Arlington and Virginia highway officials said yesterday they were stunned to learn that $16.2 million in requested federal funds for the first phase of widening U.S. Rte. 1 through Arlington and part of Alexandria were not included in a House appropriations bill.
That bill provided only $2.7 million for the project, which calls for widening of Rte. 1 from four to six lanes between S. 12th Street in Arlington and Reed Avenue in Alexandria.
The total cost of the two-stage project, which was delayed for years in court battles, is $40 million.
The long-awaited widening of the 1.8-mile stretch of commuter thoroughfare through Crystal City is sorely needed to lessen traffic problems in the area, according to county and state officials.
Arlington County Board Chairman John G. Milliken said he dispatched letters by messenger yesterday to the Virginia congressional delegation and Sen. Mark Andrews (R-N.D.), chairman of the Senate appropriations transportation subcommittee, seeking additional support for the project. The subcommittee is scheduled to act on the bill tomorrow.
An angry Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.), whose district includes Arlington and who is a member of the House Appropriations Committee and its transportation subcommittee, called Milliken's actions "grandstanding." He complained that Milliken, who is considered a front-runner to be next year's Democratic nominee in a race against Wolf, should have "come up here" to Capitol Hill to discuss the project, instead of sending letters.
"I don't consider this something he and I should be disputing," Milliken said. "It's something we ought to be trying to work for to get the funds put back in."
A spokesman for Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) said yesterday that Warner would work with Sen. Paul Trible (R-Va.) and Wolf to try to get additional money for the road this year. But the spokesman said no decision had been made on how much to seek.
Donald M. Wagner, urban programs engineer with the Virginia Department of Highways and Transportation, said the department also was contacting federal officials in an attempt to get more funds. He said the department wrote the state congressional delegation on May 30 and Sept. 12, the day of the House vote, seeking $16.2 million for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.
Wolf said the House version contained only $2.7 million because his office never was able to get a firm answer from the state on how much money Virginia needed from the federal government for the first phase.
"They never came out and said how much specifically they needed," Wolf said. He said that although he received a Sept. 12 letter from the state saying the cost of the first phase of the project would be $16.2 million, it did not say how much of the total it needed from federal funds. Wolf said telephone calls to highway officials as late as yesterday resulted in different estimates of how much the first phase would cost.