Prince William voters did an odd thing Tuesday: They strongly opposed a regional tax to build roads while strongly voting for an $86.7 million local bond to do the same thing.
County voters said they turned down the regional sales tax increase because they didn't trust state government, didn't want their taxes raised and didn't want to provide more avenues for sprawl.
At the same time, they said they trusted local government to complete its list of projects and could readily see where the fixes would be. In addition, the proposal did not come with the unsavory element of higher taxes.
Edward Hackard, 52, of Cannon Bluff, said he voted for the local measure because county government will act more quickly than the state to improve road conditions.
"There are a certain number of choke points that everybody ends up on," he said. "Any improvements we can make are needed. . . . We're just playing catch-up."
And maybe those fixes will make Hackard's mornings easier. As it stands, he listens to radio traffic reports before getting in his car to decide which of three routes he'll take to a Virginia Railway Express station.
Prince William's road building record is solid. In 1998, voters approved a $46 million bond for six road projects. Two -- construction of Ridgefield Road and infrastructure improvements at the Innovation@Prince William office park -- have been completed, two are under construction and two have not been started. One of those -- widening Linton Hall Road -- is being held up by matching state funds that have disappeared because of budget constraints; it is unclear when, or if, the project will be done.
"The county has established a record of delivering projects on time and on budget, so there is a degree of trust in the county that obviously does not exist at the state level," Board of County Supervisors Chairman Sean T. Connaughton (R-At Large) said. "They also could see directly how these projects would impact them."
County officials, who supported the regional sales tax increase, bemoaned its defeat, saying it would cost Prince William much-needed road improvements. But officials also were pleased that residents showed trust in them.
"I think the message that the voters sent Tuesday is that they want no more taxes," said Supervisor Hilda M. Barg (D-Woodbridge). "They voted for local bonds. They trust us locally and believe we have managed their money, but they don't trust Richmond."
The projects voters approved include:
* Extending Sudley Manor Drive ($23.9 million).
* Widening Route 15 ($16.7 million).
* Improving Route 1 ($12 million).
* Widening Minnieville Road between Cardinal Drive and Spriggs Road ($9.5 million).
* Widening Minnieville between Caton Hill and Old Bridge roads ($17 million).
* Extending Benita Fitzgerald Drive ($1.9 million).
* Improving Prince William Parkway at Minnieville and Old Bridge roads ($5.7 million).
It didn't take long for Shelby Pfiefer of Woodbridge, who used to spend three to four hours daily commuting to Arlington County, to decide to approve those road projects.
"I had a fabulous job," said Pfiefer, 38. "But I quit and took a job in Stafford. I couldn't handle the traffic. There's only so many Books on Tape you can listen to."
Pfiefer said the bond's $86.7 million cost -- up from the original $58 million estimate -- doesn't bother her at all.
"It's all relative," she said. "If we don't deal with this now, it could be a billion in five years."