FAIRFAX COUNTY voters are about to discover in concrete terms that when it comes to building desperately needed new roads, there's no such thing as a financial shortcut. Barely a week after voting resoundingly against a plan to permit state and local governments to issue pledge bonds without holding referendums, county voters shouldn't be surprised that county board chairman Audrey Moore has read their message and now has withdrawn her support for $330 million plan to finance the Fairfax County Parkway -- leaving this top transportation project in disarray. Mrs. Moore earlier had supported a plan to issue revenue bonds, which, like the pledge bonds, could be issued without referendums. If voters prefer to take their time and vote on each and every proposal to finance anything, that's fine; but if those roads now take that much longer -- and that much more money -- to materialize, voters have just have that much more fun ahead of them out there in those traffic jams.
The revenue bond proposal had the approval of the full board of supervisors, but then ran into a lawsuit arguing that voter approval is required. If the board now agrees with Mrs. Moore and withdraws support for the revenue bonds, completion of the 35-mile, cross-county expressway could be delayed for years, and the cost could be increased by millions of dollars. The next attempt to get something going may be a special referendum (send this bill to the taxpayers too), maybe sometime in March. But don't count on this one flying either, given yet another fiscal fact from the polls last week: county voters also defeated four of seven county bond referendum proposals and approved an $80 million transportation bond by a mere 5,300 votes.
The retort from Wednesday-morning quarterbacks and various soon-to-be candidates seeking to replace Mrs. Moore next year is that if the supervisors had just put a parkway general obligation bond on the ballot, the voters would probably have said fine. Easy for them to say but something less than a given. It's quite easy, in fact, to kick the supervisors around for not anticipating every financial twitch of the taxpayers nowadays. But if people in Fairfax want their roads as soon as possible and at the best possible cost, they had better be prepared to delegate some responsibility to their elected officials -- and to spring what it takes to get the jobs done.