As a lifelong Democrat, I ordinarily would be delighted to see The Post hurl brickbats at two of Fairfax County's leading Republicans, John T. Hazel Jr. and William B. Wrench. In this case, however, I think The Post's story of Sept. 13, which set off the Springfield bypass "flap," was misleading, unfair and inaccurate. Some "facts" were erroneous, others distorted. As a result of that article, Northern Virginia has lost one of its most effective highway commissioners and irreparable damage may have been done to a much-needed cross-county transportation artery for Fairfax County.
"Til" Hazel needs no defense from me. He is well able to take care of himself. Anyone familiar with western Fairfax County knows that it would be difficult if not impossible to put a road through that area without crossing land owned either by Hazel, a client of his or a syndicate of which he is a member. It is very probable that the Springfield bypass was assisted on its way to the approval stage by Hazel's influence with his longtime friend and college roommate, Gov. John Dalton. But Fairfax County gained by his push to get a decision so that he could proceed with his development taking the road location into account!
To say or to imply that the state highway commission "changed" the route in western Fairfax so as to put an interchange on Hazel's land to his benefit is just not true. There was nothing to "change." Several routes had been studied by consultants. The Fairfax Board of Supervisors had its input by recommending to the Virginia Highway Commission the one alternate that would pass nearest to the proposed county center. The Virginia Highway Commission and the state Department of Highways and Transportation, which is the agency responsible for construction, approved a different route that its staff believes to be less costly and better from a traffic safety standpoint. It should be noted that the state's approved plan locates the Interstate 66 crossing far enough from the existing Interstate 66-U.S. Route 50 interchange to permit a full interchange of the Springfield bypass with Interstate 66. This is not true of the county's recommended route. It is so close to Route 50 that only a partial interchange is recommended.
In any event, Hazel has interest in land at both locations, so the interchange certainly would not have been "diverted" to put it on his land. Three quadrants of the interchange between the Springfield bypass and Route 50 are also on Hazel land. The Post's report failed to point out that both the county and the state agree on where the Route 50 interchange should be.
To imply that Bill Wrench "moved" the Springfield by-pass to increase the value of his fully rented mini-warehouses and his 3.8 acres of undeveloped industrial land is ridiculous. Both the mini-warehouses and the 3.8 acres are closer to the Interstate 95-Newington interchange by way of existing Backlick Road than they will be by way of the new bypass. The 3.8 vacant acres are vacant because they are unbuildable in the present state, being almost entirely in the Field Lark Branch flood plain, not because of lack of good access.
No doubt all the industrial area in that location will benefit somewhat from a road that will permit circulation throughout the county by distribution industries but, as a land and commercial real estate specialist with 16 years of experience, I doubt that the benefit will be more or less because of the exact location selected. I95 is an interstate highway. Its principal purpose is to transport interstate traffic. If commuters can benefit from it, this is fine, but neither the state nor the federal Department of Transportation is likely to lose sight of its principal functin.
Another rather important reason for the selection of the southern route by the Virginia Highway Commission is that highway officials have been advised by Ft. Belvoir that the military installation will agree to a highway along its border but will not agree to its crossing Ft. Belvoir property. The state-approved plan follows the Ft. Belvoir southern boundary while the county recommended plan ignores this important consideration entirely.
As highway commission member, Bill Wrench worked hard and successfully to get the Springfield bypass approved, but certainly not to benefit his holdings. They do not need the road, but Fairfax County does.
In retrospect, it is clear that Wrench should not have voted on this location that was recommended by the engineers. But even the state's official Republican leaders who were willing to throw Wrench to the political wolves admit that he did nothing illegal.
From my seat on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and planning bodies of both the county and the region in the '50s and early '60s, I watched the struggle to locate future circumferential highways, even then seen as a vital future need of the area. The existing Beltway was planned and built on its present location largely because it was on a Fairfax County Master Plan, and enough foresight was exercised to reserve most of the right-of-way before development took place. Since that time, local opposition has forced the removal of the state-sponsored "Northern Virginia Expressway" from the Fairfax County Plan and of the outer Beltway from all area plans. The need for a road that would enable the interchange of goods and ideas between the northwest of Fairfax County and the southeast of Fairfax County is even more pressing today than it was 30 years ago.
Let us hope that the disagreements over the location of the Springfield bypass and The Post's erroneous story, which blew things out of proportion, will not succeed in killing this highway.