on Route 28.
"I would call it a prediction rather than an assumption," Winkelmann said.
In February, the Transportation Board approved the location plans for the estimated $114 million project. It will vote today on continued funding for engineering studies.
The widening still remains as a "top priority" of the Board of Supervisors and was approved last November in an order transmitted to the state. Since then, plans for the expansion, which will run 20.2 miles from Route 29 to Godwin Drive in Prince William County, have continued apace, said Jim Jennings, spokesman for the Virginia Department of Transportation.
"The decision's been made," he said. "The next step is to hold the design public hearings."
The likelihood that the gesture by Winkelmann and Graham will change state officials' minds is slim at best, leaving some saying privately and not so privately that the trip was more electioneering than anything.
"I clearly think, in some respects, that the request at that meeting was probably not appropriate," said Carter Myers, the local representative to the Transportation Board. "The real decision time was when we approved the location. . . . In my mind, the need for the expansion hasn't fundamentally changed."
Opponents say that, because road decisions in Virginia are so imbued with politics, there is much wiggle room on the Route 28 expansion. "You need to know that the folks that brought it to you ain't going to be around any more," Winkelmann said.