Northern Virginia will lose $25 million to $35 million in state transportation money, delaying commuter-highway improvements in the traffic-choked Washington suburbs, because of the state's deepening budget crisis, according to predictions from local officials.
State financing for projects aimed at easing the near-gridlock on the area's highways almost certainly will be held up, money for some road maintenance programs likely will be frozen, and state aid for Metrorail and local bus service could be trimmed.
Frazzled commuters have long waited for such improvements as the widening of Glebe Road to six lanes between Interstate 66 and Henderson Road in Arlington. And they have looked forward to the new commuter rail service in Fairfax and Prince William counties -- provided parking lots were built where they could leave their cars.
But now those projects -- and a host of others -- are likely to be put off for some time because the area's hot economy is cooling, reducing state tax revenue from gasoline and car sales.
Other examples of threatened projects are the widening to six lanes of Lee Highway (Route 29) between Fairfax City and Nutley Street and the construction of a commuter parking lot at Routes 28 and 29 in western Fairfax County, according to state budget documents and transportation construction schedules.
Other projects likely to be delayed for an average of six months: the widening to six lanes of West Ox Road between Lee Highway and Monument Drive near Fair Oaks shopping center, the widening to four lanes of Chain Bridge Road (Route 123) between Judicial Drive and University Drive in Fairfax City, and numerous new turn lanes on highways throughout the area.
"It's like asking which one of your arms you want cut off," said Fairfax Board of Supervisors Chairman Audrey Moore. "Each one of these projects is desperately needed."
Moore said she was particularly concerned about the possible delay in building four commuter rail parking lots -- two each in Fairfax and Prince William counties.
"We can't afford to have delays in commuter rail. It has to open in November 1991," she said. "We've got to have those parking lots in order for the rail to work."
State Transportation Secretary John G. Milliken said in an interview this week that declining tax revenue will force the state to slash about $176 million from its $3.7 billion, two-year transportation spending plan.
While the precise impact on Northern Virginia is not available yet, he said, local officials said they expect 15 percent to 20 percent of the state's total reduction to come from money this region had counted on receiving for badly needed road and rail projects.
Milliken said most of the cuts will not kill projects, but will delay the start of construction by an average of six months. He said at least half of the spending reductions could be accomplished through such measures as slower snow removal and less frequent mowing.
None of the proposals is final, pending review by Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, who is scheduled to announce details of his plan to deal with the state's projected two-year, $1.4 billion budget deficit by Friday.
According to state budget documents, the majority of cuts are necessary because taxes and fees collected by the state and returned to local governments for transportation programs are $130.2 million lower than expected. Part of the revenue slump is blamed on a general downturn in the state economy and lower consumer spending.
For instance, vehicle sales tax revenue is about $47.5 million less than projected, while the portion of the state sales tax dedicated to transportation is about $25.7 million behind.
In addition, the Department of Transportation must slice its own budget another $45 million.
A final list of delayed projects will not be available for several months, Milliken said, and the delays must be approved by the Commonwealth Transportation Board.
In addition, the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, which receives about $50 million a year from the state and passes most on to local governments for Metro and other mass transit projects, expects to lose about $1 million in state funding this year.
State funding to local governments that are responsible for the operation and maintenance of their own roads, such as Arlington and the City of Alexandria, also may be frozen at 1990 levels, according to state budget documents.