On the ballot Tuesday is a $165 million transportation bond issue that, if approved, would be used to fund long-awaited road construction projects as well as Fairfax County's share of Metro's capital program, which includes the purchase of new buses and rail cars.
The bond sale would be used to pay for three transportation initiatives. The biggest chunk of the money, $110 million, would cover the county's portion of Metro's six-year capital improvement plan. In addition to new equipment, the money would be used to maintain the system and add parking spaces.
Other local governments in the region also contribute to the capital program.
Young Ho Chang, Fairfax's director of transportation, said the county will not be off the hook if voters do not approve the bond sale. If the question is voted down, the county will have to come up with another method for financing its contribution to Metro.
"I think it is important to pass it," Chang said, "if we want our Metro system to continue to operate and to provide a little more capacity to an already overburdened system."
The next biggest chunk of money from the bond issue, $50 million, would go toward major and minor highway projects, some of which have been put off for five or six years because of a lack of funding. If the bond question is approved, the federal government would match the county's $50 million for the highway projects.
"The premise of the bond is to turbocharge, or jump-start, some of the projects that have been identified for many years as needed improvements," Chang said.
One of the projects that would go forward is an upgrade of the intersection of Route 29 and Gallows Road in Merrifield. Route 29 would be widened to six lanes from the point where it passes over the Capital Beltway to Merrilee Drive, near Home Depot. Gallows Road would also be widened to six lanes from Providence Forest Drive to Gatehouse Road.
Another project that would be funded by the borrowing would be expanded parking at the Burke Centre station of Virginia Railway Express.
"This is the station where we have only surface parking at this point," Chang said, "and it is overutilized. People are parking on the grass, and people are getting upset because they are being ticketed." He said the bond would fund a 1,500-space parking garage.
The remaining $5 million would be used for pedestrian-related projects, such as construction of missing sidewalk and trail links connecting neighborhoods to transit facilities and other places in high-growth areas.
A Leesburg resident who heads a Fairfax-based group critical of Metro has said he opposes the bond sale because too much of the money would go to Metro instead of roads.
Ken Reid, of Landowners Opposing Wasteful Expenditures on Rail, said most Fairfax residents drive, so roads should have the top priority. Reid favors cheaper bus service over Metro.
Chang said he hopes the question is approved by voters.
"Obviously, we are not trying to solve the entire transportation picture," Chang said. "We are trying to get the biggest bang for the buck. We want to show the public that with the right kind of transportation project package, we can get these projects out of the planning and design stage and get them done."
For more information about the transportation bond question, call 703-324-1100, send an e-mail to email@example.com or visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/opa/bond.