A self-appointed Fauquier County delegation is trying to throw up a roadblock to the widening of Route 28.
The group, which went to Richmond last week to try to forestall the project, 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 decision to add two lanes to a stretch of Route 28.
The Virginia Commonwealth Transportation Board recently approved a plan to widen a deadly 20-mile stretch of Route 28 between Godwin Drive in Prince William County and Route 29 in Fauquier County.
The plan calls for widening the road from two lanes to four and is expected to cost $114 million. Construction, however, is at least four years away.
Two candidates for the Fauquier board who supported the road's widening were defeated in last week's primary elections. 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.
The widening still remains as a "top priority" of the Fauquier County Board of Supervisors and was approved last November in an order transmitted to the state.
The Prince William design work will begin the end of this year. The Fauquier design will begin sometime in 2000. Public hearings will be held once the designs are complete, but Joan Morris, spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Transportation, said it will be 18 months to two years before that happens.
In 1997, after a series of three fatal incidents, the speed limit on Route 28 was reduced from 55 to 45 miles per hour. Police also increased their presence on the road, and VDOT made widening Route 28 a priority.
Between 1992 and 1997, according to VDOT, there have been 564 accidents and 17 deaths on the road.
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.