The good news is that, on Monday, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors freed up some $13 million in county funds to widen Stringfellow Road in Chantilly.
THE BAD NEWS is that it's not going to happen anytime soon.
With a high school, middle school, three elementary schools, a regional library, a shopping center, ballfields, two parks and a whole slew of homes on both sides of Stringfellow, it's always filled with traffic.
Trouble is, only the part closest to Route 29 is four lanes. The rest of it — from near the I-66 underpass, all the way to Route 50 — is two lanes. And on both weekdays and weekends, traffic is often bumper-to-bumper.
Aware of the problem, in February 2004, the Board of Supervisors included the Stringfellow widening in the county's Four-Year Transportation Plan. This document expedited several delayed projects and focused on relieving traffic bottlenecks.
A year later, when the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) advised the county that Stringfellow's improvement was ready for its preliminary-engineering phase, the county allocated $3 million for it. And now the Supervisors have approved spending up to $13 million more in county transportation-bond money for the county's share of the construction cost.
OK, then, workmen should be heading there really soon ... right? Wrong.
"It'll cost $32 million to construct, and VDOT pays the rest [the $16 million not funded by Fairfax County]," said Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully). "But all VDOT's money today is considered federal because there's so little state money."
AS A RESULT, he said state and federal funds are "all mixed together" in the same pot, so "going through all the red tape to get it could take years." Therefore, said Frey, the actual construction of the additional lanes on Stringfellow "is, sadly, probably many years away."
"We are doing everything possible to try to expedite it," he said. "But right now, we're still looking at seven or eight years." Frey said Monday's action by the Board enabled the county to enter into a project agreement with VDOT.
That way, he said, a firm may be hired to do the preliminary engineering and, at least, get something underway. "But then, all the federal regulations and requirements kick in," said Frey.
And even once things get moving, he said, the wheels of progress are still liable to churn slowly because — although Stringfellow is considered of vital importance to local residents — to the world at large, it's small potatoes.
"It's because it's not a major road project, like the Tri-County Parkway, but is just a secondary-road widening," explained Frey. "And because VDOT's state dollars are so small, there's not going to be a groundbreaking anytime soon."